The pink pussy cat hats of the Women’s March may have been taken off, but a spirit of rebellion on the local level has swept up and down the Shenandoah Valley. WMRA’s Jessie Knadler has this survey of activist groups that have mushroomed in the wake of the election, dedicated to resisting the new Administration.
On a chilly evening in January, not long after the Women’s March in Washington, 20 women gathered at the home of Demaree Peck in Lexington.
DEMAREE PECK: Welcome to our cozy space.
She was hosting a hygge, a Danish word for cozy.
PECK: So we have our candles lit, and our fire in the fireplace. We actually had an explosion already. The fire literally blew out the door of the fireplace. That’s how intense the night is going.
The ambiance was warm and cozy, but the discussion wasn’t exactly soft and cuddly. The women had convened to discuss resistance efforts to the Trump administration. It’s a movement that is gaining steam up and down the Shenandoah Valley, and nationally. Peck herself recently formed an activist group called Lexi Pro.
PECK: …which stands for Lexington Progressives. It is kind of a pun on the antidepressant drug Lexapro… which I think is kind of appropriate because we do feel that through our solidarity, and our social support for one another and also our political activism we are combating depression, anxiety and stress that’s been created by this new administration.
What exactly are groups like Lexi Pro resisting? Right now, take your pick: the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the threat of weakened environmental laws, social inequality, religious persecution, racism....
ELLEN MAYOCK: There are many issues and they keep growing kind of like, I don’t know, mushrooms after a rainstorm almost.
Ellen Mayock attended the hygge. She spoke to the group about 50 Ways-Rockbridge, which she launched after the November election.
MAYOCK: We ended up paring back our issues to a total of six, then we found ourselves getting to seven, then we kept inviting people to join us and now we’re back up to 12. We think this messiness is really important because we want people to be able to work on the issues that are near and dear to their hearts.
This surge of activism is modeled, ironically, after the Tea Party. A group of former congressional staffers published a grass-roots advocacy how-to called the Indivisible Guide, which is a distillation of Tea Party tactics that were successful in blocking much of Obama’s agenda. The guide has emerged as the progressive’s playbook for fighting Trump. Virginia chapters have popped up from Roanoke to Arlington.
A big takeaway? Tweeting is great, but you’ve got to get in the face of elected officials.
50 Ways-Rockbridge followed this advice by showing up for a town hall meeting hosted by Delegate Ben Cline on January 5th.
MAYOCK: We asked tough questions. We knew which questions would be asked and in which order. Somebody would ask a question then somebody on the other side of the room would do a tough follow up. And to me there’s something almost sad to think we have to be this strategic in this way….and then also, I’m like, screw it. We have to do this.
Here’s Peck again.
Marla Muntner is a member of Together Cville in Charlottesville. The group’s weekly potlucks have grown to more than a hundred members.
MARLA MUTNER: We connect, we break bread together then we break into action groups and plan actions for the coming week.
Together Cville recently teamed up with Indivisible Charlottesville to protest GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hundreds of people showed up outside Republican Congressman Tom Garrett’s office.
MUNTNER: The stories I heard were, there were people standing there who would be dead if they didn’t have their diabetes medicine provided by the Affordable Care Act.
In Staunton, graphic designer Marc Borzelleca was moved to design postcards to make it even easier for folks in Augusta County to write their elected officials about their chosen cause.
He’s already printed 1,000 and receives requests for more everyday.