Photo Credit: Ilana Novick
Before he was branded Chuck “fake tears” Schumer by the president of the United States, the Senate Minority Leader seemed poised to work with Donald Trump. As a December Politico article pointed out, “Schumer, by nature, is a dealmaker, not an ideologue,” and, “in terms of simply going full war on Trump, one Democrat close to Schumer said: ‘He will leave that to the external groups, and look for ways to work together.’ ”
The external groups, as the source called activist leaders, were not impressed.
They were even less so when Democrats, in addition to Schumer, began voting for Trump’s cabinet picks like Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo, and James Mattis. It was during this time that Nelini Stamp, National Membership Director of the Working Families Party, conceived of a regular series of events to show elected officials that they, as she put it in a phone interview, were “on notice.”
These events became Resist Trump Tuesdays, a regular series of events—sit-ins, protests, petition deliveries—at the offices of members of Congress across the country. The inspiration for the regular events came from Rev. William Barber and the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, Stamp explained to AlterNet, because it’s “something people can do regularly and always know that it’s going to be there…. So if they can’t make it one Tuesday, they know it’s going to happened the next Tuesday.”
The Working Families Party, now in collaboration with MoveOn.org, the Indivisible Guide, People’s Action, and other groups, created a website (ResistHere.org) on which budding activists can join existing events, start their own, and find an action toolkit with a variety of tips for getting started.
So far, according to a statement from the Working Families Party, “Tens of thousands of people have participated in more than 750 Resist Trump Tuesdays protests at congressional offices.”
The goal is to have participants fit their actions according to what will work best for their particular communities, with suggestions for particular pieces of legislations, or as was the case for the first month, cabinet appointments, to fight against. “People get to decide what their best tactics are based on where they live—based on who their congressperson is and who their senator is.”
In many cases, that means showing up at members of Congress’ offices to voice their concern. In Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey’s constituents started Tuesdays with Toomey, regular afternoon visits to his offices all over the state. Like most of the Resist Trump Tuesday actions, their focus was initially on cabinet appointments, but have nimbly shifted to health care, immigration, the economy, and even internet privacy.
In New York City one group decided to target Schumer as directly as possible.
“It was after he had voted for Pompeo and the Department of Homeland Security cabinet member and we were really furious,” Stamp recalled. So they brought the protest to his house: “We knew going to Schumer’s house would work because his family lives there and because his neighbors [also families] are there. It’s women. It was led by women. It was led by Park Slope moms. We knew that they were going to come out.” Hundreds of New Yorkers came out on a freezing night to chant “Step it Up, Chuck” (and of course, “What the F*CK, Chuck”), as well as to deliver models of the human spine, on the off chance that the senator has misplaced his.
As Anna Datrick, a Brooklyn resident and participant in that protest, told AlterNet, she thought it was important to target representatives at their homes because, “there’s no reason that representatives should be sitting pretty” while constant ICE raids mean “There are targeted people unsafe in their own homes.”
The format is flexible enough to spur action on a moment’s notice. When ICE stepped up its raids in New York City in mid-February, Stamp and the Working Families Party organized a protest right outside of ICE’s headquarters, featuring multiple leaders from immigration advocacy organizations like the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road, plus elected officials, just the day before, in a sign of tight collaboration and communication between organizations.
The day before AlterNet spoke with Stamp, Timothy Caughman, a black man, was stabbed and killed by James Harris Jackson, a white supremacist from Maryland who had taken a bus to New York City specifically to kill black men. Stamp was in the midst of organizing a rally and march to honor his memory and call on prosecutors to charge Jackson with terrorism. Just two days later, hundreds of New Yorkers arrived to hear Women’s March organizers and longtime activists Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, among others, speak and march to the block where Caughman was murdered to leave flowers and create a memorial.
It’s another sign that, while the Democratic Party as a whole may not be the most cohesive, the grassroots groups are increasingly coodinating their actions. Stamp noted, “I do think people are working together… [There are] not really issue silos… Folks are like, ‘Listen, one group can do one thing and another organization can do another issue on the same day.’ It’s… no competition, and I think organizations are working together…. Knowing that we’ve got each other’s backs in the era Trump—and I think it’s beautiful to see that.”
Going forward, Stamp “would love to see visionary [work] come out of the Resist Trump movement that’s not just about resisting, but it’s about what we actually want for this country…. A new vision. Taking that word resistance and saying we’re actually going to resist hate crimes no matter who is president. We’re actually going to resist to make sure that police don’t kill anybody unlawfully and unjustly right. We actually going the resist because mass incarceration needs to die.”