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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Organizing the People’s Power to Resist

19 April 2017 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2017 Spring Newsletter >>

PeoplePower5On Saturday, March 11, more then 170,000 activists participated in over 2,200 events around the country to inaugurate the ACLU’s new grassroots volunteer resistance movement.  People Power encourages activists in their local communities to form teams prepared to take action, when necessary. 

People Power’s first campaign is Freedom Cities which aims to change policy at a local level through grassroots activism.  It seeks to actively shape how we treat vulnerable communities, how we cherish and safeguard fundamental freedoms, and how we respond as a society to the needs of our families, friends, and neighbors.

In Utah, seven People Power events took place around the state. María del Mar González and Jeremy Davies organized a standing-room-only event at the downtown Salt Lake City library and share their story in their own words here.

María del Mar: The future is still female. I had never been as excited about a presidential candidate as I was about Hillary Rodham Clinton and I’ve never felt an election result so personally. I cried that night. The next morning I woke up, put on a black pantsuit and decided to get to work. Our country, our civil liberties, and every fragile thing I’d taken for granted seemed under threat. There wasn’t time to mourn, it was time to organize. 

I’d always admired, but not been involved with the ACLU. Facing the suddenly real prospect of a DT presidency, I knew the mission of the ACLU would be imperative. I got involved because I was afraid, I stay involved because I am hopeful. Through my grassroots work, I met Marina Lowe and Anna Thomas and felt great admiration for who they are and the work they do. I’ve gotten to know the ACLU Utah staff and they are not just fellow advocates, they are now my action family. 

For this reason, when I found out from friends about the ACLU’s calling for citizen volunteers to help in the organizing efforts of their newest initiative, People Power, I immediately signed up. I booked a venue: the Salt Lake City Public Library, and signed up for the host orientation. Shortly after signing up, I was contacted by Jeremy Davies who’d also signed up to host and had been trying to book my venue! It was then that without knowing who the other person was, we agreed to co-host People Power. 

Jeremy: While I was browsing on Facebook looking for new events to attend, I came across the ACLU National’s post announcing their new movement, People Power. After signing up to attend an event near me, the next page was asking if I wanted to host an event! After contemplating whether or not I should, being an introvert and all, I finally pulled the trigger. I signed up to be a host and started my planning. While trying to reserve the auditorium at the Salt Lake City Public Library, I got a call saying that someone else had already reserved it! I did some searching and saw that there was already a Facebook event created and I reached out to the organizer, María del Mar González. We quickly decided to join forces and the story unfolded from there.

This whole movement, the whole experience of being active in the community and rallying with a bunch of other concerned citizens, is new to me. I’ve always gone with the status quo, always just lived my life day by day. I’m ashamed to say that it took something so atrocious and demeaning to get me to be active in my community. Something that disagrees with every fiber in my body, every ounce of my conscious. The events that unfolded on November 8th tore me apart. It put me in a state of shock. I went through the basic stages of grief: denial, anger, acceptance, and then action.

I couldn’t just sit idly by as my fellow human beings, my neighbors, my friends, my family, were being attacked by the very people who were supposed to be protecting them. Protecting their human rights, their identity, and their life. So I started to do something about it. I wanted to help anyone I could, to help them feel like they belong and that there are people who actually care about them. So seeing the ACLU create this movement was the perfect opportunity for me to do just that, to step out of my comfort zone and help other people.

MDM1María del Mar and Jeremy:  We joined forces. What attracted us both to the ACLU’s People Power initiative was that it is fully driven by local community members. It’s activating people who hadn’t previously been active, and providing them (us) with the necessary tools to become agents of action and change. Protectors of civil liberties. The idea of a closely-knit, united community gave us hope. Getting the people to organize and produce results without burning out is key. And, without intending to, we as co-hosts became the very model of collaboration that the ACLU’s People Power had been trying to forge. We communicated daily, but didn’t meet each other until the day of the event. During that time, we served as each other’s support system. A bond that was strengthened by the help and encouragement of the ACLU of Utah’s fantastic staff and many of María del Mar’s activist friends.   

We were both nervous as the event date approached. It was both terrifying and absolutely rewarding. Over 220 persons showed up for the event. We got up on stage and shared with our audience why we were there. We asked them why they were there and how many were new to taking action. The more we engaged with our audience, the more excited we became about People Power and the ACLU’s Freedom Cities.

Since then, we’ve been in communication with several of the other People Power event hosts from Utah and are working on coming up with a plan for next steps. This includes a meeting with local law enforcement officers. We do not want to lose the momentum and enthusiasm of People Power.

If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned; it is to not stop. Don’t stop standing up for what’s right. Don’t stop standing up for justice. Don’t stop standing up for human rights. Don’t stop resisting. There is nothing that can’t be achieved when the People use their Power and come together for justice.

Yours in action, María del Mar and Jeremy

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