They wore pink knit pussyhats, they carried signs with such messages as “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this sh--.” They are "old" ladies, and gentlemen, and they’re coming out of activist retirement in droves as part of the resistance to President Donald Trump.
Membership in the well-established Three Parks Independent Democrats based on the Upper West Side has never been so high — around 300, and they picked up at least 50 members immediately after the election. The influx of participation in the 42-year-old group is by and large from people of a mature age, said Three Parks board member Lynn Max, who met her husband in 1972 while campaigning for women’s rights leader Congresswoman Bella Abzug.
“It’s more of the baby boomers who have been doing this since the 60s getting active again,” Steve Max said.
Chuck Wall, a self-described “typical West Side progressive” first flexed his activist muscle as an undergrad at Columbia University during its contentious student protests in 1968. “Your views are formed by the experiences you have at that time in your life,” Wall told Metro. But his life as a book editor kept him largely away from civic activism, until he retired, and then walked into the Three Parks storefront a few months ago.
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“Then I found myself selling buttons on Broadway and taking buses down to Pennsylvania to try make the election go our way,” he said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who had been activists in the past, but maybe it was on the backburner, maybe for a while they were donating money but weren’t out on the street, and now they’re out with us again, bringing a wealth of experience,” L.A. Kauffmann, author of “Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism,” told Metro. The issues at hand span the gamut of civil, human and environmental rights hard fought and won over the last 50 years, she said.
“It’s a cluster of overlapping movements, and Trump has succeeded in awakening them all,” Kauffman said.
The difference in the collective anti-Trump movement is that it is not just young people fighting against their parents, against the patriarchy and the establishment generations as it was during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war, said the senior activists.
“There isn’t this sense of a generation strife or generational grievances as there was in the protests of the 60s and 70s,” Kauffman said. The hippies, for the most part, were kids.
Ann Seregi marched with her daughter Ellie Wertheim and her granddaughter Allegra, 12 — three generations of feminists — in the New York rallies on Saturday.
“I was very young,” Seregi said of the days she first started fighting for gender equality. “We were looked down upon. But this is an intelligent, experienced, more positive group. I don’t feel like they are going to come mow us down.
“I remember arguing with my parents and my parents' friends about the stance I was taking. Now here I am with the three of us in perfect harmony."