On the eve of Donald Trump‘s first State of the Union address, an impassioned group of celebrities and activists took to a stage in New York, where they told the sold-out crowd: “We are fired up, we are united and powerful and Donald Trump, we are not going away.”
On Monday, the night of The People’s State of the Union at The Town Hall, speaker after speaker showed what democracy looks likes, their words galvanized by the actions of Trump and his administration this last year.
In the audience was the iconic women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, who told PEOPLE: “Trump has been sent to us only to wake us up. He’ll only be remembered for the opposition to him.”
Steinem also shared that she’s gotten through this last year by making sure she is “with the majority of Americans who rejected him,” explaining, “He did not win the popular vote by a long shot. Most of all to move forward in a positive way. This is the most activism I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve lived a long time.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore gave the crowd — including an estimated 500,000 watching the event’s live stream — steps for “a widespread massive removal of Republicans from the house and senate, the likes of which this country has never seen” in the 2018 election on Nov. 6.
Moore’s advice includes getting out to vote, identifying 20 people who didn’t vote in 2016 and bringing them to the polls, and making sure one’s candidate supports the impeachment of Trump. These elected officials, he said, will be “the jury for the trial of Donald Trump.”
Actor Mark Ruffalo thanked the millions nationwide who since Trump was elected have taken action “caring for our country,” many for the first time marching and tweeting and visiting their congressperson’s offices demanding to be heard.
“That’s hard work, that’s real work,” he said. “I know you haven’t been at a country club half the year, waiting on a golden toilet waiting for someone to bring you a chocolate cake.” Adding, “I’ve learned there is a silver lining in those struggles. We have created the mother of all movements, we have come together.”
One of the most moving moments of the night included Rufus Wainwright singing an emotional rendition of “Hallelujah” to a powerful video montage of scenes from this last year of protests — from the women’s marches to climate change protesters across the country.
He dedicated the song to the parents of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed when a driver rammed his car into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Virginia last year. “I believe her mom and dad are here,” Wainwright said.
Actress Cynthia Nixon told the crowd that the biggest threat to our democracy is Russian president Vladimir Putin, Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and Trump’s efforts to protect him.
“In 2018 each one of us has to do everything we can to reclaim our democracy from foreign and domestic threats,” she said. “There is no cavalry coming, we are the cavalry. Our nation’s core is at stake and that is worth fighting for.”
New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio, who has declared NYC a sanctuary city, asked the crowd, “You want to know what the state of the union is? People are fired up,” he said. “People are awake and alive and activated all over this country. Before the age of Trump, good people talked themselves out of their own power and this age, people recognize their power.” And to huge cheers, he said, “We really saw that in Alabama.”
“We show up by voting,” said Paola Mendoza, one of the founders of the women’s march, who is devoted to helping register 1 million new voters by the 2018 election. “We have to protect democracy, we have to do that by those who have never voted before” She added: “We will win with those millions of voters.”
Billed as a rally for the “resistance movement” and an alternative to Trump’s State of the Union speech, the night was organized by progressive groups: We Stand United, MoveOn.org Political Action and Stand Up America. It was also live streamed, and can be accessed at peoplessotu.org.
The crowd included representatives from United We Dream, AFSCME, Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and other organizations of the resistance movement against President Trump’s administration.
On Tuesday, when Trump’s State of the Union address begins at 9 p.m. ET, celebrities have alternatives planned.
Actress Alyssa Milano asked people via Twitter to “make a short video explaining your hopes and dreams for a progressive, inclusive America” and to post them on social media with the hashtag #StateOfTheDream at 9 pm “sharp.”
During the address, Comedy Central’s Jordan Klepper, host of The Opposition, will be live streaming an “OPPO Citizen Journalists” watch party on Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, at least 11 congressional Democrats are boycotting the address.
“I will not sit and watch as Trump pretends that he’s off to a successful start. He’s not,” Illinois congressman Bobby Rush, one of three Illinois congressmen skipping the speech, said in a statement to The Chicago Sun Times.