Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out for a rally against hate in Brooklyn’s Adam Yauch Park Sunday, after playground equipment in the park – renamed for the late Beastie Boy in 2013 – was defaced with anti-Semitic, pro-Trump graffiti.
The rally came less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s shocking upset in the presidential election; in that period, the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked an increase in incidents of hateful harassment around the country, most of them at schools.
Democratic State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents the neighborhood that includes the park as well as other sections of Brooklyn with significant immigrant populations, spoke at the gathering Sunday. He tells Rolling Stone that anecdotally, he’s heard of a number of incidents in his district over the past 11 days that stem from “people who seem to feel empowered by Trump to spew intimidation and discrimination.”
“This should make us all worry about and focus on how to make sure that vandalism and intimidation doesn’t beget violence, which doesn’t beget the sorts of actions that divide the country and are frankly unconstitutional,” he says.
Squadron notes that citizens must also stand up for those outside their immediate communities. “We have to view it as our own backyard wherever it happens,” he says. “The reaction to this, because it’s Brooklyn, because it’s a playground, because it’s named for Adam Yauch, is absolutely appropriate. [But] this is the kind of reaction we need to try to muster whenever we see this pop up, wherever it is.”
Rally attendees, who spilled out onto the surrounding sidewalks and streets, carried signs with Beastie Boys-inspired slogans like “We Gotta Fight for Our Rights” and “No Sleep ‘Til No Hate in Brooklyn” as well as those expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement and against Trump. Many expressed fear and anguish over living under the impending Trump presidency.
The election “felt very personal because … I’m a brown, female immigrant,” says Maria Paz Alegre, a U.S. citizen and New York resident who was born in the Philippines. “It’s been very painful to hear that half the country doesn’t want me here. It doesn’t matter that I do charity work, it doesn’t matter that I’m a teacher – it matters that I don’t look like them.”
She adds that “MCA was always my favorite Beastie Boy. His discussion of violence against women and his regret over misogynistic lyrics in the past always moved me,” she says. “For this park specifically to be defaced since he was [Jewish] was painful.”
Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz expressed a similar sentiment while addressing the crowd Sunday. “We’re all here today because we’re thinking the same thing: Painting swastikas on a children’s playground is a messed-up thing to do,” he said. “And for many of us, it has special meaning, because this park is named for Adam Yauch, who was my friend and bandmate for over 30 years, but he was also someone who taught nonviolence in his music, in his life, to all of us and to me. But this is more about someone in New York City” committing a hate crime in the name of Donald Trump, he noted.
Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, who represents a mosque in Harlem and spoke at the Yauch Park rally, tells Rolling Stone that his concern about Trump’s presidency is growing as his cabinet takes shape. “The same bigoted people who would paint swastikas in a children’s playground are the same bigoted people who would engage in attacks on black churches [and] the same bigoted people who engage in attacks on Muslims and other people,” he says. “If one looks at the people whom the president-elect has already begun picking for his cabinet … those people, every single one of them, has a history of bigotry and intolerance. This is, needless to say, contrary to the promise [Trump] made on Election Day, when he said he’d be there for the American people.
“I find it hypocritical that President-elect Trump would go out of his way to speak about an actor making a respectful statement at Hamilton, but he doesn’t have anything to say about [hate crimes committed in his name],” he adds. “It’s very clear that we the people of New York City, and we the people of America, are going to have to stand up for the one-ness of our humanity, and remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'”