Last weekend, millions of people took to the streets to protest against Trump and his administration, and to take a stand against hatred, discrimination, inequity, and injustice. THANK YOU to everyone who joined the marches and protests. With over 600 marches nationwide and around the world, it was the single largest day of protest in American history.
Clearly, we are not in this fight alone.
But the marches are just the beginning: it is vitally important that we plan for what comes next. For this movement to succeed, we have to follow through with real and continued action.
10 weeks ago, we started the Solidarity Pledge for exactly that reason – to get people to commit to concrete, ongoing action, week after week, to make it into a habit and build the capacity for significant civic engagement. We know that 2 hours a week is substantial time, but that’s part of the point. We chose the pledge form (rather than just a mailing list like many others out there) because we want people to recognize that it takes real commitment and effort to create change. Democracy is not a spectator sport, and we cannot succeed without regular practice. To those of you who’ve stuck with us this whole time – thank you, you’re the reason we’ve been able to do this work. To those who haven’t been keeping up – we still need you, and now is the perfect time to get back to work. To those who’ve just joined us, welcome aboard – we’re glad you’re here.
This week, we have seven action items for you. As always, do as many as you can. We especially encourage everyone to do #1.
- 1) Women’s March & inauguration protest follow-up
- 2) Keep pressure on Trump’s cabinet nominations
- 3) Contribute to the Resistance Manual
- 4) Rescue climate data!
- 5) Keep an eye on reproductive rights
- 6) Gear up to fight voter suppression
- 7) [MIT] Attend IAP course on activism & organizing
1) Women’s March & inauguration protest follow-up
Keep the energy of the Women’s March and other inauguration protests going with real, sustainable follow-up actions!
Mass marches are “one of the great weapons of a democracy”, but they’re the tip of the iceberg. Change also requires sustained engagement and organizing efforts – less glamorous, but just as crucial. Here are several things you can do to follow up on the weekend’s protests:
Commit to the Women’s March’s official follow-up 10 Actions for 100 Days, and take the first action already posted.
If you still have [understandable] reservations about the Women’s March and other protests – where were these people before? why wasn’t it more intersectional? why wasn’t it more radical? and so on – this article by a BLM organizer provides some valuable perspective, as does the first half of the piece in the previous point.
Recruit for the Solidarity Pledge! Speak to at least five people you know who attended marches this weekend. Explain to them the importance of sustained follow-up action (read the pieces listed above for talking points if you need them). Get them to take the pledge as part of their own commitment to follow through, and consider sharing it on social media!
In addition, consider donating (here) to provide legal support for the 200+ people arrested during inauguration day protests (including several journalists), who face felony riot charges with up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
2) Keep pressure on Trump’s cabinet nominations
With only four confirmed members, Trump’s [severely un-diverse] cabinet has a ways to go. While it may be hard to stop further confirmations, the payoff would be significant, and every week longer helps delay the damage the appointments can do.
Most recently, Betsy DeVos, picked to lead the Department of Education, showed a lack of basic understanding of our current education system. Her view that locales should choose how to work their schools is very dangerous, as individual choice often leads to re-segregation. A request by Democratic senators for a second hearing with DeVos was denied, but senators on all sides were disappointed with her performance.
Keep calling your Senators to urge them first to call for all cabinet nominees to be properly vetted by OGE (script from Wall-Of-Us here), and second to oppose the more reprehensible specific nominees. Besides DeVos, other top-priority targets are Jeff Sessions, Steven Mnuchin, Tom Price, and Scott Pruitt.
As confirmations are proceeding this and next week, check here for the latest status of nominees. Focus first on those in committees on which your Senators sit, then on those facing the full Senate. You can check the relevant committee memberships, and find talking points and scripts for all nominees, here, here, and here (all spreadsheets with the same information but different layouts, use whichever is easiest for you).
Better yet, consider going one step past calling and showing up at your Senator’s office (even after the Wall-of-Us day of action has passed).
3) Contribute to the Resistance Manual
The Resistance Manual is a new crowdsourced Wiki on Trump’s policies and how to resist them. Each policy page contains background information on policy areas, latest updates, expected impacts of policies, projected GOP strategies and vulnerabilities therein, and suggestions for resistance. There are also numerous other resources available, including state and local sub-pages.
Check out the Manual and spend a couple of hours contributing edits, especially if you have technical expertise in a substantive policy area. Even if you don’t, many of the state and local pages could use person-hours of simple help to flesh them out. As a widely-shared resource, time put into maintaining this will have a multiplier effect on the resistance efforts of others, so it’s well worth the effort!
4) Rescue climate data!
Join a growing group of hackers who are protecting vulnerable environmental information from being erased by the Trump administration. Since taking office, the administration has removed climate change from the White House website, frozen EPA grants, and issued a gag order to EPA (and other) employees. As scientists and engineers, we know that data and free discourse is key to progress – and this information, if lost, could be impossible to replenish in time to protect our planet from environmental catastrophe.
Join scientists who are fighting to obtain and archive at-risk public data, from University of Toronto, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, the Environmental Data Government Initiative, and the Internet Archive, among others.
Hack solo: The UPenn #DataRefuge project suggests several ways to contribute to this effort on your own.
For those in the Cambridge/Boston area:
Hack @ Harvard: Starting in February, Harvard is hosting a series of archive-a-thon events. Register to learn more and volunteer.
Hack at MIT?: Fill out this survey if you would be interested in organizing or participating in a DataRescue hackathon event – and forward the link to friends who might be interested!
5) Keep an eye on reproductive rights
One of President Trump’s first actions in office was an aggressive move against reproductive rights: he signed an executive order reinstating the Mexico City policy, which prohibits the U.S. from funding NGOs that provide family planning and contraceptives if they provide abortions or abortion counseling.
This is just one element of the broader assault on women’s rights. Emboldened by the new administration (the most white and male cabinet since Reagan), Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a national version of Ohio’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’. H.R.490 would ban abortion after six weeks, which is before many women are even aware that they’re pregnant. Just as potentially devastating is H.R.586, or the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would legally define life as beginning at fertilization. These bills are still in committee, and will likely face strong legal challenges, but read up on them and be ready to oppose them soon!
In addition, H.R.7 just passed the House, making permanent various laws that prohibit federal funding of abortion, including through the Affordable Care Act. This bill will make safe abortion harder for women to access, and disproportionately affect low income women and women of color.
Planned Parenthood is, unsurprisingly, particularly at risk. H.R.354, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2017, has over 133 cosponsors. If passed, this bill would completely ban any federal funding from Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood affiliates, and any clinic that performs abortions for one year.
On the state level, there have already been actions to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa and Texas. All of this is occurring despite the fact that US abortion rates are at an all time low due to the combined factors of easier access to contraceptives in some states, and limited access to abortion clinics in others.
What We Can Do
Support Planned Parenthood and women’s ability to access healthcare with this easy call script for your Senator. For a longer term electoral strategy for protecting women’s right to choose, check out Emily’s List.
6) Gear up to fight voter suppression
This is the start of a multi-week series on combating voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, and other practices that undermine real democratic representation and free and fair elections. This week focuses first on self-education, and subsequent weeks will shift focus toward action and organizing.
Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was passed as an effort to combat widespread discriminatory election practices that disenfranchised minority voters in states across the US. Section 5 of the VRA included enforcement provisions that specifically targeted jurisdictions Congress believed had the highest potential for discrimination. Among other protections, Section 5 prohibited those jurisdictions from implementing any changes that affected voting without a determination by the Attorney General or the U.S. District Court of D.C. that said changes would not have a discriminatory effect on minority voters.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA, which sets the formula used in Section 5. Congress was tasked with devising a new formula, which it has thus far failed to do. Since this ruling, voting rights have been under “unprecedented assault,” and legislation that limits voting has flourished in states across the country. Fourteen states implemented voting restrictions that affected a presidential election for the first time in 2016.
The gutting of the VRA had a clear impact on the 2016 election, which is evident in the use of voter ID laws, including strict ID requirements, the closure of polls in minority communities, and the practice of voter intimidation and targeted voter suppression (more numbers and data here). The Voting Rights Act will require serious coordinated effort if it is to make a comeback in the near future: the current Congress has made no efforts to draft legislation to replace section 4 the VRA, and the nomination of known civil rights opponent Jeff Sessions as Attorney General does not bode well for the ongoing efforts to support voting rights.
Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions
In the wake of Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings, and despite earlier statements to the contrary, it’s clear that if confirmed as Attorney General Sessions will further the ongoing efforts to dismantle the Voting Rights Act. Sessions supports voter ID lawsand has called the Voting Rights Act intrusive; during his time as the US Attorney for Southern Alabama, Sessions prosecuted civil rights activists for voter fraud and was deemed “too racist to be a federal judge” by the Senate in 1986.
Over two hundred national civil rights groups have come out in strong opposition to his nomination to the position of AG. The NAACP has spoken out repeatedly and held a sit in protest in Sessions’ Alabama office earlier this month. Nonpartisan groups includingHuman Rights Watch and Project Vote explicitly oppose Sessions’ nomination; the ACLU has been highly critical of Sessions. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), in an unprecedented move, testified against Sessions during his confirmation hearings. Unless moderate Republicans turn against him, Sessions appears likely to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
What We Can Do
Call your senator and asking them to support the Voting Rights Act (there is a script from Weekly Resistance here). Tell them to vote against Jeff Sessions, as he is a danger to the voting rights of millions of people and fundamentally unfit to be the next Attorney General. Ask them to pressure Republican Senators to do so as well.
7) [MIT] Attend IAP course on activism & organizing
Are you worried about threats to social justice, a stable climate, and democratic values under President Trump, but unsure what one person can do? Have you been taking our weekly suggested actions, but wanting more face-to-face interaction with action-oriented people at MIT? Do you want to learn and share tools for being a more effective activist and find ways to get involved in local organizations?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, come to our new IAP course on Activism, Organizing, and Social Movements, being jointly organized by student members of Solidarity MIT and Fossil Free MIT. Starting TODAY, Wed, Jan 25, and continuing throughout the rest of IAP, we’re hosting a series of student- and staff-led sessions with the goal of developing together the skills and frameworks to understand and approach activism, organizing, and social movements in strategic and effective ways. The sessions are meant for all skill levels; whether you’re completely new to activism or are a veteran campaigner, come share your questions and knowledge! We’ll finish up with an Activist Open House featuring a number of local activist groups, giving everyone a chance to learn about local organizing opportunities and commit to getting involved.
That’s all for this week. Thank you for standing with us and staying active and engaged, especially as we go into the next crucial weeks. Now more than ever, we need your support, and that of everyone you can rally and recruit.
Until next week,