Progressive opponents of President Trump are organizing online and using social media to stage protests and get their message out. While they tout their efforts as peaceful and civil, some have contributed to noisy and volatile confrontations at town halls and government meeting places.
What’s happening across the country is also happening here in Tennessee, with people joining Meetup groups with the hashtag #Resist and groups promoted by Indivisible and others.
Protesters at U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s town hall in Fairview on Feb. 21 included members of the Nashville Meetup #Resist group. Before the event, the Meetup group announced the town hall by writing, “Rep. Blackburn needs to get the kind of reception Jason Chaffetz got last week.” U.S. Rep. Chaffetz (R-Utah) faced jeers and shouts at a large town hall in suburban Salt Lake City, according to CNN, a new reality facing conservative politicians across the country. Many protesters are believed to be outside agitators.
Blackburn (R-TN), who was booed at the Fairview town hall, told CNN that many of the people who came were not from her district.
“Our office recently saw firsthand just how organized the liberals are when it comes to protesting,” Darcy Anderson, district director for Blackburn, told The Tennessee Star. “Unfortunately for them however, they weren’t organized enough to win the House, the Senate, or the Presidency.”
Anderson said Blackburn welcomes opportunities to speak with constituents regardless of their political ideology as long it’s in a constructive and civil manner. “Shouting matches might make for good theater and viral videos, but rarely add value to important discussions that need to be had,” Anderson said.
Meetup.com began as a nonpartisan site after 9/11 as a way of bringing communities together and providing a forum to promote local clubs centered around various interests. Meetup is very active in the Nashville area, offering clubs for hikers, book readers, cigar smokers, tango dancers, crafters, political groups, religious groups, singles and many more. Nationwide, around 30 million people are involved in Meetup groups. Club organizers pay a fee, which some pass on to members.
After Trump issued his original executive order barring citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., Meetup took a decidedly partisan turn, creating 1,000 #Resist groups. In an email to members last month, the company wrote, “Meetup has always served as an organizing platform for a wide range of political views, welcoming everyone from the Howard Deaniacs to the Tea Party. Meetup will always welcome people with different beliefs. But after the recent executive order aimed to block people on the basis of nationality and religion, a line was crossed. At a time when core democratic ideals feel under attack, we feel a duty to spark more civic participation.”
But not everyone was pleased, according to an article in TechCrunch. Trump supporters began deleting accounts and calling for a boycott. Others said they were upset at Meetup for furthering political discord.
Meetup’s partners in promoting #Resist are the Anti-Defamation League, Amnesty International, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March. The invitation on Meetup’s #Resist page to get involved says “join others who care about what’s happening to democracy, human rights, social justice, equality, sustainability, and other issues in your area.” Group members are told to “Be Peaceful, Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Real.”
In Middle Tennessee, around 1,000 people have already signed up for six Resist groups in Nashville, Antioch, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Clarksville. The Nashville group is the largest with 630 members.
Indivisible, another new movement, is a national effort started by former Democratic congressional staffers that borrows organizational ideas from the conservative Tea Party movement. The group has a state website for Tennessee and Facebook pages for Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
In addition, former President Obama’s group Organizing for Action is retooling itself to protest Trump’s agenda, focusing currently on the fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act. The group’s Facebook page for Tennessee features a news video of a recent Save My Care rally in Nashville.