Empire Files: Voices From The Anti-Trump Resistance
On September 16-17 a major national gathering was held in Washington, D.C. called the People’s Congress of Resistance, a broad and diverse coalition of organizers and community leaders formed to build the class-struggle wing of the anti-Trump movement
Abby Martin: We’re here at a national gathering in Washington D.C. called the People’s Congress of Resistance. About 1,000 activists, organizers, and community leaders from all over the country have converged here to build the real resistance against the Trump regime. Participants here say, “They are the representatives of the majority,” and they’re not here to simply lobby the U.S. Congress, but they want to replace Congress altogether.
Yasmina Mrabet: Sisters and brothers, as the United States Congress works to cut deals with the Trump administration, we have assembled to represent the alternative of steadfast resistance, political independence, and a vision of revolution. According to our registration, as of Thursday night we had resistors from 37 states and 159 different towns and cities.
Eugene Puryear: People say to me all the time, “You can’t bring together the undocumented people with the Black workers. It can’t be done. You can’t bring together Harlem with Appalachia. It can’t be done. You can’t bring together people who maybe only speak Spanish and people who only speak English. It can’t be done. There are too many divisions. People are too divided. We’re fighting too much amongst ourselves. There’s no way we can unite.” Honestly, what they mean is that you can never win. My message to those people is look around.
Not only can it be done, it is being done. It’s a worldwide struggle. It won’t be contained in the categories that they try to put on us. It can’t be contained in the false borderlines that they draw. We will fight for every person who is under the boot of oppression and exploitation. Let me just close, I’m very inspired by these young people here and we need to send a message to everyone who is watching this right now, if you are undocumented and you are afraid, if you are a DACA recipient and you are afraid, we have your back.
Mara Verheyden: We all know we’re facing a massive assault on our civil rights and our civil liberties. We’re facing racist police violence, racist police murders, assaults on immigrants, terrorizing of immigrant communities, and we also know that none of this started with Trump. We know that these are institutions that we have all been fighting and we also know to say the truth. That these institutions weren’t changing with Clinton, but these institutions we also have to recognize why they exist. These are the pillars that create the society for the few, the unnatural society of the few, and we are here to fight for the society of the many.
Karina Garcia: One of our key objectives here is to establish a clear and unshakeable basis of radical and revolutionary politics. We want nothing less than the reorganization of society and the transformation of who holds power.
Brian Becker: It is a completely and entirely distinctive and contradictory orientation that demonstrate the Democratic party, the conservative centrists, Wall Street wing, and the liberal wing, seeks to mildly tweak the imperialist, capitalist system based on Wall Street power, the military industrial complex, and the police state. Our goal is to smash that state and to build a new entity that truly represents the people, the working people of this country.
Peta Lindsay: The extent to which any of us have won rights, or dignity, or any consideration whatsoever from the elite powers and their laws has been the extent to which we’ve organized and fought for it. Because our history is not just the history of the movement, it is the history of the power of the movement. It’s not just a story of people fighting back. It is a story of ordinary people united, resisting, and forcing this country to move forward.
Abby Martin: Has anything changed for you and your community since Trump took office?
Speaker 7: Oh, definitely. I come from an immigrant family and also people that are DACA recipients. Recently, with the DACA attack and just since Trump took office, all of the ICE raids that have been happening … I mean, my family is scared. They’re living in the shadows, as well as, 12 million immigrants in this country.
Speaker 8: For my community, everybody’s paranoid, everybody’s scared. Some people try to avoid turning streets now, and everybody has to keep tight communication with each other in order to feel some sort of comfort that they’re not going to be taken away from their families.
Speaker 9: My parents are immigrants, so it’s really tough. They’ve been discriminated against. When we go out to places that are White populated, they get racist comments like, “Oh my God, what are you doing here? You don’t deserve to be here.”
Speaker 10: Yeah well, myself, not only … I’m second generation, so I was privileged enough to be born here, but I’m a teacher in one of the most affected communities in San Francisco in the Mission District, and a lot of our families are coming with trauma, the fact that they’ve come as refugees from Central America, the fact that they haven’t gotten paperwork here, and their kids are afraid to come to school. The very next day, after the Trump election, we had maybe … We’re a school of like 700 people, maybe 100 students did not come to school because they thought they were going to get raided right away. The fact that we can empower folks and tell them, “We’re not … We can create sanctuary cities, defend sanctuary cities, defend sanctuary states.” I think having a left politic keeps pushing the agenda forward and so being able to take a politic like this, and building around that gives people hope, and more importantly empowers them.
Speaker 11: If we’re talking about the Black community, Trump’s open and overt support of the police. Not only that, but if you recall his sort of open request to police that basically intensified their brutality, is something that’s going to have a direct impact on Black communities and other poor working depressed communities, because this is precisely where the police play such a repressive role. Within a capitalist society, they sort of … The police basically serve as a means to keep the lid on the pot of frustrations that simmers and oppress communities based on the state of underdevelopment because of sort of the social political economic degradation that they experience under the system.
Speaker 12: Embolden fascists, and Nazi and racist individuals to continue terrible attacks. Myself, in Brooklyn, the issues of police brutality, in my opinion, have soared. I’m seeing more mothers coming to the front lines and fighting for their families. I’m seeing more mothers fearing for their children, because we have somebody who’s an outright racist in office. With someone who is showing clearly who he is, people are afraid and there’s a real fear in the community.
Speaker 11: It’s dangerous thinking to try to equate the violence of White supremacists, complete fascists, neo-Nazis, all the different names that they call themselves, it’s all the same really, to conflate that with leftist, and anti-fascists, and anti-racists activists who are only trying to protect themselves, is dangerous because if you don’t see the difference, then you may not know where you sit on the issue, right? To me, to compare … Because I felt like he was comparing me to actually genocidal maniacs and I don’t appreciate that.
Speaker 13: I think I’ve seen a change in the consciousness of my family, my friends, people in my community. People are starting to understand that Trump is simply a symptom of this system. Because the thing is, it’s not like Trump got into office and then all of a sudden Black people started getting shot in the streets and no justice was served, or trans-women getting killed and no justice was served, or people are going hungry and no justice is served for them. We understand that he’s simply a symptom of this capitalist system in decay of the Democratic party in a disarray because they don’t represent the people that they claim to represent.
We understand that people wanted something different, people wanted a change, and see that the only reason why he won was because we haven’t reformed our electoral system in 200-plus years, when someone like me would’ve been a slave. You know what I mean? It’s just kind of like, I think people are starting to see that things have always been screwed up and that the fact that Trump can just get into office and repeal DACA in a second and all these different things, it just kind of shows the fragility and the underlying root issues of this system.
Speaker 14: I am a nurse and every day … I work in Los Angeles in a big metropolitan hospital, and every day I see the direct effects of denial of healthcare, denial of access, what the profit systems does to the standard of living, the healthcare, health of our people.
Speaker 15: [Foreign language 00:09:31].
Interviewer: Why do you feel like a party that calls itself The Resistance does not really represent the people?
Speaker 16: I think the Democrats in this moment find it convenient to sort of couch themselves the resistance. Number one, I mean, they’re embarrassed by their defeats to Trump. Secondly, they need to poise themselves for the 2020 election, presidential election, and the sort of upcoming primary elections as well I believe in 2018. Even though they have absolutely no interest in supporting any measures that would positively impact the material conditions of the very elements that they shunned during the election, they can put this mantel on because they know that people think that they’re the only alternative to what they see in Trump and the White House.
Speaker 17: They take credit for the people’s work. They don’t align themselves with the people until they feel it’s convenient for them, until it’s time for primaries that are coming up soon, when it’s time for their interests.
Speaker 18: What we have seen since before Trump that the Democratic party has really actually pushed a lot of the policies that have affected our people, have deported our people in masses, have proposed programs that are just band-aid solutions, like DACA, have not gotten to the root of the issues that affect people.
Speaker 19: They see things like the GOP trying to take away healthcare. They see that as a win, because they see that as an opportunity for them to take over the next election, or whatever. They don’t see it as millions of people dying from the lack of healthcare. They don’t care about that.
Speaker 20: We really cannot rely on politicians to do this work for us. We have to be the ones to build power in our communities, and pressure them, and tell them what it is that we demand, because their class interest is really what’s going to be primary at the end of the day and we have to put our interests first in our communities.
Speaker 21: All those parties are influenced by lobbyists and they’d rather take upon their own interests, instead of the people’s interests, which they should be doing in the first place. A lot of the politicians and candidates that we’re supposed to supposedly vote on are chosen for us and we don’t choose them.
Monica: I think a perfect example that I can think of off the top of my head is Cory Booker. We know that people are saying, “Oh Cory Booker, 2020,” yet he’s taking millions of dollars from big pharma who’s funding people getting addicted to opioids.
Abby Martin: Monica, the Democratic party calls itself, The Resistance. I mean, are they not resisting Trump?
Monica: I mean, you see they’re ready to step aside and may compromise for Trump. We see Nancy Pelosi and even Bernie Sanders, arguably the most progressive person in the Democratic party right now, sitting there saying things like, “Oh, abortion rights are something we can compromise on.”
Speaker 23: I think of Nancy Pelosi and how she denied standing up for abortion rights, because she was saying “We got to talk to people. We can’t just take a stance. We’re going to divide the party.” That’s what you need to do. You need to stand up for everybody. The Democrats, they toy around with these things, with these things that are actually our rights.
Speaker 23: I think they try to exploit us. They try to take away our money, instead of helping us. They don’t find ways to actually, actually help us. We need that and the Democratic party or the Republican party doesn’t do that.
Monica: We see students organizing, protesting walkouts. As soon as the DACA, Trump’s repeal of DACA was announced, we saw middle schoolers across the country walking out of school. We see that the resistance is in the streets and it will never be in Congress. It will never be on Capitol Hill.
Abby Martin: [Sean 00:13:33], what is the People’s Congress all about? Why do you guys feel like you need to replace the existing Congress?
Sean: The People’s Congress of Resistance is about bringing together grassroots activists and organizers from all across the country, from all different fields of struggle, if you will. Develop … Well, I don’t even want to say develop, because I feel like if people are here, they kind of understand how a lot of these issues are connected. What it’s really for is to strengthen ties and make sort of concrete sort of face-to-face personal connections with different people fighting on different fronts in different parts of the country so that we can put forth a national front, if you will, and that can sort of push against what we’re seeing coming from the Congress and from America’s two-party system.
Speaker 25: This is a chance to have a voice and to project a vision of what kind of country, what kind of Congress, what kind of government we want. The elite, the rich, the billionaire class has been in charge for too long and look at the suffering. It increases every day.
Speaker 26: We finally can provide a way that has a program for the people. For example, just recently Trump’s announcement to cancel DACA, you already hear the immigrant rights more, the more formal elements of the immigrant rights movement claiming that we have to support more Democrats. With the People’s Congress of Resistance, which has an amazing resolution standing in full solidarity with all immigrants, not just the DACA students, we can actually go back to our communities and organize around such a program.
Speaker 27: [Foreign language 00:15:00].
Speaker 25: We have so many different struggles. We’re under such attack on so many levels of many issues in our communities and around the world. We need to bring them all together so we have each other’s back, so we can be effective in turning back this tide of reaction that’s sweeping the country through Trump and his supporters.
Crowd: Back up, back up, we want freedom, freedom. [inaudible 00:15:30] Stand up, fight back.
Abby Martin: The People’s Congress is ending with a big march to the White House to show the millionaires on Capitol Hill that this Congress is a Congress of action and the real force of resistance.
Speaker 29: Are we ready to fight?
Speaker 29: Are we ready to win?
Speaker 29: The same people, the same people who think that the leadership should be able to murder and kill with impunity in St. Louis, think the police, think the military should be murdering and killing all around the world, think that most nations don’t have the right to do anything but be under the heel of the U.S. boot, is the same people, is the same system and we can’t allow those folks to be separated.
Crowd: I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.