Progressive activists challenging the policies of the Trump administration and the GOP agenda are transitioning from a summer campaign to a fall initiative — and they’re recruiting.
“It was a long, hectic summer, but something tells me it’s going to get even hotter when Congress returns to work,” said Jessie Sanchez, who joined in a Labor Day protest march in Milwaukee. “We need all the people we can muster.”
Sanchez said he participated in protests this summer organized by Voces de la Frontera, MoveOn and Indivisible chapters in Wisconsin and Illinois.
“In the political world, we can make a world of difference,” he said.
In the weeks before Labor Day, progressive activists in Wisconsin and elsewhere engaged in a “resistance recess,” a series of actions focused on reaching members of Congress on recess and back home. Protesters converged on district offices, packed town halls, and when representatives refused to hold open forums, activists staged their own.
Among their goals were holding accountable the lawmakers who voted for legislation that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, encouraging support for Medicare for all, and demanding censure of the president for failing to denounce white supremacy.
DACA demands and Trump’s response
Over the Labor Day weekend, grassroots activists in Wisconsin and elsewhere staged a series of actions urging the president and Congress to make permanent the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program shields young immigrants — dubbed “dreamers” — from deportation and makes it possible for them to work legally in the U.S.
Almost as if in response, the Trump administration announced Sept. 5 the end of DACA — then challenged Congress to do something.
In Racine, near House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district office, young immigrants went on a hunger strike Sept. 1, demanding the Republican leader support legislation to make DACA permanent without further militarization of the border.
“If DACA is rescinded, I and 800,000 others will be robbed of the ability to contribute to our communities and we will be at immediate risk of deportation along with our families,” said Valeria Ruiz, an organizer with Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle. “Ryan must urge the president to keep DACA and he must support legislation to make DACA permanent without giving in to white supremacist mass deportation demands.”
Ryan, during a radio interview Sept. 1, did encourage Trump not to kill the program before a way forward is designed: “These are kids who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home,” he said, adding that he preferred a legislative solution to the dreamers’ future.
The dreamers’ hunger strike, coordinated by Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle, launched five days of actions in Wisconsin, including the occupation of Monument Square in Racine, a Labor Day march in Milwaukee and another march Sept. 5.
Time to fight for $15
The marchers also walked in support of the Fight for $15, a national campaign for a higher minimum wage. Cooks and cashiers from McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants walked off their jobs on Labor Day to join the march in Milwaukee and other major U.S. cities.
“Rampant racism. Wage cuts. Attacks on unions. It’s time to fight back,” read a statement from the Fight for $15 campaign.
Other groups bringing activists to Labor Day actions included the United We Dream immigrant rights effort, MoveOn.org, affiliates of the 350.org environmental organization, and Indivisible chapters.
The Indivisible chapters formed following Trump’s inauguration and the release of Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, a Google Doc outlining how to engage politically.
About 6,000 groups are registered as Indivisible affiliates, including 112 groups in Wisconsin.
For months, Indivisible has provided regular “to-dos” to subscribers to newsletters. A recent weekly advisory — issued under the subject “the sun sets on August recess” — instructed “Dear Indivisibles” to defend DACA, speak against Trump’s ban on transgender troops joining the military, oppose Trump’s warmongering, join in a Facebook Live forum against white supremacy, and support progressive groups assisting Hurricane Harvey survivors.
The post-Labor Day “weekly Indivisible to-dos” encouraged “Dear Indivisibles” to show up for dreamers, respond to Harvey, stay vigilant on ACA, stop Trump’s tax scam giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations and stop Trump from starting war with North Korea.
“Together, we will win,” the Indivisible team wrote — in solidarity.
On the web
For more on local Indivisible groups, visit indivisibleguide.com/act-locally.