Unity Rally Not So Unified, Say Local Organizers Exasperated With ‘Tourist Activists’

December 19, 2016

Around 200 activists gathered for a TurnOut rally on Saturday afternoon to celebrate unity against president-elect Donald Trump near the Washington Monument, but the event itself was not exactly unified.

“Today is a rally to bring people together from various groups and organizations,” says Jason Charter, D.C. coordinator of Unite For America, a progressive nonprofit that is helping organize the TurnOut rallies. “We are also encouraging people to come out and encourage electors in their individual states to vote against Donald Trump on December 19.”

However, some local progressive activist groups were frustrated that they weren’t included in planning the rally and weren’t asked to speak until about a week before the event, saying it seemed neither inclusive nor respectful of local organizing efforts. Some people chose to go to a Not My President: Support The Electoral College demonstration organized by Melissa Perkins in front of the Lincoln memorial, where black feminist writer Feminista Jones spoke, or to stay home.

“You don’t just get to walk in and tell us what you’re going to do in our place. It’s a small place and whatever you’re going to do is going to affect us. To me personally that was disrespectful,” says April Goggans, a core organizer with Black Lives Matter DC. “This was probably the worst interaction we had with an organizer in a long time. Mistakes can be made but it’s how you react to being called out on those mistakes.”

John McGrane, San Francisco resident and co-founder of a marketing company, says this is the first time he has organized a rally like this. He said the event, which served as a kickoff for similar rallies planned at major swing states around the country this week, was to encourage electors to switch their vote from Trump and to focus on unity among disenfranchised groups of people.

“Trump used a very divisive campaign and used divide and conquer to separate people and so this was kind of an answer to fight back against that,” McGrane says. “We did our very, very best to reach out to as many people as possible. I did reach out to Black Lives Matter and I didn’t hear back from them, we tried following up. There were a lot of groups that we tried reaching out to who, for one reason or another, hesitated to come out to support the event but from the very beginning every organization that has reached out to me and said ‘we want to be part of the event’ has been accepted and welcomed.”

Similar complaints of ‘tourist activists’ who fail to connect with locals and to include people of color were leveled against organizers of the burgeoning Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for the day after the election. (150,000 people say they are going on Facebook.) In response, the March has added several women of color to help organize the event. Local activists say they can help navigate local laws and educate on how national issues impact people locally, and they know how to do things like obtain permits for protests, something the March initially had difficulty doing….read more here.


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