On Nov. 9th, the day after Donald Trump was elected president, a Facebook event appeared. It was titled “Post-Election Community Speakout – Resisting the Trump Agenda.”
24 hours later, 500 people rallied on the steps of Gainesville’s City Hall. Anti-Trump signs adorned the crowd. The safe space grew as a somber resolution settled on the crowd. Everyone in attendance was encouraged to express their opposition to the President-elect’s platform.
“We’re here today to give everyone the opportunity to be heard because you matter,” said Candi Churchill, a member of Gainesville’s National Women’s Liberation, who moderated the gathering. “Black Lives Matter. Women matter. Members of the LGBT community, immigrants and Muslims matter. Everyone matters.”
The night began with reflection.
“We have underestimated this man from the beginning,” said Diana Moreno, program coordinator for the University of Florida’s Hispanic-Latino Affairs. “We thought his candidacy was a joke. We thought he could not possibly become president. We were all there Tuesday night, and we witnessed it happen.”
“I am no longer going to assume the best,” she continued. “I’m going to prepare for the worst.”
As the night continued, speakers turned to address the question that lay heaviest on the rally: What’s next?
Italo Lenta, who knocked on doors for Hillary Clinton, went to the rally in search of solidarity. He said his next steps begin with attempting to understand the other side — his family. Though he has yet to receive a reason, both his parents voted for Trump.
“Everyone wants a better life,” he said. “The working poor on the right have many of the same problems as the working poor on the left.”
But, he added, Trump’s divisive rhetoric has instead turned the two sides against each other. What we need most going forward, he said, is to engage in courteous and fact-based dialogue with the other side.
Jeremiah Tattersall, union liaison for the Alachua County Labor Coalition, echoed Lenta.
“My heart’s broken because I know [the working poor] are hurting,” said Tattersall. “Their jobs aren’t there, they can’t make a living and so they blamed immigrants, they blamed gay people and they blamed Muslims.”
Lauren Pearson-Dawe, who helped organize the speak-out, encouraged everyone to attend the follow-up meeting on Sunday at the Citizens Co-op. Pearson-Dawe has organized similar gatherings in the past and said she has experienced attendance dwindle as time passes and people become less galvanized.
“Organizing and protesting is not fun,” said Pearson-Dawe. “It’s time-consuming, challenging and frustrating, but we need more people to not care about that and do the hard work.”
Over 100 people attended, so many that organizers had to split the meeting off into three groups. The first group, headed by Moreno, discussed how to make Gainesville a sanctuary city.
“Everyone here took three hours of their day, on a beautiful Sunday, to come to this space, to stand for most of the time, to get a little sweaty and a little stinky with fellow Gainesvillians, to do the work of organizing the community against Trump’s agenda,” said Moreno. “But we’re not just here to talk about what we’re resisting. We’re here because we believe in something different.”
Sanctuary cities choose not to enforce federal immigration policies, usually by not allowing law enforcement to inquire into about an individual’s immigration status. By creating three committees, lobbying, resources and rural outreach, the group planned to target local government and reach out to immigrant laborers or farm workers.
The second and third group looked to create direct action committees that would plan demonstrations and hold local politicians accountable to acknowledging the fears of disenfranchised communities in Gainesville.
An online petition asking Mayor Lauren Poe to pledge to keep Gainesville a tolerant community is already circulating.
Freedom from Fear, a march planned for next Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m., will begin at the Stephen. C. O’Connell center and end at Bo Diddley Plaza.
“I’m going to put my body on the line and I hope you do too,” Tattersall said. “The city of Gainesville is going to be a city of resistance.”
The next Resisting the Trump agenda meeting will be Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the location is to be announced. Follow on Facebook here.