Speakers take aim at Trump during Martin Luther King event
NEW YORK (AP) — Prominent lawmakers and community leaders took aim at President Donald Trump’s racial rhetoric at a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
The event was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who spoke to a crowd of 200 at the National Action Network in Harlem on Monday.
“Trump Tower is in the wrong state,” said Sharpton, adding that it’s embarrassing that the Republican president is from New York.
“What we’re going to do about Donald Trump is going to be the spirit of Martin Luther King Day,” he said.
Trump marked the holiday largely out of sight, buffeted by accusations he used a vulgarity to disparage African countries and scoffed at the suggestion of admitting more Haitians to the U.S., while voicing a desire for more immigrants from countries like Norway. He defended himself Sunday night, declaring, “I’m not a racist” and saying comments attributed to him “weren’t made.”
The president dedicated his weekly address to the nation, released Monday, to King.
“Dr. King’s dream is our dream, it is the American dream,” Trump said in the address, which he tweeted out to his followers. “It is the dream of a world where people are judged by who they are, not how they look or where they come from,” the president said.
At the National Action Network, the impassioned audience heard from Democratic New York politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
“As tough as these times can be, we have the gift that Dr. King left us,” de Blasio said. “He believed it was about us. If you don’t like what is happening in Washington, live as Dr. King did.”
Schumer said people were “shocked and appalled by the language President Trump used to insult” the homelands of African-Americans and Caribbean-Americans. Cuomo, too, condemned Trump’s reported comments and told the crowd: “Our outrage, our activism, is more important now than it’s ever been.”
Gillibrand got a standing ovation after quoting King: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the staircase.”
The audience included Kharey Wise, one of the Central Park Five, who as teenagers went to prison for a brutal 1989 attack on a jogger but were later exonerated by DNA evidence and another man’s confession. Trump took out full-page newspaper ads in 1989 calling for the five to be put to death, and he suggested he still believed they were guilty after their exoneration.
Later Monday, de Blasio and other politicians joined hundreds of Haitian-Americans and others at a Times Square rally condemning racism and the remarks Trump is said to have made.
Demonstrators waved Haitian and American flags and carried signs with such messages as “hey, Trump, people over profits” and a quote from King: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Associated Press photographer Andres Kudacki contributed to this report.