Shortly before six on Monday evening, protesters gathered in the small street between Lafayette and Crosby in downtown Manhattan to pick up handmade signs and battery-operated candles before making their way across the road to the historic Puck Building, the Jared Kushner–owned property where he and wife Ivanka Trump reside. The vigil and demonstration was organized by Halt Action Group, the band of artists behind the enigmatic Instagram account Dear Ivanka that cropped up last week.
Curator and writer Alison Gingeras and artist Jonathan Horowitz, the founders of Halt, say the Ivanka-themed protest was the first of many they hope to see come to fruition. “She really personified a kind of white wash of the Trump campaign,” Gingeras told the Cut. “We felt that because of her connection to the cultural world in New York — the social world, the art world, the fashion world — we had a collective agency to speak to her.”
“Ivanka is the subject of this protest, but it’s not really about Ivanka,” Horowitz added. “It’s about her father, and everything he represents.”
Around 150 people showed, a good deal of them from the art world. In many ways, it had the essence of absurdist performance piece. A handful of delightfully campy signs featured a gold-chain border, a smiley airbrushed portrait of Ivanka, and pink script that spelled out “Dear Ivanka” — the rest was then filled in with any number of grievances, from “Ban Steve Bannon” to “Ignore climate change and New York will sink.” Others created and distributed by artist Rachel Libeskind made Ivanka up to look like a medieval-style saint. “This has a lot better signs,” artist Becky Howland, who’s been to several anti-Trump protests, told the Cut. “Humor’s something we’re gonna need going forward. The other [protests] I’ve been to have been much rawer feeling and angrier. Not that everybody’s not angry and upset and full of shock, but this one’s more pointed.”
Jamieson Webster, a psychoanalyst and writer, was holding a bejeweled board that read “Dear Ivanka, We need to talk about your Dad! Call me. I’m a shrink.” Dr. Webster confirmed that many of her clients have been deeply affected by the election results. “I think that people need to take action,” she said, when asked for therapeutic advice on how to move forward. “They really need to think about what they believed before that’s changed and make that a significant part of how they understand their reality rather than just be upset that things aren’t business as usual.”
Arden Wohl, the socialite and shoe designer, was also present. “This is not an attack against Ivanka,” Wohl, who’s known Ivanka for many years, insisted. “This is a plea to Ivanka to talk some sense because she’s in this transition committee for her father and hopefully she can be his voice of reason. Ivanka’s always had a very good head on her shoulders, she’s always been a really kind person. He does listen to his children, and she’s the smartest of all the children.”
The atmosphere throughout the night was as convivial as it was defiant. As protesters rotated down the stretch of block outside the Puck Building in a pattern reminiscent of a conveyor belt, one woman in a leopard-print coat exclaimed, “Nice thing about this is you feel like sushi!” About an hour in, the crowd started a cheeky chant of “Tell Daddy No” that died out shortly after it began. When one woman attempted to revive it ten minutes later, the only people who enthusiastically joined in were two boys under the age of 10.
One older, weary-looking man in a windbreaker quietly stood off to the side with a sign that read “We Won.” It was initially unclear if it was referring to Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote or if he was a pro-Trump counter protester, but it was quickly confirmed to be the latter. He told the Cut that he and other Trump fans try to make it to the anti-Trump protests whenever they can. A while later, he unveiled another sign that read “Build the Wall.”
By 7:30, police were beginning to tape off the sidewalk so pedestrians could more easily pass by. The group took that as an opportunity to march around the Puck Building a few times, before deciding to make the half-mile trek to the Trump Soho hotel. Along the way, the “Tell Daddy No” chant started again, this time louder and more sustained. It continued all the way to the hotel, where the protesters chanted it repeatedly as they circled the building.
Marilyn Minter, the legendary artist and activist currently showing a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, stopped to chat outside the hotel shortly before the protest dispersed. “Ivanka, I don’t care. She’s not gonna pay attention. It was a way to start organizing people,” Minter said.
“I’ve watched Nixon, I’ve watched Reagan, and I’ve watched the AIDS crisis,” she went on. “I’ve been an activist my whole life, and this is the worse I’ve ever felt.” When asked her advice for women, Minter urged them to organize, adding, “it’s these old white men on the wrong side of history, their last gasp.”