On Monday, the working-class political organizing group People’s Action held its first annual convention, entitled Rise Up 2017, featuring Senator Bernie Sanders. At a time when record numbers of progressives seem to be running for office, scores of activists proclaimed their candidacies on stage.
Following a brassy opening—a marching band played “When the Saints Go Marching In”—a range of social justice activists, almost all of them children of immigrants, came forward to relate their personal narratives of struggle and, in many cases, to announce their candidacies for public office.
Martha Lugo, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, told the group that she will be running for city council in Aurora, Colorado. While 60 percent of Aurora’s population are people of color, she said, 100 percent of the city council members are white. “I’m currently a PhD candidate,” she told the audience. “Imagine that, the janitor’s kid.”
After remarks from Lugo and other community leaders, the organization invited onto the stage all of the people in the room who will run for office. Seventy-two people, many of them children of immigrants, people of color, and women, flooded the stage.
Sanders then joined them. “We are not going to let Donald Trump or his friends divide us up by race, or gender, or sexual orientation,” he vowed. “When we stand together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders also announced that he will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks that would establish Medicare for all and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The day after Donald Trump’s election, the American Civil Liberties Union posted the words “See you in court” on its homepage next to an image of the incoming president. Now, the ACLU has a slightly longer message for Trump: “See you in court, and see you in the streets.”
That’s the rallying cry of a new ACLU platform called PeoplePower.org, which the civil-rights group recently set up to mobilize grassroots efforts to resist Trump and his administration. The program gives the ACLU a new weapon in its battle to protect Americans against threats to civil liberties and democracy.
“We can’t just write letters to the administration,” says Faiz Shakir, the group’s national political director. “We have to marshal mass mobilization and strengthen public opinion.”
Since Election Day, the ACLU has received a massive outpouring of donations, totaling an estimated $79 million, and has helped spearhead numerous legal challenges to Trump administration policies, including a successful suit to block deportation of immigrants under Trump’s refugee executive order.
To help lead its new grassroots program, the ACLU has recruited some progressive stars, including Melanie Garunay, Barack Obama’s former digital organizing director; Becky Bond, former digital organizer for Bernie Sanders; and Kenneth Pennington, Sanders’s former digital director. The program will enable the ACLU to tap its two million members and 50 state affiliates for direct action.
Upcoming actions include a town hall in Miami, Florida, which PeoplePower.org will broadcast online, on March 11. During the town hall, the group will run a “resistance training” workshop. This will consist of three key components, says Shakir: the legal rights of organizers or protesters, a discussion of immigration issues, and a call to action detailing how participants can engage in their communities.
“The ACLU is known for wonderful litigation, and has been involved in essentially every major fight for equality,” explains Shakir. “We’re now adding a major new tool to the tool shed.”