The voices of more than 100 women echoed off the towering New York county court building on Friday, where the criminal trial of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is taking place.
“The patriarchy is a judge that judges us for being born, and our punishment is the violence that we have seen,” they shouted.
The women performed Un Violador en Tu Camino – A Rapist in Your Path – the anti-rape anthem that was created by the Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis. Activists were dressed in all-black with red details. Many wore black mesh veils. Passersby stopped to watch as they chanted in English and Spanish, the language the anthem was originally performed in, accompanied by drums and bells.
“The rapist is you. It’s the cops, it’s the judges, the state, the president, the oppressive state is the rapist,” the protesters chanted while pointing at the courthouse.
Five activists and artists, many with ties to the anti-Trump women’s marches, which officially began the day after the president’s inauguration in 2017, coordinated the protest.
“It was very important for us to do this and make sure that it was … a sort of bookend to the beautiful speeches given by the silence-breakers on Monday on the first day of court,” said Amber Tamblyn, an actor and activist, referring to the press conference Weinstein accusers such as Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette held in front of the court building. Monday marked the start of Weinstein’s criminal trial, where jury selection is ongoing.
Tamblyn, who helped coordinate the anthem’s performance, along with Paola Mendoza, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Nelini Stamp and Yara Travieso, said the coordinators hoped the protest would send a message to the many dozens of women who have come forth with accusations against Weinstein. “We see you, we stand with you and we’re here with you in any capacity that we can be in,” Tamblyn said.
After performing the chant twice in English and Spanish, the protesters headed to the nearby subway station to perform the anthem underground.
The women gathered in a subway car on the Q train and recited the chant as the train roared along. Some fellow subway riders clapped along with the beat, while others continued to stare down at their phones.
Mendoza said bringing the anthem to the subway served as a protest to “a space where women have to protect their bodies” as well as the influx of police officers that began deploying en masse in the subway system last year. “It’s taking back space for all of those people that are being policed and harassed in unfair circumstances,” Mendoza said.
The protesters got off the train, chanting “El estado opresor es un macho violador”, which translates to “the oppressive state is the macho rapist”. As they walked down 59th Street, which borders the south end of Central Park, they shouted, “It’s not my fault, not where I was or how I dressed” as tourists and residents of the glitzy buildings watched on.
The women positioned themselves across the street from the Trump International Hotel and Tower and recited the anthem as hotel staff and people on upper floors of the building watched.
The performance of the anthem remained largely a secret until Friday morning, when the women gathered in front of the court building. The organizers said they recruited women solely by word-of-mouth. Many attendees were fellow activists and artists and their friends.
Dara Lazar, 41, had her one-year-old daughter strapped to the front of her body as she participated in the protest. Her baby smiled and babbled to the beat of the anthem on the subway as the train moved.
“I love bringing her to these things because I want her to see all these women cooperating,” Lazar said, noting that she comes from a community of activists that often sing as a form of protest. “That you can be powerful and joyful at the same time, I really want her to see that.”
LJ Amsterdam, 35, an activist, taped a piece of red cloth to her black leather jacket that had a list of three men who assaulted her when she was a teenager. The first name of two men and “that ‘nice’ guy” who she did not know the name of were written out.
“I care less about the men seeing it and more about women seeing it and knowing that it’s not something that they have to hold secret,” Amsterdam said, noting that it took her over a decade to process through the trauma of her assaults.
In the US, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673 or by chat at Rainn.org. In the UK, the rape crisis national freephone helpline is at 0808-802-9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800-737-7328) or 1800respect.org.au. Other international helplines can be found at Ibiblio.org.