Trump’s Bodega Visit Should Scare the Heck Out of Democrats

Adam Gray/Reuters
Adam Gray/Reuters

A cheery young Hispanic working single mom who should terrify the Democrats had just picked up her 1-year-old son from his babysitter on Tuesday evening when she encountered a crowd at Broadway and W. 139th St. in Harlem.

None other than Donald Trump was just beyond a line of police barricades outside the Sanaa Convenient store.

“I was amazed to see him,” 31-year-old Sabrina Vargas later told The Daily Beast. “Just to see what everyone jokes about—his hair, the color. It was kind of breezy.”

Trump had come directly from his criminal trial to a neighborhood he might have been expected to avoid for fear of a hostile reception. The visit was the idea of Francisco Marte, head of the Bodega and Small Business Group.

Marte reached out to Trump last week through a Republican in New York’s Dominican community to discuss a major issue for his members—crime—which is pretty rich considering the ex-president is in the middle of a felony trial. Trump’s people responded with an invitation for Marte to come to Trump Tower.

“I said, ‘I’d love to have him in the bodegas,’” Marte told the Daily Beast.

Trump Takes Post-Trial Circus to Fearmonger About Crime at NYC Bodega

Marte sent a list of possibles. One was Sanaa Convenient, formerly known as the Blue Moon. The small grocery was in the news in July 2022 after an altercation that ended with a clerk named Jose Alba fatally stabbing a man who came behind the counter and assaulted him. Alba was initially charged with murder, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg determined that he acted in “lawful self-defense.”

On Saturday, Marte got word that Trump had decided upon Sanaa Convenient.

“What they told me was Trump doesn’t listen to other people. He chose it himself,” Marte recalled. “They told me not to tell anybody.”

As the time of the visit neared, Marte got the go-ahead to alert his members about what he viewed as history in the making.

“The first time a president is coming to a bodega,” he said.

Trump shakes hands with Francisco Marte at Sanaa Convenient.

Trump shakes hands with Francisco Marte at Sanaa Convenient.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

The police closed off the immediate vicinity with barricades. The Secret Service searched everyone inside the perimeter to ensure there were no firearms in the immediate area of Trump—who then suggested in his remarks that a gun could have prevented the stabbing at the store.

“If you have a gun, then you’d never get robbed,” Trump said. “That would be the end of it.”

The Secret Service had no control over any verbal weaponry in the crowd outside the bodega. Marte says that many of those near the front were affiliated with his group and were welcoming even though a good many are immigrants from what Trump has called “dirty country.” (“He doesn’t mean everything that he says,” Marte explained.) Some folks towards the back were hostile, calling out “Traitor!” and “Dump Trump!”

A New Yorker holds a placard ahead of Donald Trump’s arrival in Harlem.

A New Yorker holds a placard ahead of Donald Trump’s arrival in Harlem.

Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty

Vargas arrived in the midst of it, having just collected her son, Makhai, after a shift as a table server at the Hard Rock in Times Square.

“You had a lot of mixed emotions,” she recalled. “I saw some women upset. I saw a lot of people happy. And a lot of people who seem confused.”

But, by her estimate, only 15 percent of the onlookers were manifestly negative. She herself had only positive things to say.

“I liked his suit,” she said. “It looks like he lost some weight.”

She added, “He looked happy. He always looks happy.” She noted one exception: “Not when he’s in court.”

Vargas said that when the crowd cheered, little Makhai joined in. She was asked if she also cheered. “I did,” she allowed.

In response to Trump’s remarks on crime in the city, Bragg’s office posted online that it is down in Manhattan 6 percent overall year to date, with shootings down 39 percent, murder down 23 percent, and robbery down 3 percent.

But Vargas doesn’t feel safe while commuting—a side effect of the societal unraveling that began with the pandemic at the end of Trump’s term as president.

“It feels [like] every time I’m on the subway or every day that I ride the bus, there’s always an incident that’s going on,” she said. “It’s usually the mentally ill people that are causing a disturbance or attacks.”

She added, “I see a lot more dangerous situations than I did before. When [Trump] was here. It wasn’t really like that.”

She is not greatly troubled by Trump’s criminal trial.

“Everyone says that he deserves to go to jail,” she said. “I think as long as he has money, he will be fine.”

People cheer as a motorcade carrying Donald Trump drives through Harlem.

People cheer as a motorcade carrying Donald Trump drives through Harlem.

Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty

Vargas had never seen Trump on The Apprentice, but she had seen his cameo in Home Alone. “I thought, ‘Oh wow, look at him, so young, so back in the day,” she recalled.

Trump insisted on being included in the movie as a condition for allowing it to be filmed in The Plaza Hotel. The producers had intended to cut his scene until the audience at a test screening erupted into cheers when he appeared.

For all of Trump’s sins and lies since then, and despite the dire threat he poses to democracy, he drew similar cheers in Harlem on Tuesday. And it should scare the hell out of the Democrats that those who joined in included a working woman who should be a vote they can count on.

“I think Biden could do a lot better,” Vargas said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.