These protesters dressed up in ‘Handmaids Tale’ outfits to welcome Mike Pence to Philly pic.twitter.com/zWPRDOcjOT
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 25, 2018
On July 23, 100 women dressed in the white bonnets and blood red cloaks of the dystopian Handmaid’s Tale outfits, marched in pairs from the different points around downtown Philadelphia to converge in front of the hall where Mike Pence was attending a fundraiser. With heads cast downwards and arms outstretched, they stood in choreographed silence; a living tableau exposing and opposing the real-life Christian fascist Handmaid’s Tale the Trump/Pence regime is aggressively hammering into place.
Then, in a powerful culmination, the women lifted their heads and worked together to remove each other’s cloaks and bonnets, throwing them onto the ground, raising their fists high in the air, and reciting in unison the following pledge taken from the end of the RefuseFascism.org 2018 Call to Action:
WE PLEDGE that we will not stand aside while there is still a chance to stop a regime that imperils humanity and the earth itself. Join us. Let’s stand together with conviction and courage, overcoming fear and uncertainty, to struggle with all we’ve got to demand: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go. In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America! This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
This was a much needed act of political defiance and resistance. It gave expression to the best and most defiant sentiments of people who are disgusted by Trump and Pence. The visual power and drama of the scarlet outfits was visceral, as are the vivid parallels between the nightmare future of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale novel—and now hit Hulu series—and the aggressive moves by Mike Pence and others in this regime to criminalize abortion and even assail women’s right to birth control, as well as the regime’s attacks on recently won rights of LGBTQ people. But most of all, the significance of this protest is that people dared to confront and act on the biggest lesson to be drawn from the Handmaid’s Tale as well as the history of fascism in the real world: fascism must be stopped—it must be driven from power—before it is too late. Again, with fists raised, cloaks piled on the ground, and heads held high, these women chanted: This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
Flash: RefuseFascism.org NYC has just announced that they will be mobilizing 100 Handmaids to bring the demand, “This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” to confront Mike Pence and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen when they come to NYC this Tuesday, July 31. Find out more here.
The event broke into the major media all across the country, from the Hollywood Reporter to the Washington Post An AP story ran in dozens of local papers from Jacksonville, Florida to Boise Idaho, and in the UK, Australia, and Taiwan. Local TV stations ran major coverage including the Spanish-language station in Atlantic City. There were full-page color spreads (including a front page) in both of Philadelphia’s main print newspapers, and viral video coverage on NowThis and other platforms. Footage of the action and shout outs to the women were tweeted by Margaret Atwood herself (author of The Handmaid’s Tale), as well as Rosie O’Donnell, Lalah Hathaway, science blogger PZ Myers, and many others. Joseph Fiennes, who plays a patriarchal oppressor on the Hulu series, expressed admiration for protest in advance.
People responded on social media with comments like, “Oh, I am with you. How can I join and get an outfit?” “Love this.” “I must remember this. I show it to my family…they think I’m crazy on politics. ‘Oh yeah? Seen these brave souls?’ and I show them this vid.” and “OMG! I was just thinking the other day that everyday the Trump administration is in power the more plausible it is that ‘The Purge’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ could exist in reality. #scary #Dystopia Don’t let the bastards grind you down!”
Off this experience a member of RefuseFascism.org who was one of the lead organizers of the action, fought for and got placed an op-ed in the main Philadelphia newspaper, “Why I helped organize the ‘Handmaids’ protest of Mike Pence,” which further projected the experience and the message.
This experience needs to be spread even further and built upon. Those who took part and the many more who were inspired by it need to be organized into the RefuseFascism.org movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime. The big questions that got opened up in the process of people coming together to pull this off—including how we got into this situation with real-world Christian fascists in power and what we must do about it—need to be dug into, debated, and answered as we all go forward together to stop this regime’s crimes by driving it from power. And people everywhere need to learn deeply from—and take up—the approach of those who led in organizing this; they didn’t start by trying to figure out what those they already knew could pull off, instead they put forward a bold vision that was commensurate with the danger being confronted and fought and struggled and united very broadly to bring forward the people and resources to make that vision real.
We encourage everyone to watch and spread this powerful video from NowThis [embeded at the top of this post] that has been watched over 50,000 times, to look through the various other headlines and photos and excerpts, and to read and learn from this vivid account of the way the RefuseFascism.org Philly chapter involved a great number of people—including restaurant owners, other organizations, choreographers and many more—to pull this off together.
Philly pop-up beer garden raises $1k for Handmaid’s Tale Protest Against Pence
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.
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 Handmaid’s Tale costumes, based on the book and TV show, the Handmaid’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.