By Whitney Kimball
Ellisha Garner, wearing a bright pink sweatshirt, felt warm and upbeat as she sat with her friend Madeline Darrisaw on the Fight for $15 bus headed to Hoftra University, the location of the presidential debate.
Fight for $15 is an organization that supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15. With the death of her brother, Eric Garner, who became a national symbol of police brutality and income inequality after being killed by police in 2014, Ellisha Garner believes the Fight for $15 campaign is a natural fit for her.
“Eric was a perfect example,” she said. “He couldn’t work because of his respiratory problems. So, yes, he’d been arrested. He sold his little cigarettes. He had to do what he could to support his family.”
Garner said that her community is filled with men and women unable to escape poverty and the cycle of incarceration. Throughout the night, protesters surrounded her wearing T-Shirts with slogans “#FightFor15” and “I Can’t Breathe,” the words her late brother said while dying, as an officer held him in a chokehold.
By Madison Darbyshire
“You guys bored yet?” Asked one Donald Trump supporter, halfway through Hillary Clinton’s first response of the presidential debate.
The tone of the New York young Republicans debate-watch party in Times Square was ravenous.
“I’m not hoping to hear her stumble,” said Mike O’Conner. “I’m hoping to see her stumble.
A waitress shook her head, whispering to her coworker that if she had known what event the Times Square bar was hosting, she might have traded shifts.
Trump interrupted: “Why not?” The crowd went wild.
By Whitney Kimball
A dozen or so riders boarded a Fight For 15 bus Monday afternoon to protest outside of Hofra University, the location of the first presidential debate.
Over the course of this election cycle, Fight For 15, an organization in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $15, has morphed from a New York City-based fast food workers’ protest to a national social justice movement.
Anne Pruden, a woman in her 60s from downtown Brooklyn and passenger on the bus, realized the benefits of unions when she moved from Virginia and began working at a hospital supply job in New York.
Retired court reporter Chris Butters, who worked during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, joined the protest because for years he said he watched young people of color languish in Riker’s Island when they couldn’t afford bail and would lose their jobs to multiple court dates.
Cameron Orr, a 31-year-old Communist Party member who performs in the subway during the day, grew up in a conservative rural town. He reversed his politics after being exposed to people who didn’t look like him and, contrary to his family’s beliefs, were not taking away his job opportunities. “Unless labor, racial justice, and civil rights groups come together, we’re fighting with our hands tied behind our backs,” said Orr.
The New York Young Republican Club convenes at midtown’s Tonic Bar
By Rakshitha Ravishankar
“America needs someone to make capitalism cool again,” says Anthony Williams, an automation engineer and Brooklyn resident who joined fellow young Republicans at the Tonic Bar in Times Square on debate night. He believes that gun rights and immigration are the top issues: “I think this election is about Trump’s promising jobs versus Hillary’s promising handouts.”
Meryl, another Republican supporter, who declined to give her last name, has been a member of the group since she was 18 years old. “America needs to focus on education to make people capable of getting jobs and becoming self-sufficient,” she says, sipping her beer. She feels that the American Federation of Teachers has failed to support students learn and instead has focused on test prep.
While most supporters are rooting for Trump, there is a group of young women who cheer once they see Clinton on the screen. “I’m supporting Hillary,” says Abigail Hess. She feels that Hillary’s proposals are comprehensive and that she knows how to listen. “I’m from Indiana and I’m used to interacting with Republicans, and I’m not hiding here. I’m proud of who I support,” she said.
By Anade Situma
As the evening winds down, after a screening of the first presidential debate at the Women’s National Republican Club in Manhattan, a club member invites Megan Ristine, an undergraduate business student, to become a member.
Megan arrived at the event with no intention of being swayed by Hilary Clinton, and left thinking the Democratic candidate “was complacent, she didn’t hold her ground when it came to speaking time.” Yet when Terry Ford, a WNRC member noted, “this is the best I’ve ever seen her looking,” Megan nodded.
Ford, who helped vote Obama into his first term — “not the second time, I got smart” — went on to voice her disappointment with both candidates in the wake of racial tensions flaring across the nation. “It baffles that neither candidate mentioned the closing of charter schools,” she said.
While the candidates discussed justification for military spending, Ford said that she can’t sleep at night wondering why no one has made the connection between excessive military spending and a lack of funding at a primary education level. “This is the most important issue,” Ford says. Although she is aware of the harm Trump might do to the nation’s image, she believes that he can buck the system if he is surrounded by the right people.
By Katryna Perera
Keeping jobs in America is a topic supported by attendees at the Women’s National Republic Club debate watch party in Midtown.
Hillary Clinton spoke of creating job growth by investing in the middle class, while Donald Trump talked about bringing jobs and manufacturing back to this country from overseas.
Jomarie Triolo, a guest at the event, owns five businesses, and said that at one point she had to outsource some work overseas.
“I felt so un-American,” said Triolo.
By Amanda L.P. Gomez
On Monday night, republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s interruptions during a live debate were received with cheers and applause at the New York Young Republican Club debate viewing party at Tonic Bar in Midtown Manhattan. His comments on his business, energy, trade and the economy were also received enthusiastically in the crowded bar.
The audience, at least half of whom where white, responded to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s remarks as well. One woman screamed “Liar” and “Hillary for prison” at the beginning of the debate, but then someone in the audience asked her to be quiet.
Trump uses populism to appeal to the audience, said Calvin Tran, a New York University film student who is not a Trump supporter but attended the viewing party with friends.
The crowd was in favor of some of Clinton’s policies, such as equal pay for women. When she said, “I prepared to be president,” one person clapped.
By Keenan Chen
In a room packed with younger people, most of the cheering was for Hillary Clinton. But Joseph Tempesta, 65, of Dallas, cheered loudly when Donald Trump brought up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
He doesn’t hate Hillary Clinton, he said. In fact, he thought Hillary Clinton was “very well-spoken and solid in politics.”
His major issue is political correctness.
“I like Trump because of his ability to say what he wants to say,” said Tempesta, who describes himself as a Republican-leaning independent. “I don’t think people want politicians. I think we need humanists, who say what should be said.”
Asked why he would favor the GOP, Tempesta said that his inspiration was Thomas Jefferson, who to Tempesta represents a belief in self-governance. “You are your own person,” he said, “and this is what the country was founded on.”
By Rakshitha Ravishankar
During tonight’s presidential debate when Hillary Clinton said, “We’re all implicitly biased,” a group of young people at the Tonic Bar broke into their own debate. Chris, who declined to give his last name, was offended by Clinton’s statement and said, “It is assumptions like these which create stereotypes about certain groups of people.”
He said that Clinton’s remark was the reason for “reverse racism”, where young, white voters, especially men, were made to feel guilty about the problems faced by minorities such as African-Americans. “Racial discord has been on the rise now than ever before.”
At the same table, a Democratic supporter, Abby Aldridge, disagreed with Chris. “I think Hillary is just trying to be self-reflective. We’ve just started talking about race issues more openly,” she said.
Another Clinton supporter, Abigail Hess, joined the discussion and added that understanding a community’s struggles was not aimed at discriminating against another group. “Re-organizing white privilege is not about making them feel guilty,” she said.
As the young voters delved into what it meant to be white and privileged, Chris decided that he couldn’t support either candidate. “I’m not an undecided voter,” he said. “I think I’d go for none of the above.”
By Keenan Chen
Mel Yankovich watched the first presidential debate with her friends at 230 Fifth, the rooftop bar on the corner of 27th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The 29-year-old from New Jersey said she cares about access to clean water and supports Jill Stein, the presidential candidate from the Green Party. “Right now it’s not about policy or politics. It’s about the earth,” she said.
Her friend, Wayne Chan, of Hong Kong, said he didn’t like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. “It’s all drama, a lot of talking,” the 34-year-old independent said. If he were to choose the next president, Wayne said he would go with Hillary Clinton. “Because Trump can’t be trusted,” he said.
By Joseph Flaherty
At the rooftop bar, 230 Fifth, near 27th Street, there were cheers from the crowd when Hillary Clinton spoke, and boos when Trump appeared on screen. There were also some occasional cheers from Eric Luke, 26, and two friends, not for a candidate, but for a turn of phrase.
Luke had a prepared list of words on his phone, the “2016 debate drinking game,” which he found online. When Clinton spoke, words like “plan” and “judgment” meant Luke and friends had to take a drink; for Trump, “China” and “tremendous” were among the key words.
Luke admitted that by supporting Trump, he’s in a small minority of people in the room. “I’ll probably vote for Trump, because my vote doesn’t matter here in New York,” said Luke, referring to the overwhelmingly Democratic status of the state. In 2012, over 60 percent of New York voters statewide cast a ballot for President Barack Obama; in Manhattan, that figure was over 80 percent.
By Rebecca Zissmann
The second floor of the Tonic bar near Times Square was packed for debate night. Trump supporters flocked to a party organized by the New York Young Republican Club and screamed in support of their candidate.
Not everyone approved. “Most people here won’t admit it but they despise Trump,” says Florent Charpin, a software developer, who has been a member of the NYYRC for ten years. He said he joined the “Never Trump” movement because he considers the candidate to be a liar, who spent “most of his life as a Democrat.” Charpin initially supported Marco Rubio but is now pulling for Clinton, with a caveat.
“I hope she wins in a way that she is so unpopular that she’ll ruin the Democratic Party’s reputation for the next 20 years,” he said. But tonight Charpin remains the minority in a sea of supporters wearing “Make America Great Again” caps.
By Anade Situma
The Women’s National Republican Club, WNRC, hosted 150 members and guests for the screening of the first presidential debate. A direct descendent of the suffragette movement, the club aims to fight political inertia and indifference. Club President Robin Weaver welcomed newcomers to “the party of Lincoln.”
The oldest national club for Republican women attracts almost as many men as women, all happily cheering as Donald Trump declared he would release his tax returns if Hilary Clinton releases her emails.
Attendee Megan Ristine said, “My dad taught me how to think things through and apply common sense.” Ristine believes that liberals look for short-term answers, reflecting millennials’ craving for instant results.
Filmmaker James Balletto, a native New Yorker, believes that student support for the Democratic party is a cycle of life; as taxes become a reality, people turn to the Republican party.
Once the debate began, conversations ended and people got up only to go to the bar or to head out the door.
By Alex Mierjeski
Huddled beneath a television on the second floor of the Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village’s landmark LGBT bar, a group of “gun sense voters” had their eyes glued to the debate screen.
More than a dozen people wearing “Everytown for Gun Safety” shirts passed out “disarm hate” stickers and grinned in disbelief at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s debating style.
But when Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — responding to a question about the direction of the country — spoke of implementing “common sense” gun laws, a cheer erupted.
“She’s the first national candidate for president who’s taken common sense gun control arguments against the [National Rifle Association],” said Bryan Keane, a volunteer with the gun control advocacy group.
While beginning to speak about Clinton’s stance on terror watch suspects’ ability to purchase guns, Keane trailed off: Trump started speaking about his endorsement by the “very good people” of the NRA.
“Boo!” yelled Keane.
By Madison Darbyshire
The answer to the minimum wage issue is immigration, says Mike O’Conner, Republican and Trump supporter. “When you deport four million illegal workers you’ll find the cost of labor goes way up.”
Fight for 15, which advocates for federal increased minimum wage, went to Hofstra University to protest at the first presidential debate. But those watching the debates on Fox news at the New York Young Republicans Club viewing party in Times Square weren’t swayed.
“Business A, say McDonald’s, can pay its employees $15 an hour and still be profitable and maybe pays its shareholders a little less. Business B is a small business and if your raise the minimum wage, it can’t survive. McDonald’s stays in business while small business dies so it’s really a corporate subsidy,” said O’Conner.
“There’s a certain point where if you raise the wage too high, there’s going to be a point where they are replaced with automation,” said Jeff Picard.
“Minimum wage is supposed to be a starter job,” says Jay Tsang, a social worker for the city. “I got my job because of my precious work experience. But it’s not supposed to be a comfortable wage.”
Republican Larry Schneier said, “There are too many people in poverty in this country. It’s really sad. But the point is to create better jobs.”
By Kristin Corry
David Schreier sits alone in the aisle seat, as he waits for friends from his philosophy meet-up group.
“I wasn’t going to watch, but I decided to watch this debate. It’s entertainment, so why not watch in an entertainment setting?” says Schreier.
According to Schreier, gravitas is an important theme in this year’s presidential election. To him, a president requires a certain personality. “Trump will probably deny that his personality is an impediment,” he said.
Tonight, Schreier is paying particular attention to the intersection of immigration and terrorism. “It’s about separating the idea of immigration and terrorism,” he said.
“Yes, bad things can happen as a result of immigration. You shouldn’t just say ‘bad things can happen.’ Worry about the bad people in different ways.”
The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Photo by: Guanhong Hu.
By Talia Abbas
The Stonewall Inn, the storied gay bar in Greenwich Village, is a haven for debate watchers who want to voice their opinions and concerns about candidates running for the 2016 presidential election.
“Any president or leader should make decisions that lead the country and its citizens forward. They shouldn’t take steps back,” said Rouven Büker, a German national living in New York, who believes Trump would reverse the 2015 bill that became same sex marriage legal in the U.S..
“The ideal presidential candidate for me is one who makes thoughtful, rational decisions and who thinks before they speak. You can’t be impulsive when you’re in such a role.”
By Guanhong Hu
The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City kicked off its debate party tonight at the famous bar and national historic landmark in Greenwich Village. With over 500 members, the SDNYC has a long tradition of watching presidential debates at the Stonewall Inn and has grown into the largest LGBT Democratic political club in the state of New York. More than 100 people gathered this evening on the second floor of the bar in anticipation of an unpredictable debate.
“I cannot count. Many are here for the first time.” said Robert Atterbury, the vice president of SDNYC, who distributed rainbow and “New York Together” stickers to guests.
Eunic Ortiz, the president of SDNYC, said the LGBT community has been involved in elections for some time. “If you look over in history, the LGBT has always been an active voice in elections and campaigns,” she said. “Over the last 12 years, we have grown significantly and more and more LGBT people are realizing you have to be involved in the election to let our voice be heard.”
Ortiz said 18 SDNYC-endorsed candidates won primary elections races in September.
By Katryna Perera
The dining room of the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan is packed with viewers for the first Presidential debate. Mark W. Smith, a media surrogate for the Donald J. Trump campaign was invited to be a commentator for the watch party.
He opened his remarks by saying, “What we expect to be a huge butt-kicking of Hillary Clinton.”
Smith gave a trigger warning to the audience, saying that that they might feel some micro-aggression from his statements. The audience laughed, though some audience members raised their eyebrows.
A popular topic of discussion among attendees so far has been second amendment rights. Two attendees, Peter Shay and Joe Marie Triolo, both support the right to bear arms.
Triolo worea bracelet made of bullets and casings.
“It’s my second amendment bracelet,” she said.
By Rebecca Zissmann
At the Tonic Bar on 7th Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets, members of the New York Young Republican Club are outnumbered at the debate watch party. The majority of the bar’s crowd are not Trump supporters, and members of the NYYRC seem to be divided when it comes to their party’s candidate. Roger Sachar, the public relations representative for the club, estimates only 20 percent of its members openly support Trump. Some of the members at the bar, justifying their hesitation towards supporting Trump, consider themselves to be “moderate.” They hoped that the the candidates would address domestic security and what they perceive to be the decline of the U.S. on the international stage.
“There is a real stigma towards Trump supporters in New York;” says Sachar, who revealed that some members don’t publicly support Trump in fear of being laughed at by their friends. “If I went on a date with a New York woman and told her that not only I am a Republican but also a Trump supporter, my chances would be totally ruined,” he said.
By Amanda L.P. Gomez
“I want to see Lester take control of the debate,” New York Young Republican Club (NYYRC) President Samantha McNeilly said about Lester Holt, the moderator for the presidential debate on Monday night.
Holt faces tough critics tonight after fellow NBC anchor Matt Lauer received harsh criticism for a presidential forum earlier this month.
But McNeilly believes that Holt could get a pass for how he handles himself because he is the first moderator of a general election debate.
McNeilly hosted a crowd of more than 100 people at the Tonic Bar near Times Square. But the event may draw up to 400 people coming to watch the debate, which is being shown on Fox News at the bar.
McNeilly said that most of the club’s debate viewing parties attracts big crowds because of the group’s strong social media presence and association with national and state Republican organizations.
Some members of the NYYRC prefer to watch the debate at the bar because of the social aspect of the event. Member Jason Tsang said this gave him something to do on a Monday.
By Talia Abbas
In the last ten minutes before the presidential debate began, Eunice Ortiz, president of the Stonewall Democrats, addressed the local LGBT community on the second floor of The Stonewall Inn.
“We are so excited to see Hillary Clinton whoop Donald Trump’s ass tonight,” she said.
Speaking to The Midtown Gazette, Ortiz expressed the importance of voter participation: “We want folks to get involved in every other election cycle; this year we’ve had the lowest voter turnout except for the primaries.”
“People need to know that it isn”t just about the presidential election. There’s local councils, Congress, senators who also need our votes.”
In practical terms for the LGBT community, this means electing representatives and a president who push legislation to legitimize their rights, or they will not see their demands and needs met.
“An important issue is that we need laws that allow us to adopt children because there are still 36 states where it’s not permitted,” Ortiz said. “We also need action to be taken against the many hate crimes that are still going on.”
By Joseph Flaherty
Brittany Kincaid’s usual Saturday night shift working as a bartender at the 230 Fifth Avenue rooftop bar became anything but normal on Sept. 17. “We heard the initial explosion,” said Kincaid, 22, of her vantage point on the rooftop. Everyone at the bar could hear the sirens blaring in the aftermath.
Tonight, 230 Fifth is hosting a debate watch party hosted by the New York Creative Socials networking group. The bar was filling up at 8:30 p.m. as patrons filed into the building, just a few blocks away from the location on 27th Street where an unexploded bomb was found. Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will square off over a number of issues. In light of the Chelsea bombing, national security and terrorism will loom large.
Kincaid said although there was a mixture of uncertainty and fear last Saturday, she’s “a New Yorker – this is not a new scare.” She declined to say who she’ll be supporting in November, only expressing regret at the options. “I wish we could go back in time,” she said. “Go Bernie! I wish he were the one going.”
By David I. Klein
“When I think about the minimum wage, I think of my students” said Roque Ristorucci, 71, a retired special education teacher from Brooklyn as he rode on a bus to Hofstra University, the site of the first presidential debate. He is there to join a protest organized by Fight for $15, an organization fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Mr. Ristorucci explained that many of his students work in fast food restaurants, not to make some pocket change but to help support their families.
While New York State committed in 2015 to raise the minimum wage in large corporations to $15 by 2018, and smaller businesses a year later, Mr. Ristorucci hopes that the debate protest will raise awareness of the issue around the country. He’d like to see more students make enough to help pay for college or other self-advancement programs.