2,000 Pack Riverside Church in NYC on St. Patrick’s Day

“Irish Stand” Raises Its Voice Against Trump’s Fascist Threat To Humanity

March 25, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Shortly after the U.S. election, Irish senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin gave a powerful speech in the Seanad (Irish legislature) denouncing Donald Trump as a fascist. He emphasized, “I don’t use the word fascist lightly. What else would you call somebody who threatens to imprison his opponents? What else would you call somebody who threatens to not allow people of a certain faith into their country? What would you say, or what would you call someone who was threatening to deport 10 million people, or say about somebody who says that the media is rigged, the judiciary is rigged, that the political system is rigged, and then he wins an election?” He went on to decry Irish political leaders who emphasized the importance of Irish-U.S. trade and economic interests over the fascist threat to humanity posed by the Trump presidency. His four-minute speech was viewed by millions. (See "Voices of Conscience and Resistance in the Time of Trump/Pence.")

The deep response he received, including from a broad section of Irish Americans, fed into a very powerful event, which took place in New York City at Riverside Church on St. Patrick’s Day. Nearly 2,000 people packed into the church for an event called Irish Stand. Bringing together leaders of different faith groups—an imam from Queens, a leader of Jewish Voices for Peace, the Christian minister of Riverside—as well as prominent Irish writers and musicians, elected officials (including a letter from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio), and a diverse group of activists and speakers, they raised their voices against the bigotry, xenophobia, and anti-Muslim hatred being whipped up by the Trump regime and to raise funds for the ACLU.

Early on, Imam Shamsi Ali detailed the tidal wave of hate crimes and bigotry which has been directed at Muslims and immigrants since Donald Trump’s campaign and election—South Asian and Arab people who have been stabbed and shot to death, assaulted, bullied, and demonized. A representative of Make the Road, a social justice group based mainly among Latino and other immigrants, read a moving letter from undocumented immigrants in Ireland to undocumented immigrants in the U.S., which brought alive their shared pain of missing celebrations, funerals, and simply the company of their families, of living with the constant fear of deportation—of boots kicking down their doors or of an overzealous bus driver turning them in, and of being forced to endure abuse at work with no legal recourse.

One of the most important themes of the evening was the need for people who are not directly targeted right now to stand up for those who are. Over and over, Irish and Irish-American speakers detailed the desperation and starvation that drove their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents to emigrate from Ireland and how, once on U.S. shores, they endured vicious discrimination for the way they spoke, for their religion, for being different. They condemned the heartless hypocrisy and cruelty of those Irish people who have been willing to buy their acceptance into American society by joining in erecting a wall of bigotry and racism against Black people, Muslims, Latinos and others. One Irish-American comic confessed to usually feeling a bit of shame each year for the “white pride that taints” most St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, a stark contrast from the morality and stand being forged in the church that night.

A speaker from Jewish Voices for Peace polemicized against the notion that each different group in society should sit back and only be concerned with protecting their own. Invoking the horrendous crime of the Holocaust, she emphasized that “Never Again” must mean “Never Again for anyone!” A Filipino-American film producer, Marissa Aroy, recalled the horrendous inhumanity faced by the first Filipino immigrants to the U.S., including how they—like Black people—were denied the right to marry outside their race. Her voice cracked as she described how she, a daughter of a mixed race couple, was born just six years after the anti-miscegenation laws were struck down and how she fell in love with and married an Irish man just a few years ago. Acknowledging how profoundly this has mattered to her life, but also how this right is still being denied to so many immigrants, she insisted, “Isn’t it beautiful to be able to love and be loved... Is this a luxury? No! It’s a right!” Interspersed with the speeches and readings were songs and poems performed by musicians from different parts of the world, bringing another layer of internationalist spirit into the evening.

That such a diversity of speakers came together, and that there was such a hunger to hear this stand carved out among a broad swath of people—large numbers of whom were Irish, but not only—reveals something very important about how deeply people feel the immorality of Trump’s vicious attacks on immigrants and Muslims. There was also a very powerful morality that was being celebrated and further forged that values the diversity and humanity of people from different parts of the world and different religious beliefs in direct opposition to the fear and hatred and bigotry being whipped up by the Trump regime. And there was a great deal of searching and fear expressed at the same time, questions posed about why this is happening and what must be done to stop it.

At the same time, it was striking that despite being spurred by the powerful speech from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin gave in January, which not only called Trump a fascist but detailed in some key dimensions what that means, only two out of dozens of speakers used that word all night. And even they did not expand on that word, instead focusing on particular aspects of Trump’s attacks on the people. Several speakers emphasized the need to keep protesting and a representative of the NYCLU emphasized their commitment to fight in the courts against the attacks on immigrants, and protest attacks on Planned Parenthood. This is critical, but still not coming to grips with the profound point made in the RefuseFascism.org Call to Action, that: “We must recognize that the character of fascism is that it can absorb separate acts of resistance while continually throwing the opposition off balance by rapidly moving its agenda forward. The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law... IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.”

Additionally, while there was some searing exposure at the horrors faced by Irish immigrants when they first came to the U.S. and how this is similar to what Arab, South Asian, Latino, and Muslim immigrants face today, there was also a great deal of mythology being promoted about the “true character of America” as a land of “freedom and equality for all.” While it’s important that people who genuinely believe that about America stand up to the way that Trump is openly whipping up unvarnished white supremacy and bigotry, it is also not true. The truth is that America was never great, it has always been a land of white supremacy and brutal exploitation not just of people in this country but all over the world. While this must not be a dividing line in the fight against the Trump/Pence regime, it is important for growing numbers of people to confront and understand this. Confronting this truth does not negate, but actually enables us to understand even more deeply, the qualitative leap and danger represented by Trump and Pence—precisely because they are building on a genocidal history and foundation.

These shortcomings of the evening do not change the fact that in its overwhelming character this was a very positive evening and stand taken by thousands—right up against the role that many Irish-Americans are playing as part of the fascist Trump/Pence regime (including Mike Pence, Sean Spicer, Paul Ryan, and others). But they do point to areas where people’s understanding needs to deepen and transform—and rapidly.


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