Inauguration Protest Organizer: Trump-Pence Administration Fomenting Climate of Hate
Domestic workers, women of color, and front-line resisters against the extractive industries are building a collective defense, says Cindy of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Tens of thousands of protesters will greet Donald Trump when he is inaugurated on Friday as the 45th president of the United States of America. Today, throughout the day, we will be going live with people who are organizing various protests in Washington, D.C., so do join us live on Facebook.
The following day, on the 21st, the Women’s March on Washington is expected to draw the largest inauguration-related protest in U.S. history. On both days, women of color are taking a leading role in resistance to President Trump, who takes office as the least-popular president in recent memory.
Now joining us to discuss this is a leader of It Takes Roots, Cindy Wiesner. Cindy is a national coordinator of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and a co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and Our Power Campaign.
Thanks for joining us, Cindy.
CINDY WIESNER: Thank you so much. What’s up? Hello. Hola, mi gente. Really glad to be here with Real News Network live on Facebook.
SHARMINI PERIES: Cindy, as I said, the inter-protests have been taking place all week, including a Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence’s house Wednesday night.
Groups have vowed to disrupt the inauguration with direct action, not only all week, but certainly head-on on Friday. This is the first time such inaugural protests have taken place in the history of the United States.
Tell me why are you organizing with this coalition, It Takes Roots, and also tell us what you’re planning to do.
CINDY WIESNER: Sure. Well, thank you for inviting me. We’re here in Washington, D.C.; really excited to be here to mobilize tomorrow at the J20 actions and also to be a contingent, a woman of color contingent and ally, at the Women’s March.
I’m a daughter of a domestic worker, an immigrant domestic worker. I’m Latina. I’m a lesbian. I’m also an organizer. And I think under the Pence and Trump, and his entire administration, are really fomenting a climate of hate that really threatens me, my family, my community and millions of other people like me.
I think that this is why I’m here but this is also why we, in our different alliances, have come together in this moment of visionary opposition that is going to be so desperately needed in this era of Trumpism.
I am the national coordinator for Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, but we’re also a member of the Climate Justice Alliance. We’re coming together with Climate Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Right to the City Alliance. We’re teaming up to create the It Takes Roots to grow the resistance delegation.
We have grassroots leaders and organizers from across the country and we’re coming together at this historic moment to really build our collective power and voice here in the streets of Washington, D.C.
We’re also in 10 different cities doing trans-local actions that will coordinate with our activities tomorrow, on the 20th, and also at the Women’s March on the 21st.
SHARMINI PERIES: Right. So, Cindy, we know that groups of pro-Trump demonstrators and unprecedented security will meet you as protestors. What are you planning to do to deal with these obstacles in terms of your right to protest and be seen protesting?
CINDY WIESNER: That’s right. I think that what is at stake is… many of us are very clear about the threat of Trumpism and we’re very clear about the threat of white rage in our communities.
Many of us come from migrant communities, come from black communities, Muslim-Arab communities, queer communities. And in a lot of ways we’ve been resisting already.
What’s so important about being able to stand together in solidarity with each other is, one, to be able to show that we’re growing the resistance that’s already been in existence, but that needs to multiply. We know that 80% of the people of this country did not vote for Donald Trump.
We know that there are people that did vote for Trump that have buyer’s remorse and are regretting what it is that they did.
And then there are people out there that are really concerned about things that we’re concerned about. People, I think, open to being able to be won over, to be able to not be moved by hate or by fear or isolation but that can be moved by actually a vision that’s actually going to be different because I think Trump is not going to meet needs. He’s not going to fulfill many of his promises and he’s not going to meet the needs that people actually so desperately want.
And so for us, we’re not here… we’re here to give a message. We have young people from Standing Rock that have come all the way out here, some of the original young people that ran to Rand and then were part of the original encampment, so the International Native Youth Council is here with us today. We have people who are at the front line of extractive fights that are happening across the country. We have folks that are domestic workers that have been fighting for their rights. People who have been… folks from the Black Lives Matter movement.
So I think that in all ways this is an opportunity to really put forward our vision; that visionary opposition that’s needed to draw a line in the sand that we’re not legitimizing this president and this administration. And that we’re here to be able to say… be clear what we’re saying “no” to but also be clear what we’re saying “yes” to.
I think that a lot of organizations and the movements that we come out of are really providing that framework around a just transition to the regenerative economy, rebel cities and the defense of housing and land.
Reclaiming grassroots feminisms (sic) and really being able to talk about how as working-class women, as white women, as gender nonconforming folks, as women of color. We’re part of this growing feminist movement from the grassroots to the issues of protecting the sacred; learning from our indigenous brothers and sisters who’ve been so… have been holding down the stronghold in North Dakota and being able to really model what it means to protect water and to protect life, and to really show that that’s the kind of resistance that we’re going to be needing in this next period.
SHARMINI PERIES: Cindy, in Standing Rock, that was a great demonstration of the kind of force that’s going to be used against demonstrators and protesters and that was in Standing Rock.
Imagine tomorrow during an inauguration with all these very important people at the inauguration. They’re going to be really forceful when it comes to security.
Yesterday, in fact, we heard some rumors going on that the media was going to be barred from covering demonstrations like yours. Have you heard anything about that? Because usually media does play a role in protecting your right to demonstrate.
CINDY WIESNER: That’s right. I mean, I think what we know is that there is going to be a criminalization of protest, a criminalization of dissent and that goes hand-in-hand with authoritarian types of regimes. We know this from lessons from our international brothers and sisters when there’s been right-wing coups or right-wing shifts in politics and in power. We know that that goes hand-in-hand.
And so, for us, it’s really important for us to be able to defend our right to dissent, to defend our right to stand up and say what we need to say and create more space. There has to be a strong media, like our alternative media, that needs to be strengthened in this period to be able to tell our stories and tell the truth. And I think that that’s going to be really key and important, is how to help… to continue to help folks make sense of all the lies that they’re hearing and combating that with the truth.
And so, we are very clear that we have a story to tell. That we’re contingent as led by women of color, by our working-class folks, by inter-generational, by young people.
We’re clear that we’re here to give a message of what we think is important and to really begin to say, “We’ve got to grow this resistance,” that it takes roots to grow the resistance and that we need to come together in real, true, deep solidarity around a joint vision for that change that is going to be so necessary in this next coming period.
SHARMINI PERIES: Right. Now, with the Republicans controlling the presidency and you can hear from all the congressional hearings that have been going on for the last two weeks, that you’re going to be met with a lot of resistance in terms of the objectives and goals you have as a coalition, and of course, as an organization that you represent.
How are you planning in the long term to deal with the kind of people that are going to be heading this administration, particularly the Cabinet, which is going to be one of the wealthiest cabinets ever?
They’re going to be interested in protecting the ruling elite in this country and not the likes of the people that you are representing in your coalition and in your organization and the concerns that the indigenous people have or women of color or immigration rights, and so forth. How are you going to face this in the long term?
CINDY WIESNER: I think that every day the national political landscape continues to change for the worse. The appointments, as you mentioned, to the incoming administration are clearly an assault to the many gains that people of color, women, migrants, LGBTQ communities, indigenous people, low-income tenants, workers; rights that we have won and continue to fight for. And so, in a lot of ways we are going to have to really devise strategies to defend the gains we have made.
But I think more importantly, we’re going to have to really be able to be that visionary opposition and be able to make the demands that in a lot of ways counter the hegemony – right? – about what’s even possible.
And I think that that’s really important because there are going to be implications on the local level, on the national level, at the international level for decades to come. I think that part of what we understand, as many of our members know what’s at stake at this moment, and we’re looking to each other to fortify our grassroots movement and be able to build the power necessary for what lies ahead.
And so, we’re clear that this moment has to be both oppositional but also visionary and lifting up those regenerative solutions that I think are going to be so necessary. I think that’s the message.
So, today we’ve brought together leaders and organizers from all over the country to be together. So, today we’re spending time doing training around 21st-century community defense, what does that look like? Not only for migrants but also for Arab brothers and sisters, Muslim brothers and sisters, for the queer folks to black lives, black organizers and activists and peoples. And how do we then expand that frame of “What does community defense look like?”
The second training that we’re doing is around just transition. How do we begin to talk about this moment? What is the just transition to the next economy look like? And how do we engage people in that vision of what that could look like rather than a dig-burn-dump economy that Trump and his cronies are going to put forward. How are we actually being able to counter that, right?
So, when he talks about an infrastructure bill, it’s not a whole bunch of fossil-fuel-industry jobs that are going to destroy people and the planet and our natural resources, but it’s actually, “How do we then begin to think about climate jobs instead that both heal the planet but also can give people a living wage, a union job?”
And so, I think this is the moment for those visionary demands and for us not to step back. And, like I said, to really draw the line and not normalize this presidency and not normalize what this is.
It’s like he – Trump – he’s a manipulator, he is a liar, he doesn’t have the mandate of this country. And I think that part of that is we’ve got to be able to be clear about why we need to have this fight and at the same time, at the local level, really begin to do those cross-movement sectoral conversations, build that alternative vision and be able to, again, defend each other and defend the gains that we’ve been able to make up to this moment.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. I do have to ask you a couple of contentious issues here. The coalition and groups like yourselves had the chance to express yourselves in the elections and could have had a different outcome. Why weren’t you out there organizing with the same rigor you are now?
CINDY WIESNER: Hey, we were! We absolutely were. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance took a delegation from the R.N.C. to the D.N.C. because we thought it was really important at the conventions, both in Ohio and Philadelphia, to bring up these issues and talk to people about why we needed to talk about this visionary opposition, how we needed to talk about the issues that really mattered in the election process.
A lot of us worked on “Get Out the Vote” activity. I live in Miami. I’m from Florida. We were hitting the groundwork. We were out there knocking on doors and trying to get people to vote. And if you look at southern Florida, we were able to… in comparison to the rest of Florida, we did make a dent there.
But then I think the more important thing is that… and also we were also part of when those very disturbing and dehumanizing comments came out, in terms of Trump, with his, basically, sexual-assault admission in terms… we were part of organizing with women all over this country. The “GOP Hands Off Me” actions that happened and the “Pussy Grabs Back” actions that happened, that in a lot of ways I think created the conditions for something like a women’s march to happen.
And so, I think that we were out there trying to really do the work from the electoral level to the “Street Heat” at the RNC and the “GOP Hands Off Me”. And I think that the next day we mourned with everybody, but we also were very clear that we had to organize and we pulled together this alignment of forces to be here in D.C. but also, again, to do actions in our local communities.
SHARMINI PERIES: As you were in terms of organizing and protesting against the previous administration as well, I guess this is a new surge of energy to organize against Trump because he stands for so much more anti-issues that you stand for.
So, I wish you all the luck tomorrow and beyond.
CINDY WIESNER: Yeah, yeah. So, tomorrow, Friday, January 20th at 9:00 a.m., the It Takes Roots to Grow a Resistance delegation is doing an action at the Department of Energy and then going over to the H.U.D. offices.
So, please, if you’re in D.C., please join us there. We’re then going to be a contingent at the noon mobilization that starts at Union Station.
And then on Saturday, we’re inviting women of color, gender non-conforming folks, allies to meet with us at Garfield Park, which is at the corner of 3rd Street and G Street South East, and join… follow us at #Ittakesroots, #Growtheresistance, #Waterislife and then #Grassrootsfeminism.
Look us up at Growtheresistance.org if you’re wanting to support and if you’re not here and wanting to help support some of our delegates in their participation in this, yeah, please go to our website.
But we really want to thank everybody and this is the moment. We know we’re the roots of the resistance. We’re combining forces to really declare that we’re really an unstoppable force of nature. That women-of-color, more than ever, leadership is needed to build, to secure… you know, water, land, rights to home and dignity. And I think that that’s the moment right now that we’re really excited to be building with, and we know that the work is at home, but we also think that these national moments of being able to be on the streets together is really key.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right. That’s Cindy Wiesner with It Takes Roots, organizing demonstrations for the upcoming weekend inauguration. I thank you so much, Cindy, for joining us.
CINDY WIESNER: All right. Thank you all. Take care.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.