Queens went to the barricades in 2017, protesting threats to women’s rights, President Trump’s travel ban on Muslims and the borough’s breakaway Democrats who have allied themselves with the Republicans in Albany.
It wasn’t exactly a revival of the Sixties, but Queens found its voice as residents spoke out about what they feared were Washington’s plans to deny fair play to women and immigrants.
On Jan. 21,thousands of Queens women crossed into Manhattan to join the 400,000 protesters who put on their pussy hats to send a message to Trump that they would fight any administration effort to curb reproductive rights or diminish their civil liberties.
But six days later Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. The move sent volunteer lawyers racing to Terminal 4 at Kennedy airport, where a number of travelers were detained. Many of the borough’s outraged lawmakers rushed to the airport to support the hastily assembled legal teams as thousands of protesters gathered outside.
The Trump action hit a raw nerve in Queens, where nearly half the population is foreign-born.
Several federal judges temporarily blocked the order, but the battle lines were drawn and as the year went on Queens faced ICE incursions in courtrooms, along the No. 7 subway line and a failed attempt to enter one elementary school. Mayor Bill de Blasio stood firm behind New York as a sanctuary city and the protections for most Queens residents held, although there were a number of deportations.
The borough’s Dreamers – undocumented residents brought here as children – became bolder and publicly protested their vulnerable status as Trump weighed their future. In September Trump repealed the DACA program introduced by President Obama and left 800,000 Dreamers in limbo.
Some anti-immigrant sentiments were heard in the borough, but Queens residents were in full agreement on the MTA: Fix the subways. The Summer of Hell became the Fall and Winter of Hell as years of delayed maintenance ran head on into heavy ridership on the failing system.
Politics brought out some sharp elbows. State Sens. Tony Avella and Jose Peralta — the two Queens members of the renegade Independent Democratic Conference — faced protesters who berated them for collaborating with the Senate Republicans as Trump sat in the White House. Each is expected to face strong Democratic rivals in November.
The power of protest and engagement has fired up Queens, which is on high alert as the new year begins.