For the second time in just over a week, RefuseFascism.org made headlines for boldly calling out the whole fascist program of the Trump/Pence Regime and, through dramatic protest, rallying people to pledge to go forward to drive out the whole regime.
Just two days after it was announced that Mike Pence and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would be in New York City for a cybersecurity conference, RefuseFascism.org mobilized two dozen women to protest in the blood-red cloaks of The Handmaid’s Tale, where women are enslaved as breeders for powerful men. They declared: This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
Each of the Handmaids carried a pair of baby shoes or a stuffed animal to represent the thousands of immigrant children who have been torn from their parents’ arms at the hands of the regime, including the direct supervision of Kirstjen Neilson. After marching in together in with heads bowed, the Handmaids took turns silently piling their symbols of the children in a pile in front of them. Behind, held high by some of the men who joined in this dramatic action, was a bold banner which declared: “The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!. NO! In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America – RefuseFascism.org.”
“While it is extremely powerful the way that the Handmaid outfit has become a potent symbol of protest in this dangerous time of the Trump/Pence Regime, it has generally been taken up mainly as a way to challenge theocratic restrictions on women’s right to abortion and birth control,” explained one RefuseFascism.org organizer. “That is definitely an essential part of our protest because denying women the right to abortion is a form of enslaving women – and with the upcoming Supreme Court battle this is all the more urgent now. But we wore these outfits to represent more than that as well. It is the way the Bible is being used by this regime to assail recently won rights of LGBTQ people. It is the way Jeff Sessions used the Bible to justify immigrant child separation – the same Bible quote used to justify slavery in this country. And it is more than even this – it is the whole broader lesson of The Handmaid’s Tale, and really of fascism throughout history all over the world, that it is deadly to turn your back during the early stages of fascism, to tell yourself that lie that ‘It couldn’t happen here.’ It IS happening here, and we need to stand up now and drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime before it becomes too late.”
For many who joined this protest, it was their first time working with RefuseFascism.org. Many had heard about and were inspired by the action the previous week in Philadelphia when Mike Pence was confronted by 100 women dressed as Handmaids. Copies of the RefuseFascism.org Call to Action were distributed to the protesters and many passersby who stopped to watch – and, often, shout words of encouragement and thanks to – the protesters.
Among those speaking at the protest was Therese Patricia Okoumou, an activist with Rise and Resist, who was arrested for climbing the Statue of Liberty on July 4 in protest of the immigrant children torn from their parents and locked in cages.
She said, “It is an atrocity to imagine in the United States of America, in the 21 century we are using children as bait for political reason, for political gain.”
Also representing at the protest was the Revolution Club, coming from their determination that this system needs to be overthrown, standing with the movement to drive out the regime and inviting people to an open air screening of THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In The Name of Humanity We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible, August 30 at 6 pm at the Amphitheater, Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.
Even more than with the powerful action the week before in Philadelphia, the full message of RefuseFascism.org – indicting and calling out the all-round fascism of the Trump/Pence Regime and putting forward the vision and mission of driving it from power through mass, sustained nonviolent protest – came through in the media coverage. The NY Post reported, for example:
Pence, a devout Christian who has supported gay conversion therapy and once said women don’t belong in the military, poses a “catastrophic threat to humanity” and is turning the U.S. into a world comparable to the hit series, the organizer’s website states.
“The lesson of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is that fascism has to be stopped before it’s too late,” Kaplan added…
[Philly protest organizer Samantha] Goldman spoke to The Post shortly after Tuesday’s march wrapped up and said these protests are an “important part” of RefuseFascism.org’s mission of driving Pence and President Trump out of office.
“They wake people up to the dangers posed by this regime and they help shake off the normalization. And when people see that, they begin to make connections and they learn that there is a movement they can be part of,” the 30-year-old activist said.
She and other organizers hope for an “Arab Spring” like protest here in the U.S. where protestors fight daily to demand Trump and Pence leave office, much like the protests in Egypt, Tunisia and other middle-eastern countries between 2010 and 2014.
The protest in NYC took place immediately after a protest against Pence and Nielson called by the ACLU.
Just two days later, RefuseFascism.org sprang into action once more, driving with the same costumes down to a protest that was organized by a new member of RF outside of Trump’s fascist rally in Wilkes Barre, PA. This protest, in the heart of so-called “Trump Country” was marked by spirited defiance and courage.
In the New York City protest, just as had happened in Philadelphia, the protest of Handmaids ended when the women threw off their costumes, raised their fists in the air, and recited the pledge at the end of RefuseFascism.org’s Call to Action:
“We pledge that we will not stand aside while there is still a chance to stop a regime that imperils humanity,” the women chanted, according to Gothamist. “Let’s stand together with conviction and courage, overcoming fear and uncertainty to struggle with all we’ve got, to demand this nightmare must end.
“In the Name of Humanity,
We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!
This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!”
Breaking Through in Media
The creative visual impact, and even beyond that, the message of Refuse Fascism, broke into the media in a way that hasn’t happened before. Following are clips from coverage of the NYC protest.
Local ABC News coverage included video of Refuse Fascism co-initiator Sunsara Taylor, calling out the Trump/Pence regime as a “real life version of the Handmaid’s Tale.”
Refinery 29, an influential publication that reaches 500 million people globally – mainly young women – ran a substantial article on the NYC protest by Andrea González-Ramírez. From that piece:
“[The Trump-Pence administration] is a regime that’s shredding the rule of law and seeking to radically remake society, transforming the way this country is governed,” Samantha Goldman, one of the organizers, told Refinery29. “Fascism relies upon and foments xenophobia, misogyny, and white supremacy. You see the heart of the Christian fascist movement in this regime.”
The 31-year-old rattled off the ways she believes the administration is implementing fascism: The president calling the press “enemies of the people” even after the mass murder of local journalists in June, the attacks via policy on immigrants and people from Muslim-majority countries, the erosion of women’s rights, the appointing of hardline conservatives to the courts, the mass deregulation of environment-related industries despite the threat brought by climate change, the rollback of protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and the list went on.
Goldman, like most of the women who gathered at the protest, are convinced that the administration is a threat both domestically and globally…
Coverage of the protest in the Huffington Post, which reaches millions of people looking for an alternative voice of opposition to Trump, quoted 82-year-old protester Lillian Forman: “I see how America has changed since Trump’s presidency and how it will continue to keep changing if he has his policies fulfilled,” she said. “We’re losing our liberties, our law protections and our balances. I saw what he did to the kids at the border, and if he can do that to little children — some of them mere babies, literally babies ― he will do anything.”
And the Huff Po coverage featured significant quotes from the RefuseFascism.org site, including:
Pence is a Christian fascist theocrat for whom the hellish world of the Handmaid’s Tale is a model society: women forced to bear children against their will, the Bible invoked to persecute LGBTQ people and tear immigrant children from their parents,” the website states. “Pence and Nielson are part of a FASCIST REGIME that is poised to do even worse ― threatening war, even nuclear war, and destroying the environment for people the world over.”
The piece reported that after shedding their symbolic Handmaid’s robes, protesters chanted:
“We pledge that we will not stand aside while there is still a chance to stop a regime that imperils humanity,” the women chanted, according to Gothamist. “Let’s stand together with conviction and courage, overcoming fear and uncertainty to struggle with all we’ve got, to demand this nightmare must end.”
Patch, a national online news network ran a story that included the following:
“Shame on this administration. Shame on you,” shouted immigration activist Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, who was arrested for climbing the Statue of Liberty on July 4. “It is an atrocity to imagine in the United States of America, in the 21 century we are using children as bait for political reason, for political gain.”
One Brooklyn woman took off work to join protestors. “It’s deplorable what our country is doing — I knew I had to come down here when I heard Pence had the nerve to come to New York,” said Sara Ramirez, 32, who works in a Carroll Gardens animal hospital. “We need to be out on the streets making our voices known — everyday. It’s not enough just be appalled, you have to fight against the policies you disagree with.”…
“Our message is that these ideals are our future,” said Sunsara Taylor, a lead organizer with Refuse Fascism behind the event. “Mike Pence has been a dark ages, bigoted, anti-science theocrat for decades. He’s not going to change, but the people out here who don’t want his future — we’re trying to wake them up.”
The Canadian news network, Global News, ran video that included Sunsara Taylor saying:
Both of the free papers passed out to subway riders had substantial coverage. Metro New York promoted the protest in advance, with a piece ending with Refuse Fascism’s slogan: “In the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America” and a link to the RefuseFascism.org site. AM New York posted video and reported:
Protesters dressed as Handmaids assembled outside the Alexander Hamilton Custom House for a short march and rally, where VP Mike Pence and @SecNielsen are scheduled to attend a Cybersecurity summit. Protest organized by @RefuseFascism pic.twitter.com/OCmRO7A78t
— Rajvi Desai (@rajviedesai) July 31, 2018