By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union is launching what it sees as the first grassroots mobilization effort in its nearly 100-year history as it seeks to harness a surge of energy among left-wing activists since the elections in November Republicans. Donald Trump as President of the United States.
The campaign, known as PeoplePower, begins Saturday with a Miami city hall-style event with “resistance training” that will be broadcast live at more than 2,300 local gatherings across the country.
It will focus on freedom of speech, reproductive rights and immigration and will include presentations by legal experts, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and “Top Chef” television star Padma Lakshmi.
Membership in the civil rights organization, which was founded in 1920, has tripled to more than 1 million since Trump’s election, the group says.
As activists marched in the streets, demonstrated at airports and clashed with US lawmakers regularly since Election Day, progressive groups such as MoveOn and the newly formed Indivisible have sought ways to translate that frustration into local action.
That’s the idea behind PeoplePower, which represents a major strategic shift for an organization that has traditionally focused on court litigation, Romero said in a telephone interview Friday. Approximately 135,000 people have signed up for the campaign.
“Before, our membership was mostly older and much smaller,” he said. “Our members would provide us with money so that we could present the cases and do the defense. What is clear with Trump’s election is that our new members are engaged and want to be deployed.
For example, the Miami event will encourage people to engage local officials in conversations about immigration policies in their town or city. The ACLU has prepared “model” ordinances that guarantee the protection of immigrant rights that supporters can pressure legislators to adopt, as part of a campaign to create “cities of freedom,” according to the political director of the ACLU, Faiz Shakir.
Suggested tactics, such as using text messages as a mass mobilization tool, will mirror some of those employed by the insurgent presidential campaign of US Senator Bernie Sanders, who mounted a surprisingly robust challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
“It’s completely unprecedented,” Romero said of the response since Trump’s victory. “People are wide awake right now and have been since the night of the election.”
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