New York, NY -- A palpable sense of dread has loomed over the past few weeks as many, including politicians, have used their platforms to publicly espouse anti-Muslim speech.
Even a cosmopolitan place like New York City has not been immune to the Islamophobic rhetoric of people like Donald Trump, who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country, just this week. In late November, a Muslim sixth grader was attacked in her school in the Bronx by her own classmates, who called her ISIS while beating her and tearing at her hijab. This week, a Muslim man was brutally beaten in his own store in Queens -- a case which is currently being investigated as a hate crime.
On Thursday (Dec. 10), people from all over NYC gathered outside Trump Tower on the Upper West Side to stand in solidarity with Muslims and Syrian and Iraqi refugees. MTV News spoke to several protestors about the goals of the demonstration -- called "Human Rights Trump Oppression" -- and what it meant to stand united in the face of hate.
Activist Linda Sarsour, whose organization (the Arab American Association of New York) co-sponsored the event, said the protest was a "natural fit" for the group, which "serves refugees, asylees and immigrants" in the city.
"We live in the largest and most highly concentrated Arab communities in the state of New York, so it's a natural fit for us to support and co-sponsor a rally that says 'we will continue to welcome refugees from Syria and any other part of the world,'" she said.
That feeling of welcoming was powerful and present. "Love has no borders," the crowd chanted, in addition to "no one is illegal." At one point, there was a "f--k Trump chant," which was admittedly satisfying to hear.
"Trump's disgusting, hateful rhetoric is actually uniting Americans, uniting New Yorkers and this is a demonstration of what our country aspires to be," Sarsour said, "one that will continue to welcome refugees, one that will stand with their Arab American sisters and brothers who are here."
Several protestors were students, who'd heard about the event on Facebook or from groups on campus. Rodney Fung and Rachel Yan, from Fordham University, said it was an important night to stand up to hate.
"It sends a message that we are not here to tolerate some of the things that he's saying and that they're unacceptable," Fung, 19, said. His sentiments were echoed by Yan, 20, who added: "It's really important that we have it outside Trump Tower because Trump is ridiculous...it's not okay and he's someone that we need to show opposition toward."
But the night was about more than just Trump. "I think one of the reasons I'm here [is because] I think it's important to remember is that it's not just about Trump," Haley Pessen, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said. "On one hand, he's definitely become a symbol of the worst elements of American society, but I think we're here to show that there's an opposite to that and, if we organize, we can counter that racist hate."
Some felt the protest symbolized the beginning of radical change. "This is the beginning of understanding of systematic change," Rachel Silang, a 23-year-old member of the Party For Socialism and Liberation, said. "Donald Trump represents something much bigger than himself. Like, police brutality is part of this capitalist system that really needs to be opened up and changed. So this is one of the ways people come together and, ultimately, the goal should be to completely revolutionize society."