Thursday, July 19, the owner of a South Philadelphia diner hosted a pop-up beer garden on their patio in support of the protest Refuse Fascism Philly was organizing for when Pence visited town on Monday, July 23, 2018. (Read about the important protest itself here).
People were told that the protest would raise the demand: “This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go,” expose and oppose the fascist program of this regime, and organize people into the movement to drive them out through the power of the people. As part of this, 100 women were going to be dressed in Handmaids Tale costumes, based on the book and TV show, the Handmaids’s Tale, a story about a dystopian future where Christian fundamentalists hold power and women are forced to give birth against their will. Women from throughout the city have signed up to participate and have gathered together to sew costumes.
The fundraising event was organized primarily by the host who wore a NEVER AGAIN coat hanger shirt that she got made along with a button with Trump’s silhouette that read Lock Him Up. Refuse Fascism Philly assisted in promotion and supplying materials. Despite being a tiny crew of Refuse Fascism Philly, folks people were enlisted as volunteers on the spot and those who considered themselves a part of this movement increased right away. A woman arrived early to set-up after seeing a flyer about it and stopping by diner. She helped post Refuse Fascism signs and worked with a new Refuse Fascism person we met on July 7 to set up indictment panels. These indictment panels are enlargement of indictments against the Trump/Pence regime that document the crimes they have already committed on various fronts, including women, civil rights, the environment and to the people of the world.
An intern for the ACLU, who is choreographing the Handmaid’s Tale Brigade, arrived early and jumped in to set up music. She also worked throughout the night setting up bonnets involving kids and others in attendance. At the end of the night while she helped clean up she thanked us for including her. She shared that too often she signs up and never hears back or is just asked for money which she doesn’t have. She felt like her time and talent mattered.
The patio was set up with tables for people to sit, champagne punch, a keg, a table with an impressive wine and spirits raffle basket, a spread of snacks, hanging lights, and Refuse Fascism signs and indictment panels.
At the table when people came in we set up sign-up sheets, copies of the RefuseFascism.org mission statement/Call to Action, fliers for Monday’s action, big donation containers with clear labels, and stickers. As people entered they were greeted by a Refuse Fascism organizer who welcomed them, told them a bit about RF and Monday, collected donations, and encouraged people to sign up. Throughout the night about 80 people came. Worth noting that $700 of the total raised was from people putting $20 in donation jars. People entered excited, mainly in couples but also small groups of friends and a few individuals. Folks were drawn by wanting to DO SOMETHING to stop this regime and were interested in supporting Handmaid’s Tale Brigade. Many people put their Refuse Fascism sticker on right away, some put it on their skateboard, and shared who they were going to give their sticker to. One person who came early and was enlisted to help got people drinks after they spoke to RF organizer and changed the sign-up sheets when they were full.
There was a general appreciation that people were being brought together around this demand “This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse To Accept A Fascist America” and that in particular the Christian fascism was being confronted. People really seemed hungry for this type of community and the patio buzzed with people making connections, encouraging each other to sign up, taking pictures of flier to post on social media etc.
The two core RF organizers that attended spoke at one point, both laying out the why and the what of protest but also what Refuse Fascism exists to do: the Trump/Pence regime is a fascist regime and we are preparing for the time when millions can be called into the streets, day after day, night after night, not stopping until the Trump/Pence regime is driven from office. And that everyone who does not want the cruel and brutal future this regime is hellbent on bringing into being should consider themselves a part of this movement. We walked people briefly through who Pence is in relation to overall regime and what it will take for them to driven out. People were invited to take stacks of fliers, get the Call to Action, get stickers, sign up to be a handmaid, throw money in the bucket.
At one point in the night, one of the women who had been sewing costumes arrived in the Handmaid’s Tale costume and walked around showing people. This helped recruit more people to sign up to participate and gave a visual of what donations were supporting. We connected with people who didn’t know about us before and re-connected with people who came out to the Pence protest last month.
Some people could not stay but stopped by just to make donation. One person who we had a lot of struggle over the Democrats with at our last meeting came out, threw in his first ever donation to RF, and said that he was so glad he came to this instead of the local Democratic Party event he was planning on going to. Another person who was just passing by and saw what was happening and came back to join was so glad to hear about RF and is eager to volunteer. At first he had a hard time grasping the idea that we aren’t working on calling our representatives but an organizer walked him through the difference it makes to call each other and mobilize the people to take to the streets to wage struggle for this demand. She referenced how driving out a regime through mass non-violent protest has been done all over the world and can happen here too if people fight for it. People left excited to spread the word, to post stickers around town, to hear from us, and to join us in the streets on Monday. They left feeling they were part of something with folks volunteering to help sew or come early on Monday.
The event raised over $1,000 [we are still totaling]. It is worth noting that mainly people came off of being customers or neighbors of the diner, the Eater article/instagram post, and Tattooed Mom’s instagram, 50 people signed up and hundreds of fliers got out.