- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hoping to convert liberals’ despair at President Trump into action, progressive groups are beginning to host resistance training seminars, saying the anger the president’s opponents feel can be channeled into a concrete movement.

Spurred by the massive showing at January’s women’s marches in Washington and around the country, the groups say they’re looking to arm activists to go beyond demonstrations and to be prepared to defend those snared by Mr. Trump’s immigration plans, affected by the travel ban or in danger of losing health coverage under his Obamacare agenda.

Wednesday’s “Day Without a Woman” protest was the latest example, with feminist organizers hoping to demonstrate the political and economic power of women opposed to Mr. Trump.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is hosting its first “resistance training” on Saturday in Miami, with webcasts across the country to enlist activists desperate for some direction.

“Right after the election the ACLU started receiving tons of money and email addresses from people who were asking us how they could get involved. What can I do? How can I do it with others?” Faiz Shakir, national political director of the ACLU, told The Washington Times. “The public has engaged in a game of ‘Tag, you’re it,’ and it has told us, the ACLU, that you are the leader of the resistance.”

He said the ACLU, which has already taken to the courts to try to stop some Trump moves, figured it needed to go broader “to say ‘See you in the streets.’”

While it’s a new role for the venerable organization, it’s ground well trod by other liberal groups that are also ramping up their resistance efforts.

Progressive groups — including MoveOn.org, Indivisible, the Working Families Party and the Center for Popular Democracy — have held five “Ready to Resist” emergency telephone calls giving activists a chance to share stories of their anti-Trump protests and offer training tips on how to organize, recruit and gain the interest of media outlets.

Victoria Kaplan, the organizing director for MoveOn, set the tone in the first call, telling the thousands that listened in that “the purpose of this emergency call is to prepare to stop Trump by stiffening Democrats spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.”

In another call, Jennifer Epps-Addison, president of the Center for Popular Democracy, said the resistance was making an impact and highlighted how former House Speaker John A. Boehner predicted GOP lawmakers will probably not repeal Obamacare.

“I think we have to make sure, and I know you all are, that our message to Democrats is that we cannot give an inch,” Ms. Epps-Addison said. “We have to resist this agenda at every place and point we can.”

Others, meanwhile, have held educational forums in churches on the rights on immigrants, and groups like Showing up for Racial Justice have training sessions “for White folks on showing up with accountability and commitment to actions organized and led by people of color, with a focus on immigrant-led actions.”

Indivisible, which was launched by former Capitol Hill staffers, held a phone call Tuesday night urging members to rise up against the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, which includes the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The group said the fight will help set the tone for the Trump administration, offering the chance to take some wind out of its sails early on.

The group also authored a guide for resisting the Trump agenda that says progressives disagree with the principles and positions of the tea party, but that there are lessons to be taken from its focus on grass-roots advocacy and refusing to give any wiggle room when it came to pressuring members of Congress to block the Obama agenda.

“If a small minority in the Tea Party could stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump,” the guide says.

But Taylor Budowich, executive director of Tea Party Express, said progressives and the media have misread the success of the tea party movement.

“They think it has to be about the tactics the tea party used because they think we couldn’t have won on the issues,” Mr. Budowich said, arguing the movement’s message of fiscal responsibility, limited government and economic growth appeared to a broad swath of voters. “It shows how out of touch they are.”

He said the tea party was more than an opposition force and rallied around candidates that shared its vision. “I struggle to understand what this [resistance] movement stands for other than not liking this president. But that is a hashtag — not a movement,” Mr. Budowich said.

Mark J. Rozell, dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said progressive groups believe they are building a sustainable political movement that will keep activists engaged and help avoid another election cycle of Republican gains.

“But the question is whether hounding Republican lawmakers in public will translate into broader support and more votes for progressive causes and candidates, or will it fuel a stronger countermobilization of Trump supporters and others who don’t like these tactics. It’s politically very risky and could backfire ultimately,” he said.

As an early success, groups pointed to the airport rallies that occurred in late January in the hours after Mr. Trump’s initial extreme vetting executive order left hundreds of immigrants and visitors struggling to gain admission to the U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has said the rallies were more disruptive to the airports than the travel ban itself.

Activists have also disrupted Republican lawmakers’ town halls, drawing intense coverage from the press, which ran some of the confrontational clips on repeat loops last month.

Ms. Epps-Addison said one of her personal favorites came out of Arkansas when a 7-year-old boy challenged Sen. Tom Cotton on why President Trump wanted to slash funding for PBS and erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“You are onto something when even a child knows that you should not try to cut PBS to try to build a xenophobic and hateful wall,” she said.

On the resistance calls, activists have touted the importance of interfaith marches and urged participation in cacerolazo protests in which people make noise banging pots and pans.

Julia Gallagher, of Michigan’s People’s Campaign, got a glowing review for the “creativity” her group has shown. Activists were threatened with trespassing after a group — including someone sporting a chicken suit — showed up at Rep. David A. Trott’s local office to demand a meeting.

“But we got it on video, posted it on Facebook, and it has gone viral,” Ms. Gallagher said.

In an upcoming call, Mark Anthony Johnson, director of Health and Wellness at Dignity and Power Now in Los Angeles, is slated to “lead a virtual workshop in strategies and actions to build our personal and collective resilience for the resistance.”

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