Danny Mooers–Staff Writer (Off-Campus: NYC)
On the evening when protests broke out in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, Battery Park in Lower Manhattan was empty. While John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in Brooklyn was full of thousands of protesters begging for the release of the detained immigrants, the most important geographical location for immigration in the history of the United States stood silent.
The setting maintained a haunting atmosphere: walking through the unoccupied park and seeing the Statue of Liberty illuminate the calm New York Harbor, it was too still. Even Castle Clinton, the structure located on the south shores of Battery Park, stood barely visible in the darkness.
Built in 1808 to protect the mainland of America from invasion, Castle Clinton saw 11 million immigrants walk through its gates from 1820 to 1892. From 1855 to 1890, the building acted as America’s first immigration center. Today, nearly 100 million Americans have ancestors who encountered the fort while immigrating to America. Castle Clinton has deep roots both fending off and welcoming outsiders into the United States.
“Walking through the park the night of the JFK protests was sort of an out-of-body experience,” said Nate DiCamillo, 21. “It was hard to know that at one time Battery Park was a symbol of hope and promise. Now it’s used as a ground to protest our government.”
In the 19th century, Battery Park was often full of people who had left their homes and families behind to immigrate to America in hopes of starting over. Now, 150 years later, the park was set to be the location of a protest in the name of the one thing it is fondly remembered for.
The Jan. 29 protest at Battery Park officially began at 3 p.m., but crowds were already gathering around 9 a.m.
“I can’t stand to see what Trump is doing to the immigration system,” said Miguel, 31. “My family came as immigrants and we were able to establish ourselves and I want the same for others.”
When asked about how he would react when the ban was lifted after 90 days, he refused to comment.
Most protesters held signs with phrases such as “Not My President” or “All Immigrants Welcome” written on them. People chanted, “The people united will never be defeated,” a noise that reverted down to Wall Street, located four blocks away.