Photos: Veterans Protest Trump’s Appearance At NYC Parade
President Donald Trump delivered the opening remarks of the 100th anniversary of the Veterans Day Parade in New York City on Monday morning, praising the military as “the reason our hearts swell with pride, our foes tremble with fear, and our nation thrives in freedom.”
Like most of his appearances in his soon-to-be-former hometown, the president’s arrival was greeted by fierce protests, chants of “New York hates you,” and calls for impeachment. On the outskirts of Madison Square Park, many of the most outspoken demonstrators were the very veterans he was there to celebrate.
“He’s a draft dodger, he don’t belong here,” said Milt Kaye, a 77-year-old Manhattan resident. Since serving in the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam, Kaye says he’s come to the parade annually to search for those from his division with whom he’s lost touch. “It’s a special day. If Trump wasn’t here, it’d be even more special.”
The occasion marked the first time that a sitting U.S. president has attended the solemn New York City event. Typically, heads of state spend the day observing the wreath-laying ceremony for the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
“He wanted a military parade to honor himself, so he’s come and coopted our parade,” said Pam Campos-Palma, a former anti-terrorism intelligence analyst who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He got booed at the World Series. He got booed at UFC. He was looking for vets to use as a cudgel, as a place where he wouldn’t be booed. But we’re not a monolith.”
Some parade-goers did speak out in favor of the president. Bill Auerbach, an upstate resident and Vietnam veteran, called the demonstrators “asinine,” and accused them of disrespecting a sacred ritual.
At one point, a World War II veteran—who declined to provide his name to Gothamist—approached the barricades and threatened to shoot the protesters.
“I fought so they could do this,” replied a veteran on the protester’s side.
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) November 11, 2019
Many in attendance on Monday were with VetsVsHate, an organization formed by ex-service members in 2016 to stand up to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Members of the group pointed to Trump‘s belittling of a Muslim gold star family during the campaign as one of several examples that belied his claim to being the best president in history for men and women in uniform.
Just two days ago, a New York judge ordered the president to pay $2 million to charity for misusing funds raised for veterans, which he allegedly spent on campaigning.
Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, a U.S. army vet and co-founder of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, spoke about the president’s rollback of healthcare protections for trans people. A current Department of Veterans Affairs policy also excludes gender transition surgeries from its health care offerings—something that veterans like Walker are trying to change.
“We have incompetent staff at the VA who don’t know how to treat trans women,” she told Gothamist. “They will not give us total health care and they discriminate against us.”
The president’s own service history came up repeatedly on Monday, with several protesters dubbing themselves participants in Operation Bone Spur—a reference to the timely diagnosis that allowed Trump to avoid serving in Vietnam. While the president says he doesn’t remember where he received his “very strong letter on the heels,” the daughters of a Queens podiatrist came forward last year with evidence that their late father likely provided the excuse. At the time, the doctor rented office space from Fred Trump, the president’s father.
“I have friends that were conscientious objectors during Vietnam and I admire them greatly,” said Michael Handy, a Vietnam veteran and Upper East Side resident. “But Trump is not an admirable person on any level.”
“I’d be riding my Harley in the parade today if he were not president.”