As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attempted to woo Indian Americans Oct. 15 during a rally at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, New Jersey, a group of South Asian Americans stood outside to chide the candidate for his divisive rhetoric, which has targeted several minority groups.
Protestors stood near the entrance to the Expo Center, carrying signs that read: "End Caste Apartheid," "Dump Trump," and "South Asians Against Trump.”
“Diversity and inclusion are the principles that our party embraces,” said New Jersey state Assemblyman Raj Mukherji to the crowd of about 50 people. Mukherji lambasted Trump for his xenophobic views and his call for a “deportation force” which would round up both Mexicans and Muslims.
Mukherji – the lone Indian American in the New Jersey state house – noted that Trump does not support visas for highly-skilled workers. The Republican nominee has said that such visas are “very bad for business.”
The former U.S. Marine said that almost every South Asian American he knows is planning to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “I hope Trump spends a lot of time in New Jersey courting my community, because he’ll be wasting it,” said Mukherji, to cheers from the group.
Two polls released recently revealed that seven percent of Indian Americans plan to vote for Trump. Almost 67 percent of those polled said they will vote for Clinton.
Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, also spoke at the afternoon rally. “Trump spews hatred, racism, anti-Muslim rhetoric, insults to women, and says that people aren’t welcomed here,” said the congressman.
“Trump is trying to get across the idea that if you’re Hindu, you’re anti-Muslim. That is not true. He’s trying to whip up anti-Muslim fervor,” said Pallone, adding that Trump’s values are not American values.
The rally was organized by South Asians for Hillary. Amit Jani, a volunteer with SAFHILL who helped organize the rally, told the gathered group: "We don't think it's right for someone from out of the state to come here and raise political issues with our faith and say they speak for over 3.4 million Indian Americans across the country, even more Muslim-Americans, and the South Asian communities as a whole."
The Trump rally, called “Humanity United Against Terrorism,” was organized by Chicago, Ill., businessman Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, a fervent Trump supporter who has pledged just under $1 million to his campaign. The rally was billed as a charitable event to raise funds for Kashmiri pandits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. Trump spoke after performances from several Indian Bollywood artists.
Jani told India-West that many of the 8,000 people in the audience thought they were attending a Bollywood concert and had not expected to hear Trump. He claimed that many walked out of the auditorium when Trump appeared onstage.
“The Bollywood concert was the draw,” asserted Jani.
“Donald Trump does not speak for the Hindu community or the South Asian community,” said the Democratic volunteer. “He really doesn’t understand our community or our region, whereas Clinton has made the Asia Pacific region her first priority.”
Community leaders Shariq Ahmad, Sam Khan, Imtiaz Syed, Raju Patel and Sunita Viswanath – of the Coalition of Progressive Hindus – also spoke at the protest rally.
(This story, originally published Oct. 17, was updated Oct. 19)