As elected official after elected official spoke in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day in Harlem Monday, there was a common target of derision: President Trump.
City and state officials ripped Trump as they honored King at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s headquarters — blasting the President for labeling Haiti and African nations “s—holes,” and calling him everything from a racist to a maniac while highlighting local efforts to beat back his policies.
“It is embarrassing that this President comes from New York,” said Sharpton, who went on to call the President’s vulgar comment a “national security threat” that could rile up ISIS and Al Qaeda recruiting in Africa.
Gov. Cuomo blasted Republicans who said they couldn’t recall the remark, saying there are words you don’t forget and that was one of them — especially if “that person is the President of the United States and you are sitting in the White House.”
“Our outrage, our activism is more important now than it’s ever been,” Cuomo told the crowd. “On two tracks: Number one, stand up and condemn what they’re doing in Washington because it’s vile and repulsive and ugly and un-American. And second, lead by example, and let’s improve our place where we are.”
At home, he pointed to efforts to close Rikers Island — but knocked the current plan, put forward by Mayor de Blasio, his nemesis who was not on stage while the governor spoke.
“We have a 10-year plan to close Rikers Island,” he said, “and I say 10 years is too long.”
De Blasio, as did many of his colleagues, began his speech by focusing on Trump.
“If you are a Haitian-American, thank you. Thank you for your contributions to this city and this country. If you come from Africa and you have come here to make us better, thank you. If you left violence in El Salvador and now are helping to create a better community here in New York City, thank you,” he said. “That is what we should be saying on a day that celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.”
And he pointed to reasons for optimism — his own success rolling back the use of stop-and-frisk while keeping crime low and the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama among them.
“It is easy to be discouraged. I don’t know how many tweets I can take. It is easy to be confused. It is easy to be depressed,” he said. “But if we were to be depressed, if we were to be paralyzed by all the negativity, then we would have forgotten the message of Dr. King.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer said he wanted to introduce Trump to the story of a fellow New Yorker — Private Emmanuel Mensah, an immigrant from Ghana who served in the army before dying after saving four children in a burning Bronx building.
Hundreds participated in a “Jericho March” around Washington Square Park at a Martin Luther King Jr. ceremony at Judson Memorial Church on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018.
“He ran into the house, bravely saved four children and then gave his life. Mr. Trump, I want you to tell Mr. Mensah that his country isn’t worth it, that our country isn’t worth it,” Schumer said. “Donald Trump can talk and talk. Private Mensah’s very being is the repudiation of what President Trump said this week.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the comments were not just beneath the Oval Office but “beneath the dignity of humanity.”
“Our country is better than this, even if our President isn’t,” she said. “And we have to call out these racist comments for what they are and fight back with political action.”
Few in the room seemed convinced by Trump’s insistence this weekend that he was not a racist.
“We have a President who is a clear racist and has a history of racism and whose racism is being manifested now in his attitude towards DACA and the dreamers and immigration reform,” Congressman Jerrold Nadler said.
Harlem Congressman Adriano Espaillat recalled his grandmother saying, “Watch who you walk with because I know who you are by the people you walk with.”
“If you walked ahead with people that were calling for the death sentence for the Central Park Five, I know who you’re walking with. If your own business was sued for racial discrimination, I know who you were walking with. If you go ahead and challenge the birthright of our President Barack Obama, I know who you’re walking with. If you go ahead and say nice things about the people in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ran over and killed people, I know who you’re walking with,” he said. “So tell me who you walk with and I’ll know who you are.”
And as the pols ripped Trump, they also urged people to mobilize on their anger — all the way to the voting booth.
“Let us remember that all of us this November must march in there with the spirit of Dr. King and vote and turn it around and contain this fool that sits in the White House that needs to be removed because he does not represent our interests,” Public Advocate Letitia James said.
And newly minted Council Speaker Corey Johnson argued that there was plenty of work to be done at home, too.
“It’s not about us up here. It’s about the people out there,” he said. “It’s not about standing here today to try to score points against the maniac in the White House, because Rev. Sharpton has talked about it — we have problems here at home. The rent is too damn high, public housing is crumbling, subway fares, going up, the cost for food, going up.”