Thousands in New York Pledge to Defend Press and Freedom of Speech Against Trump Administration
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: [email protected], +1646.779.4830
NEW YORK—As Donald Trump and his team continue to insult journalists and disparage critical voices, more than 2,000 artists, writers, and readers gathered with PEN America today on the steps of the New York Public Library in a collective stand to defend free expression, reject hatred, and uphold the truth. Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, U.S. Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky, playwright Eve Ensler, comic artist Art Spiegelman, and authors Andrew Solomon and Jacqueline Woodson were among the throng who braved the cold on Sunday at Bryant Park to send a message to an incoming presidential administration that has laid bare its hostility toward the press and other free expression norms.
Coinciding with the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the event featured readings and performances inspired by the words of Civil Rights leaders and literary luminaries on democracy–including everything from the U.S. Constitution to poetry by Frank Zappa. Rosanne Cash and Morley brought protesters to tears with a determined rendition of Bernice Johnson Reagan’s “Ella’s Song,” best known for its refrain of Ella Baker’s iconic 1964 pledge that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.”Broadway Kids Against Bullying, a consortium of 30 young singers and dancers from Broadway favorites like Matilda, performed a new song written to address rising hate speech and bullying in schools across the country titled “I Have a Voice.”Molly Crabapple provided the artwork for the event, featuring original portraits of writer-activists James Baldwin, Audrey Lorde, Junot Diaz, and Suheir Hammad.
“Just as chairman Mao and Joseph Stalin started by going after the intellectuals, against those whose words who might form an opposition to them, so Trump has gone across us. We are ground zero in his fight for total power,” PEN America PresidentAndrew Solomon told the crowd. “And that is why, as we at PEN have asserted repeatedly, and as Erin Belieu has helped gather artists to comment on, free speech is first among equals when we look at what is being violated by this new regime.”
Sunday’s literary protest in New York City was the flagship event a national rallying effort under the banner of WRITERS RESIST, organized by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts co-founder Erin Belieu. More than 90 WRITERS RESIST events took place simultaneously in 40 states across the U.S. and abroad.
After the rally, Nossel and Solomon led protesters in a march 15 blocks north to Trump Tower to delivered a pledge to defend free expression–signed by 150,000 individuals–to President-elect Trump’s team. Despite a heavy police presence around the Tower that forced protesters to disperse, Nossel and Solomon were able to enter and deliver the petition to a staff member.
“In a matter of months, freedoms that have long been taken for granted have been called into question by a man who will soon become the most powerful leader in the world’,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “PEN America is mobilizing writers and artists to raise their voices among the thousands of Americans who are resisting–resisting lies, resisting hate speech, resisting threats to our democracy both internal and external. Today is just the first of many PEN America efforts to come. We will resist.”
VIDEO: All video courtesy PEN America
Video from the event is available for viewing and embed at https://youtu.be/WLrFNdyUSPw
High-quality video clips from the event are available for download via Dropbox at http://bit.ly/writers-resist-video
Writers Resist NYC_Crowd B-Roll.mp4: More than 2,000 people attended PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (00:24)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Monica Youn: Poet Monica Youn reads an original poem written for the occasion at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (3:00)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Robert Pinsky: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky reads an original poem written for the occasion at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (2:34)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Rita Dove: Poet Rita Dove addresses the crowd at PEN American Writers Resist NYC rally (2:49)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Ellas Song: Rosanne Cash, Morley, Eisa Davis, and Carla Duren perform Bernice Johnson Reagan’s ‘Ella’s Song’ at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (4:17)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Andrew Solomon: PEN America President Andrew Solomon Addresses the Crowd at Writers Resist NYC (6:49)
PEN Writers Resist NYC_Broadway Kids Against Bullying.mp4: Broadway Kids Against Bullying Performs the original song ‘I Have a Voice’ at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (2:09)
Photos from the event are available for download at http://bit.ly/writers-resist-nyc
Select photos with captions (additional photos available in online album):
Rosanne Cash, Morley, Carla Duren, and Eisa Davis sing “Ella’s Song” at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (©Terence Jennings/PEN America): https://www.flickr.com/photos/penamericancenter/31958463710/in/dateposted-public/
PEN America Writers Resist protesters march to Trump tower. (©Ed Lederman/PEN America):
PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel addresses crowd, with banner and presenters behind (©Terence Jennings/PEN America): https://www.flickr.com/photos/penamericancenter/32215523701/in/dateposted-public/
Art Spiegelman and Bob Shacochis post after reading at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (©Terence Jennings/PEN America): https://www.flickr.com/photos/penamericancenter/32296457136/in/dateposted-public/
More than 2,000 rallied for free expression at PEN America’s Writers Resist NYC (©Ed Lederman/PEN America): https://www.flickr.com/photos/penamericancenter/31495449524/in/dateposted-public/
Amy Goodman reads from ‘Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation’ by Natalie Diaz at PEN America’s ‘Writers Resist NYC’ rally (©Terence Jennings/PEN America):
Black Lives Matter Activists Storm Ervin and Zachary Wood read ‘What do we have to lose? Everything’ by Harry Belafonte at PEN America’s Writers Resist NYC rally (©Terence Jennings/PEN America):
PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel and President Andrew Solomon deliver a free expression pledge signed by over 150,000 to Trump Tower (©PEN America):
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at PEN.org
WRITERS RESIST was launched after the recent elections by poet Erin Belieu, who also co-founded VIDA, a feminist organization dedicated to gender parity in the literary landscape. Erin believes for us to heal and move forward, individually and as a nation, we must recommit our focus as writers to the fundamental ideals of democracy and social justice for all. WRITERS RESIST events will take place across the country on January 15. Visit writersresist.org to find an event near you.
WRITERS RESIST: #LouderTogether was presented in partnership with Arts & Democracy, Asian American Arts Alliance, Authors Guild, Bowery Poetry, Bronx Writers Center, Cave Canem, Center for Fiction, Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Dennin Arts Management, Dramatists Guild of America, Free Press, The New School Creative Writing Program, New York Writers Coalition, Revolution Books, Theater Communications Group, The Nation, The New School Creative Writing Program, The Other Stories Podcast, Tin House, and Words Without Borders.