In the Trump era, protesting has become like a ‘second job’
Protesters are busy these days. The election has given so many so much to oppose that Stacey Dogan, a Boston University law professor who cofounded a local resistance group, likened keeping up with it all to a “second job.”
“Every day you could be going to something different,” she said.
In Boston, a hub of political protest since the election, progressives are packing house parties to brainstorm. They are signing up with sites like SwingLeft.org or Flippable.org to learn about and, they hope, to sway political races in nearby or distant states.
They’re raising money for groups they see as threatened by President Trump’s agenda, and are going to training sessions to learn how to organize. They’re getting “daily action alerts” on their phones.
In Dorchester, a group of newly minted activists eager to help their Vietnamese and Cape Verdean neighbors located volunteers to translate the ACLU’s instructions on what to do if immigration agents show up at their door.
“The directions were only in English and Spanish,” said Erin Carey, a veterinarian who organized a “huddle” in Dorchester. Her group is one of 222 huddles statewide, and one of nearly 5,000 across the country that formed in the wake of the Women’s March, according to Yordanos Eyoel, a spokeswoman for the Sister March Network. The huddles can be as small as eight people, she said, or as large as one in Orlando, which has more than 350 members.
On Commonwealth Avenue, two artists who’ve been friends since middle school organized 50 fellow artists for a group sale at an all-female tattoo parlor.
“We got this together in two weeks,” said Amanda Abbott, a tattoo artist at Brilliance Tattoo. “People are so riled up they want to do something.”
The artists sold more than $4,000 of watercolors, ceramics, prints, and jewelry to benefit Greater Boston Legal Services and the Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center. Abbott wants to hold similar events throughout Trump’s presidency.
A Brookline huddle is planning to use the Boston Marathon to publicize an anti-Trump message. They’re selling T-shirts, hoodies, and hats that read #PERSIST and PERSISTER. Profits will go to The Sister March Network as well as a Marathon charity, said group member Sarah Pagliaccio. The goal is to create a “wall” of resistance from Hopkinton to Boston.
Although it’s been nearly half a century since the country has seen such wide-spread activism, Ellen Fitzpatrick, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire, says that radical movements are an “American tradition.”
“Whether it was the suffragists marches in the early 20th century or the huge anti-war marches of the ’60s and early ’70s, we’ve seen this before,” she said.
“Look at the populist movement in the late 19th century, when American farmers started a grassroots movement attempting to challenge the power of big corporate interests and banks,” she said. “There were marches of unemployed people who came to Washington during the Depression in the 1890s to protest their situation, and the Civil Rights movement.”
But, Fitzpatrick said, there is a difference this time: The administration’s alleged connections to a foreign power that for much of the Cold War was considered an enemy. “We’re in entirely new territory.”
Indeed, Tiziana C. Dearing, a Boston College professor and co-director of the school’s Center for Social Innovation, says many people have been spurred to action because they feel that Trump poses an “existential threat.”
“There aren’t a lot of formal levers to counter that threat,” Dearing said. “And if you don’t have formal levers, people take to the streets.”
And many of those people include children, as parents fit protest actions into the family schedule, working in resistance in between cello lessons, sports, and homework.
Protesting has become such a part of Cambridge writer Katherine Wolff’s family routine that when one of her 12-year-old twins heard mom sigh after reading an “alarming” story, she knew what to say: “I guess we might as well leave our [protest] signs by the front door.”
The most visible action takes place on the streets, of course. But behind the scenes, people are connecting via social media, through Facebook groups like B Together, a Boston-based Trump resistance group that aims to advance causes that advocate for equality, racial justice, women’s rights and more. Despite being private, it has attracted nearly 16,000 members since the election, said spokeswoman Robyn Parets.
Members create their own events — a group recently made “pussy hats” at a “knit together” — and they also partner with nonprofits that have been advocating for rights even before Trump was elected.
While many protesters focus on a single issue — the environment, say, or press freedom or reproductive rights — others say they are driven by a fear that’s larger than any one cause.
“I am the third generation after the Holocaust and we were raised with this great awareness of our history,” said Anne-Carina Kelly, a German native working to complete a master’s degree in political science at Northeastern University.
She is frightened by parallels she sees in the rise of Hitler and Trump she said, explaining her volunteer efforts. “As a German, I can’t look away and do nothing.”