Meet The Protesters Who Crashed Donald Trump’s Private Event

Aru and Maya Randolph stand on the steps of the courthouse after they were arraigned on Friday afternoon. CREDIT: EMILY ATKIN
Aru and Maya Randolph stand on the steps of the courthouse after they were arraigned on Friday afternoon. CREDIT: EMILY ATKIN

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — They emerged from a courtroom in lower Manhattan at around 2 p.m. Friday, exhausted, sweaty, and bleary-eyed, but eager to talk about their experience.

Maya Randolph and Aru, who declined to give her last name, were two of the few dozen New Yorkers arrested Thursday evening at a massive protest of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. The young women were part of a group of 10 people who were arrested and charged with criminal trespass after they stormed the hotel where Trump was speaking at a private event.

After their arrest, they spent the night in jail, waiting for an arraignment that police officers told them would occur Thursday night.

“It was a pretty long, kind of scary process,” Randolph, a 25-year-old graduate student at Columbia University, told ThinkProgress after her arraignment Friday afternoon. “We were handcuffed, we were taken to one location. We were processed — and I’m still kind of shaken up about that. And then we were taken to another location. And then finally we were able to come and get arraigned.”

The ten young people — from various organizations representing black, Latino, Native American, and queer Americans — said they decided to enter the Grand Hyatt in midtown to get close to decision makers and to send the message to Trump and his supporters that hate has no place in American politics.

“We wanted to show that we are not okay with this rise of fascist rhetoric from all parties,” Randolph said.

We wanted to show that we are not okay with this rise of fascist rhetoric from all parties.

The protest itself was organized with the explicit intention of “shutting down” Trump’s appearance at the New York state Republican gala, a high-status, black tie fundraising dinner where all three Republican presidential candidates spoke on Thursday night.

Aru, a native organizer with the Aymara Nation, said she was inspired by large protest actions in Arizona and Illinois — particularly Chicago, where Trump eventually cancelled a rally due to a large showing by protesters.

“They shut shit down over there, and we had to do something. We had to do something,” she said. “And it worked. What New York said yesterday was that we will be following these motherfuckers everywhere they go.”

Aru said she believes Trump has inspired people to be more comfortable expressing racism, which impacts her on a daily basis.

“As a Native person, a first generation migrant, I have every day since the day I was born have had to struggle, and fight, and walk around the world as a political being even though I didn’t want to,” she said. “And lately, we’ve noticed the rise of fascism and racism that’s occurring … We’re going to stand up and say something, because our lives depend on it.”

By Friday morning, Aru and Randolph had spent more than 16 hours waiting in jail, confused about when they would be released.

“It’s scary seeing people with a lot of power being very confused about what’s going on, and not very clear,” said Randolph, an organizer with Black Youth Project 100. “A lot of times we didn’t know the timeline because [the NYPD] didn’t know the timeline.”

Randolph, who called the experience “dehumanizing,” said there were issues with the officers’ treatment of the protesters — many of them had problems with their handcuffs being too tight.

“One person’s hands turned blue and [the handcuffs] had to be cut off,” she said. “And another person has welts on her arm. And another person was trying to tell them their handcuffs were too tight multiple times, but no one would listen.”

The trespassing charges against the ten protesters are likely to be dropped — Randolph said she understands that the case will remain open for a few months, but will be closed if the NYPD doesn’t take further action.

Randolph and Aru are hardly the only people who have been arrested protesting Trump events across the country.

A handful of protesters in Wisconsin were arrested and charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing a police officer. In Arizona, officers arrested protesters who shut down a major highway leading to Trump’s Phoenix rally.

One of the women arrested in Arizona who spoke with ThinkProgress said she was held overnight, transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and questioned about her immigration status, despite the fact that she is a U.S. citizen.

Randolph said she was honored to be in the company of those arrested protesting Trump events.

“I’m excited to be a part of people rising up and letting our government know that this is not okay,” Randolph said. “And this is not going to be the only thing that happens. If this rhetoric continues, these actions will continue. We’re ready. We’re going to keep being out there showing our disapproval for this kind of behavior.”