Why protesters lined up body bags outside Trump Bay Street building

JERSEY CITY – Protesters circled Trump Bay Street Friday morning carrying makeshift body bags and demanding federal aid to be channeled toward communities they say have been left unassisted and vulnerable during the pandemic.

Speakers at the event organized by Make the Road New Jersey called the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic a failure that has devastated immigrant communities. The New Jerseyans who have disproportionately suffered from the virus and economic downturn need relief, including rent cancellations and stimulus funding, they said.

“This pandemic has ruined our family,” said Luis Abrego, a Make the Road New Jersey member. “We’ve been eight, almost nine weeks at home and have no money because immigrants have been left behind from the stimulus.”

The protesters began at Trump Bay Street, a 50-story luxury building owned by Jared Kushner’s Kushner Companies, but concluded around the corner at the Trump Plaza building.

They placed the body bags under the president’s name as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches 100,000.

Make the Road New Jersey, an organization advocating for immigrants and Latinx communities, held the protest in Spanish and English. The small group of protesters spread out in front of the Kushner property singing “Trump Trump, don’t you know what your lies have done to me?” in between speeches from advocates and members of the organization.

The $1,200 stimulus checks that most adult Americans received passed over hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in New Jersey, according to Make the Road. Undocumented residents were never eligible for the relief, but many citizen spouses and children of undocumented residents also found themselves ineligible.

The omission of the communities from aid was intentional, despite those very people being the backbone of the essential work force during the pandemic, said Amy Torres, a housing rights advocate who spoke at the protest.

“We’re the ones that have carried Jersey City, we’re the ones who have carried Hudson County, we’re the ones who have carried New Jersey through this crisis,” Torres said.

A new federal stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, would provide relief for residents of the United States who file taxes without social security numbers, which includes undocumented immigrants and non-citizens.

The bill has passed the House and the protesters urged the Senate to approve it as well. Make the Road New Jersey had previously lamented that the bill’s provisions would not lead to rent cancellations.

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