On Wednesday, as Donald Trump was traveling to meet with the president of Mexico, before making a major policy speech on immigration, activists in New York were chaining themselves to the front doors of his palatial midtown high-rise building.
The activists had descended on Trump Tower to protest Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric and policies and to demand that all politicians recognize the right of undocumented people to live and work in the United States. Most of the protesters were members of the group Movimiento Cosecha, a grassroots coalition fighting for “permanent protection, dignity and respect” for the undocumented immigrant community.
Rodrigo Saavedra a member of Cosecha who is undocumented said he was unimpressed by Trump’s recent attempts to moderate his immigration position. “I think that anything he’s doing right now, any type of backtracking is really irrelevant,” Saavedra told Fusion. “For the past few months he’s just been spewing anti-immigrant, racist, hateful messaging. Anything that he does now isn’t going to change the fact that his supporters have put him at this level of success because of that messaging.”
Organizers told Fusion that they chose Trump Tower as the site for their protest because it had been built using the labor of undocumented immigrants. Trump contracted with a company that hired undocumented immigrants from Poland to build Trump Tower in the early ’80s. The workers claimed they were subjected to unfair and unsafe working conditions and were later the subject of a lawsuit against both Trump and the company he hired.
Speaking about the movement for the rights of undocumented people more broadly, Renata Mauriz, a member of Cosecha who is also undocumented, talked about the need for activists to emphasize the contributions of immigrant labor. “This country has been built by immigrant labor, by undocumented immigrant labor,” Mauriz told Fusion. “I think there is a need for a shift in strategy, and I think that strategy is to focus on our immigrant labor and how our economic power is really what’s going to get us what we need.”
Many of the organizers held signs and led chants in both English and Spanish as eight activists used their bodies to block entrance into Trump Tower. Four of the activists chained themselves to the front doors while another four barricaded themselves in the tower’s two revolving doors.
Police later used an array of power tools to separate the protesters from the entryway. All of the protesters who blocked the door were arrested and taken into police custody. Of the eight protesters arrested, six were undocumented.
Carlos E. Rojas Rodriguez, one of the eight arrested protesters, wrote in a statement before his arrest, “I’m doing this not just to send a message to Trump but to send a message to my community that the time has come to rise up and demand dignity and respect.”