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Thousands Gather Near Trump Tower to Protest President's Return to NYC

By  Ben Fractenberg Allegra Hobbs and Janon Fisher | August 14, 2017 6:34pm | Updated on August 15, 2017 7:33am

 Protesters on Fifth Avenue ahead of President Trump's return to New York City.
Protesters on Fifth Avenue ahead of President Trump's return to New York City.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

MIDTOWN — Thousands of mostly peaceful protesters packed onto sidewalks Monday near Trump Tower ahead of President Donald Trump’s first return home since his inauguration.

Three people were arrested, police said Tuesday morning. One man was arrested for obstruction of governmental administration; another man is facing a reckless endangerment charge; and a woman was arrested for disorderly conduct and was given a desk appearance ticket.

Demonstrators held placards decrying what they saw as the president’s tacit support of white supremacists, while a giant inflatable rat depicting Trump was unveiled earlier in the day.

"No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!" protesters chanted while holding signs with slogans including “White Supremacy is Terrorism.”

Lucy Austin, 18, said she joined the demonstrations to show white supremacists "there are more of us than there are of them."

"I was motivated by what happened in Charlottesville and Trump — I was really enraged by how he refused to denounce the KKK and white supremacy," she said.

"I'm always angry, but it just reminded me of why. It seems very urgent to express opposition to this stuff."

The demonstrations came two days after a man authorities described as a right-wing extremist slammed his car into counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Trump was widely criticized for not quickly denouncing violent acts by white supremacist groups. It was Monday when he made a specific reference to those groups.

“Racism is evil,” Trump said during a Monday afternoon press conference.

“And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

The NYPD said it would heighten security around Trump Tower while the president was expected to be in town for several days.

"While this is not his first visit back to New York City, it is the first time he’s staying at his residence in Trump Tower," NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said at a press conference Monday afternoon. 

"We’ve prepared accordingly. We’ve met with the Secret Service. We prepared a sizeable detail … to ensure the area around Trump Tower is safe and secure with minimal disruption to vehicular and pedestrian traffic."

Before the president arrived Monday night, about 40 Trump supporters, who held signs saying "Jews for Trump," stood cordoned off by police in front of The Plaza hotel. Across the sidewalk from them stood a pen full of anti-Trump protesters. The two sides volleyed taunts back and forth to each other.

Heather Rispoli, 46, and her boyfriend Chris Webb, 37, came from West Babylon, Long Island to show their support for the president.

"I'm a Trump supporter," she said. "We've seen a lot of spewed hate from people who supported Hillary."

Rispoli admitted that she had not been keeping up with the news on the Charlottesville clashes.

"I heard it was a Hilary supporter who ran those people down," she said. "I stay away from the news. That could have been fake news."

Several pro-Trump counter protesters said they blamed the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville on both sides, not just white supremacists. They felt Trump's initial response — which condemned violence on "many sides" rather than naming white-supremacist groups — was appropriate. 

"I feel like going into that situation, you could pretty much predict the spin the news was gonna take on it. What he said would never be sufficient enough," said Will Barber, 23.

"[Trump's response] covered the bases, because I do fully blame both sides, and in the case of Charlottesville, both sides are completely crazy," he continued.

The president's motorcade arrived at Trump Tower about 9 p.m., according White House pool reports.

The crowd thinned out around 9:30 p.m. with only a few diehard protesters on both sides hurling insults at each other from across police barricades, this time on East 57th Street and Fifth Avenue across from Trump Tower.

Some anti-Trump protesters chanted "Read a book" and "Make America Read Again" at the presidential supporters on the other side.

Both protesters and Trump supporters continued to demonstrate in the streets well into the evening.