Today was our first day at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, and the National Tour to Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime created a big commotion in the streets there, drawing people in who asked, “What makes them fascists?” and “How can we drive them out?” We had a busy first day with countless interactions and curiosity, so we are very excited for the days ahead and glad we decided to come to this festival where over half a million people are gathered from around the world.
In the afternoon, we had a welcoming meeting at a local restaurant, where we spoke with several young people, a teacher, a writer, a retired carpenter, and a member of a socialist organization in Austin. One woman, who has been very supportive of Refuse Fascism in Austin and cooked dinner for the entire Tour last night, began the meeting by reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called “Messenger” about someone who had painted the message “Nothing is impossible” around her city.
She then said, “Thank you to the Tour for coming here and showing us that nothing is impossible.” It was a beautiful moment, and she later told us she would never have gotten so involved in organizing if the Tour had not come to Austin. Her decision to jump in headfirst, committing to working with us every day we spend here and taking responsibility in starting a chapter after we leave, is so uplifting. As she said following her poetry reading, “We must all rise to the occasion.” We need thousands like her to feel inspired to mobilize millions.
A Tour Volunteer then introduced us and spoke briefly about the Call to Action, after inviting everyone present to dive into it in depth at our Teach-In in Austin this Wednesday. He motivated everyone toward mobilization, saying, “If you are a human being with a beating heart and a conscience, it’s time for you to get organized to drive out this regime. Everyone hearing this message needs to become an organizer.” He made up a great new chant on the spot: “No ban, no wall, this regime has got to fall!” Anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant rhetoric is not about protecting anyone; it’s not at all about our safety. Trump’s unabashed hate toward these groups is only a proponent of xenophobic nationalism. Crazed shouting of “USA! USA! Get out of my country!” are sinister signs of fascism. This regime is illegitimate and extremely dangerous, and they have to be stopped.
We then heard from four more of our Tour Volunteers and three people from Austin who attended the meeting. One man got so inspired after seeing our New York Times ad in January—after not having been politically active since 1972—that he made a big anti-Trump sign using the ad and took it to the Inauguration day protests and the Women’s March. He said that he’s maybe “30% radical and 70% mainstream,” in the sense that he’s not the one to be on the front lines these days, but he is very supportive of what we are doing, and has donated several times. A Volunteer replied in a way that I found very elucidating. The term “radical” means getting at the root of something. We need to dig this regime out by its roots, not merely resisting and never letting them wear us down. We cannot normalize fascism, and every place we travel needs to become a hotbed of resistance oriented toward the singular goal of driving Trump and Pence out of office.
The meeting took on a more artistic mood when one of our volunteers shared a spoken word poem. She used the lines, “Hitler didn’t start with the gas chambers. He started with the dehumanization of marginalized groups. Hitler didn’t start with concentration camps. He started with the normalization of hatred. He started with the ghettos,” and so on. Her passion was tangible and drew in other listeners who were sitting in the restaurant. Following her creative speech, we heard from one Austin activist who had opened his home to us, cooked for the whole Tour, and is dedicating most of his time this week to working with us. He began by explaining the horrific reality of Scott Pruitt, climate change denier and major proponent of fracking, becoming head of the EPA. He motioned for everyone to say NO! to this racist regime, to this climate emergency we’re facing. Nothing we do makes sense if we’re not actively fighting to make the world livable and safe for future generations. He told us we need to unite and offered to organize the new chapter, encouraging people to contact him to get involved with Refuse Fascism in Austin.
Another Volunteer described the innovative and creative ways we have learned to organize people on the spot. She encouraged people to join us at our protest this Thursday, where we will rally and march through the South by Southwest festival to say NO! to the second, “revised” Muslim ban, which is scheduled to go into effect on that day. When one hateful policy of the Trump/Pence fascist agenda is shot down, they return with another one that’s effectively the same. They will continue doing this every single time they want to push through against righteous opposition. It will never be possible to keep up, and we cannot continue resisting for four years. The regime moves far too fast and is growing in its ability to silence separate motions of resistance. The Muslim ban 2.0 is an illuminating example of the strategic nature of fascism, and we must stop this before they consolidate power in the hands of Trump.
After our meeting concluded, we gathered with several of those who attended to head out to the festival with our “NO! Drive Out the Trump/Pence Fascist Regime!” banner and a huge puppet created by one of our incredibly talented Volunteers, depicting Trump’s recognizable orange face in a KKK hood. This drew in massive crowds of people, who took photos, and we encouraged them to put them up on their social media with #NoFascistUSA.
We were able to use this major attraction to strike up conversations with passersby, who were curious about who we are, why we are portraying Trump in this way, and how driving them out would work. We discussed the Call to Action with interested listeners, signed people up from all around the world—including people from Austin, other parts of Texas, New York, California, Chile, Germany, Japan, and many more—and passed out tons of stickers for people to wear around the festival. We used our megaphone to cause even more of a commotion, starting chants like “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and asking people to shout out why they want to drive out this fascist regime. The involvement was great, and we hope to develop that even further in the coming days here in Austin. We also collected donations and gave out NO! posters, especially to musicians, some of whom were eager to put them up on stage during their shows. Thank you to the impassioned new volunteers here in Austin and visitors from across the globe who welcomed us and are helping us bring the fierce image of NO! to every corner of society. Millions must realize the urgent need to drive out this fascist regime, and it’s up to us to show them how!