By The People is a grassroots group that has been pushing for impeachment for a long time. Instead of taking a pause to celebrate victory, they showed up at Senator McConnell’s office to demand that the Senate take the charges against Trump seriously. Watch Marc Steiner interview By The People volunteer Adiel Pollydore about the protest in the Senate.
ANTHONY TORRES: We, the American people, impeach this president because America should work for all of us, not be abused for the personal gain of the powerful few like Trump. And so today, we the people are coming together once again to remove this president from office.
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us.
That was Anthony Torres from By the People. They’ve been pushing for impeachment before anybody else was talking about it in this country. And today they sat in at Mitch McConnell’s office. No, Mitch McConnell’s not there at the office, but they sat in to make a point, which we’re going to talk about and we have with us one of those people who was not arrested today, but as part of By the People and was in those offices. Adiel Pollydore, good to have you with us.
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Yes, it’s good to be here. Thanks Marc.
MARC STEINER: So let’s start with what happened today. So how many of you were there? Why did you all sit in at Mitch McConnell’s office? What was the purpose?
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Great. So I’m Adiel with By the People. I was one of the folks today in Mitch McConnell’s office. We had folks coming in from all over the country to participate in this direct action and civil disobedience. We had folks here today because we knew that the impeachment vote yesterday would get a lot of coverage and it would be the top of the headlines everywhere. People would be talking about it. We also knew that it would be largely framed and like “this is what the Democrats did,” or “this is what these select representatives did.”
And we wanted to make it really clear that we were centering the American people who’ve been part of the grassroots movement to really galvanize and bring public support for impeachment forward. We knew that our vision and our fight wasn’t just going to end with impeachment. We wanted to support impeachment and removal, and so it was a strategic move to be there today, the day after the vote in Mitch McConnell’s office, so that we were really getting our voices out there to all the senators, but also to all of their constituents and folks who were following at home that the fight’s not over.
MARC STEINER: So when you sat in today, I mean why did you sit in to be arrested and what were you pushing for in McConnell’s office?
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Great. So today, personally felt really important for me to be in this space because I have been a part of By the People now for about seven months. I actually first joined in February when I did, with a group of my friends, a small action at Steven Lynch’s office in Boston where I was living at the time. We were able to share our stories and, in being in that space and sharing the story of my family, how we immigrated to this country, the hopes and the dreams that we had and what the experiences of my undocumented family have been over the last couple of years during the Trump administration, I realized I actually have a real stake in this fight and even though I don’t always feel like I’m the most patriotic person or have ties to what America is, I actually realized that there is a lot at stake and a lot on the line to not fight for our democracy.
And that’s what brought me into the fight. And this felt like a really important opportunity when all eyes would be on impeachment and on this fight to really make sure that we were continuing to center the voices of people like me in this fight and making it really clear that we didn’t get to impeachment just because of 230 representatives and their votes, but because of the American people who have been in the streets and demonstrating with their bodies and sharing their stories and demanding impeachment. In the same way, those people, we can also continue to organize and be in the streets and win support for removal.
MARC STEINER: So the reason for being at Mitch McConnell’s office, was that to push him to do… what? To recuse himself? To push for impeachment? Because the chances of any of them that were going to have any Republicans voting for impeachment are pretty slim. So I mean what was the push about it?
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Yeah you’re exactly right. It’s really about pushing the button and pushing this narrative that the impeachment and removal is not a bipartisan thing. It’s become that, but really we’re talking about what do we value and uphold as far as our constitution goes, what kind of democracy are we willing to fight for, and what does it mean to be united as folks who live in this country, call this country home as American people. I think that our question to Mitch McConnell is actually are you going to support the people? Are you going to stand with the people? Are you going to stand with Trump? Are you going to uphold your oath of office and defend the constitution and democracy or are you going to support Trump and stand and be complicit in his crimes?
And making it really clear that we’re forcing folks to make a moral decision about this. This is really a time to move with deep moral clarity about what it means to take a clear stand in this moment. It’s not a time to hide behind party affiliations. So one of the things that really strikes me about being a part of By the People is this idea that we’re a bipartisan movement. So it’s not about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans, but how we’re coming together as people who live in this country and call it home.
MARC STEINER: So, just for a second, I’m curious why people were arrested. What did they do to get arrested? What was the civil disobedience to what end?
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Great. So we actually were able to be in Mitch McConnell’s office and we had speakers from, I spoke coming from California, we had folks who were coming from Ohio, folks coming from New York, who shared their stories and talked about why they’re in this fight for impeachment and removal, what’s at stake and helping to just, kind of like, galvanize the support of folks who were watching at home.
We had a really active livestream of folks who were watching and we were able to sing songs and really just ground in the space, which was really important. Then after that speaking program wrapped up, we actually moved out into the hallway and folks blocked off the entrance to McConnell’s office with a large banner and folks sat down, created a human chain and continued singing and chanting in the hallway. The Capitol police told them if you don’t stop we’re going to have to arrest you, and then eventually ended up arresting the folks who were blocking the entrance to his office.
MARC STEINER: So I mean, as I said, at the very top By the People is an organization that’s been pushing for impeachment before other folks were doing it though it’s been part of the agenda. So what now? We know the trial may be happening. There’s all kinds of confusion. This came on the heels of the Democrat vote and they’re not even sure that they’re going to push for impeachment. They’re still debating that internally it seems, whether they’re going to send it to the Senate or not. So, what is your agenda then? I mean what’s By the People going to do? What is the strategy? Is it organizing? Is it demonstrating? Is it sitting in? So yes, yes to all of the above.
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Yes. We’re going to continue to do all of those things: continue to organize, continue to strategize. One of the things that we’re really clear on is these moments where we’re out in the streets, those are the moments that bring people in. So we’re sure that today after the action, that livestream will be shared with many people. Many folks who might’ve been coming out of last night thinking this is not a political possibility, might be reignited, have some hope, might want to continue doing the fight or joining the fight. So we want to make sure that we actually bring people into our structure and folks can get trained and actually think about how they can do distributed actions in time for January 6th when the Senate is in session. So that’s our plan, is to make sure that folks are trained and then can actually go out and continue to mobilize and organize where they are.
MARC STEINER: So basically, one quick question before we let you go, which is there’s a huge debate even in the progressive world as well, of whether impeachment makes sense. Should we be impeaching? Should we be focusing on other things? Impeachment will knock Donald Trump out of office, many people will say, but there’s right-wing coup that’s taken over. The government has to be stopped. Other people would say impeachment is one way. Other people say impeachment is a wrong way. You have to go after it and just electorally push him out of office and organize from the ground up. So how does By the People respond to all that?
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Yeah, that’s a really great question Mark. I appreciate you raising that. I think that part of what we see is that things can exist in an ecosystem like we existed movement ecosystem. So just because By the People is holding down a very specific piece of the pie. We’re thinking about how can we grow to scale a movement of people in this country who support impeachment and removal and are willing to organize and mobilize around that to make that happen. So, that is our goal. That doesn’t mean that that goal has to exist within competition to what other progressive groups or folks on the left might be doing or organizing around 2020. I actually think that it’s stronger when we think about how those strategies can actually be related and they don’t actually have to be in competition or be threatened by one another.
So, that’s the first thing I’ll say about that. And, then the second thing that I’ll say is that I think it’s very clear for folks that this has been an ongoing fight for impeachment and removal. And, of course we saw a lot of traction basically in the last four or five months, but things have been moving for a really long time and, like you said, By the People has really been at the forefront of that. One of the things we’ve been really clear on is that impeachment and removal are both about Trump, but it’s actually a larger symbolic question for all of us about the kind of country we want to live in and the kind of democracy we want to have in this country. So impeachment and removal of Donald Trump is important. I mean, he’s a liar. He’s a cheat, he’s committed many crimes; he’s consolidating power.
The list goes on. The articles that he was impeached on, there were just two, there could have been many, many more, and at the same time, acknowledging that we’re actually wanting to offer a hope of what America can look like, what this democracy can look like and really wanting people to buy into creating that vision and realizing a dream of a democracy that actually works for and By the People. So to be able to fight for that, it’s really important that people feel like really grounded in, and have an understanding of why impeachment and removal are important right now. Not something that can wait, but it’s like drawing a clear line in the sand saying this is not acceptable, this is not okay. We will not stand for this. We will not allow this to be what America is and we won’t accept it from Donald Trump, we won’t accept it from anyone else either.
MARC STEINER: Well, Adiel Pollydore, thank you so much for being with us, it has been great to talk to you and it’s been a pleasure.
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Thank you so much for your time.
MARC STEINER: I wanted to tell everybody: Whether you agree or disagree with impeachment, one of the most powerful things at the moment is having our country, groups like By the People and Adiel Pollydore and young people, taking to the streets and young people taking to the communities to organize this. We’re just going to change things. So thank you for your work, Adiel, and we look forward to talking to you again.
ADIEL POLLYDORE: Thanks. Have a good one, Mark.
MARC STEINER: You too. Take care. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Let us know what you think. Take care.
Studio: Adam Coley, Bababtunde Ogunfolaju
Production: Bababtunde Ogunfolaju, Dwayne Gladden