Wednesday is International Women’s Day so Yahoo Style is highlighting a few of the powerful women who are living by the year’s IWD theme, #BeBoldForChange, which calls on women to help forge a more gender-inclusive world.
Just a few weeks ago, Brooklyn-born Nelini Stamp, 29, an Occupy Wall Street alum and national membership director for the progressive Working Families Party, and Elizabeth Zeldin, 37, a mom of two and nonprofit housing worker with little activist background, didn’t know each other.
But they were both worried about what they saw as the coming threats of a Trump administration and a Republican-led Congress, including a ban on people from majority-Muslim countries, an attorney general with a history of hostility to civil rights, and a promise to repeal healthcare with no clear replacement plan — not to mention a secretary of education who has used her billions to undermine public schools.
So the two women created a massive resistance coalition in Brooklyn that recently led to more than 3,000 people massing outside the luxury apartment building of Sen. Chuck Schumer, demanding that he and other Democratic leaders in Congress toughen up against the Trump/GOP agenda. It appears to be working: Initially, Schumer said after the election he’d seek to work with Trump on things like infrastructure, then voted yes on three of his cabinet picks. But the backlash against him from his own base was so strong that he went on to veto every other Cabinet pick and vow to fight Trump “tooth and nail” against his Supreme Court pick.
Stamp and Zeldin are part of just one of countless movements emerging across America that pundits are calling the progressive version of the conservative Tea Party. Here, Stamp and Zeldin tell us how it happened.
Zeldin: It started when Nelini started #ResistTrumpTuesdays. Nelini is a very seasoned, professional activist, but I work full time and I’m the mother of a 1-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. I’ve never done political organizing before. But with Trump, I felt that values I hold dear — justice, inclusiveness, trust, and access to opportunity — were at risk. I wanted to take an active role defending them.
Stamp: The first action we did was in December at Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office in Manhattan, urging her to vote no on all Trump’s Cabinet picks. They didn’t let us upstairs, so a staff member came down and we sang “Please Vote No” to the tune of “Let It Snow.” It kind of worked!
Then groups like Move On, People’s Action, and Indivisible hopped on, hosting a call the day after the Women’s March with 60,000 people listening in. Now there’s been #ResistTrumpTuesdays in places like Las Vegas and Portland, Me., and over 200 actions at reps’ offices nationwide demanding that they say no to the Trump and GOP agenda. Every Tuesday we’re No. 2 or No. 3 trending on Twitter.
Zeldin: So after the election, I’m listening to Schumer say that he wants to work with Trump on some things, hearing how Schumer and Trump’s attorney general pick Sen. Jeff Sessions are gym buddies, and I’m getting antsy. I read the Indivisible Guide and it dawned on me that Schumer’s deal making is going to be a problem if we really want to resist Trump. I was put in touch with Nelini and we organized our first rally in front of Schumer’s apartment with a few hundred people.
Right after that, Schumer said he’d vote no on Sessions. But then he voted yes on three cabinet picks— Pompeo, Flynn, and Mattis. We were bombarded with angry messages. So we decided to do another rally on Tuesday, Jan. 31. And this time, thousands of people poured out in the cold after work to chant, “WTF, Chuck!”
Stamp: Our message to Schumer that night was that we were making him protect us and lead the way in the resistance because Trump is hitting us from all sides. We were like, “Chuck, you need to stand up.” With pressure, he came out against [Trump cabinet picks] Betsy DeVos, Sessions, Tillerson, and Mnuchin and led the boycott against their confirmation votes. So our message to him was “Thanks, but we need you to continue blocking, and if you don’t, we’re gonna bring it on.”
Now we need them to go hard on Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. Republicans have blocked Obama’s pick for almost a year. This person can decide the future of abortion or of workers’ rights to organize. We need Senate Dems to ask him hard questions, and if we’re not satisfied, we need them to filibuster. And we need House leaders to protect health care and do some offense.
We need to fight toward the 2018 races, putting Democrats and moderate Republicans on notice that we are watching them. Here’s where you can tap into your local efforts.
Zeldin: Or even just Google “community organizing” plus the name of your city, and groups and individuals will come up. This process is not as complex as it might seem. My husband and kids have come to all the rallies with me. We’ve hosted sign-making parties and practice chants. I’ve had some great conversations with my 4-year-old about what’s going on in the world and our role in making change. I’ve been able to do most of the planning work after the kids have gone to sleep or while on playdates with other politically involved parents.
Stamp: In the past week, #ResistTrumpTuesdays has happened everywhere from Nebraska to Gainesville, Fla., to Harrisburg, Penn., to St. Louis, Mo. I think back to how hard the Tea Party fought Obama’s progressive agenda in 2009. Now it’s our turn. Putting extreme pressure on your elected leaders to resist Trump’s agenda isn’t going low. It’s going hard.
— By Tim Murphy
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