America is witnessing a renaissance of local political action—and not just in response to the Trump administration. In fact, the headlines from D.C. can crowd out news of the incredible work being done around the country.
Here are a few snapshots from recent weeks.
Lancaster—Future of Democratic Engagement?
An emergency mass meeting after the November election brought out 250 people, in a Republican-dominated part of Pennsylvania where Democrats rarely put up a fight. That meeting grew into Lancaster Stands Up, a grassroots group ready to challenge both parties’ establishments.
A crew of young lifelong Lancastrians, some of whom have been organizing together since high school, launched the group on their own, independent of any national organization, last November. Through huge rallies and intimate conversations and more, they are reminding neighbors like Judy that democracy is a practice that must be pursued constantly and in community. There are no off days. There are no off years. When civil society is at stake, it’s campaign time all the time.
The videos of Confederate monuments coming down went viral. So did the mayor’s speech. But if saw either of those, then you need to know the story of the group that made it happen: Take ‘Em Down NOLA.
After Ferguson, in 2014, the group began holding events at Robert E. Lee’s monument, initially as a means of giving people the space to vent, grieve, and heal. Soon, however, the group saw an opportunity for political education. Activists learned about the 1811 slave revolt, the struggle for civil rights in the city, and the previous work that had been done throughout the 1980s and 90s to change the names of 23 schools so they were no longer homages to Confederates. These forums were often led by local historians like Suber and Waters, and they urged the young activists to think of their work as being both in conversation with and an extension of the work that had been done by their predecessors.
Bonus: An interview with one of the activists behind the effort in City Lab: How Robert E. Lee Got Knocked Off His Pedestal.
Fairbanks—Unlikely Uprising in Alaska
On January 21st, about 2,000 people braved temperatures 20-degrees below zero for the March On Fairbanks. That marked the start of a resurgence in organizing. However, as in most areas, local issues are as important as national ones.
While the country has been enduring the Trump political drama, Alaska has been navigating its own crisis. The state’s economy has been dependent on oil revenue since it eliminated its income and sales taxes amid obscene industry profits in 1980. But now the oil market has collapsed, and the state budget is hurting. In response, state legislators have made deep cuts throughout the budget, and especially to education.
Today’s protesters are out in force against a new legislative proposal to gouge another $22 million from the University of Alaska system.
Charlottesville—Vigil Against Hate Outdraws White Supremacist Rally
Continuing on the theme of Confederate-statue removal, Robert Mackey at The Intercept describes the scene in Virginia a few weekends ago:
Hundreds of protesters gathered for a candlelit “vigil against hate” on Sunday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after a smaller number of white supremacists carrying torches had rallied at the same spot — around a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, which the city council recently voted to remove.
Nationwide—Sharp Increase in Protest Activity in April
For April 2017, we tallied 950 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 637,198 and 1,181,887 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.
Worldwide—Protest Signs Greeted Trump Overseas
Some great shows of solidarity, including this post’s header photo from a Greenpeace protest in Brussels (photo by Salim Hellalet, used with permission).