Trump has been president for less than a week and is already on a dizzying dash to enact some of the most radically conservative initiatives this country has ever seen, including mass deportations and voter disenfranchisement, eviscerating reproductive rights, slashing labor protections, ending environmental and financial regulations, and dismantling our healthcare system. And this just the beginning.
But just as our radically conservative government is wasting no time rolling back decades of progressive gains, community organizations and other leftist political groups are gearing up to fight these measures at every turn. In New York City, these groups are focused on protecting the city's liberal values, but also using this moment to create a larger movement for social justice that can long outlast the Trump administration and the repressive policies of his ruling party. Gothamist has taken a look at some great local organizations that are taking aggressive action to combat Trumpism.
From fighting racial intolerance in our neighborhoods to striving for socialism in our time, they're are the forefront of the fight. Don't mourn—organize.
Founded in 2000, Desis Rising Up and Moving—better known as DRUM—has focused on building the political power of South Asians in New York City, leading campaigns on behalf of immigrant laborers, connecting immigrants to legal services, and helping young people become community organizers. In the immediate aftermath of Trump's election, the organization began a new project committed to creating "Hate-Free Zones" across the country, where local communities can hold businesses and politicians accountable for allowing acts of intolerance or hate to be normalized in any way.
"We're working on a pledge that businesses and electeds can take to commit to a 'Hate-Free Zone' that can be used throughout the nation to help these spring up. We've seen a ton of interest in this from groups across the country," Roksana Mun, the director of strategy and training at DRUM, told Gothamist.
Mun explained that the idea of a "Hate-Free Zone" was to create a commitment that communities can keep referring to as they try to keep the intolerance and hate of the Trump administration from tearing immigrant and other diverse communities apart. The initiative launched this past December with a rally and march through Jackson Heights in Queens. The group launched its second zone in Kensington, Brooklyn, this week. But establishing a hate-free zone means more than just holding a march. DRUM wants to get commitments from as many community stakeholders as possible.
"What needs to happen is we need to make this process of becoming a 'Hate-Free Zone' much more concrete," Mun said. "We need to provide a step-by-step way for communities to assess whether they're truly hate-free." That includes having businesses pledge to remain hate-free, and for there to be repercussions, like boycotts and protests against businesses and institutions that move to discriminate in any way. "Businesses have undocumented immigrants as their workers and their customers, they have an investment and interest in making sure nothing happens to these communities, and advocating for them during difficult times," says Mun.
By showing just how interconnected each segment of the community is to one another, DRUM hopes to prevent the Trump administration from turning different groups against each other and instead present a unified front.
DRUM rally launching “hate free zone" in Jackson Heights. (Facebook)
"The best way to get involved would be to reach out to us and let us know that your community wants to be a ‘hate-free zone,’” Mun said. DRUM will be holding trainings on how to create a ‘hate-free zone.’ "We want to disseminate this to as many people as possible, to use the tools we're developing to ensure that communities are leveraging their economic and political powers to keep themselves free of hate." You can get in touch with DRUM through its Facebook page or website.
National Women's Liberation
National Women's Liberation has its roots in the late-1960s, but has seen a resurgence during the rise of Trump, as women across the country fight to keep rights many thought were ironclad. NWL's first planned mass action was a national strike on January 20th in protest of Trump's inauguration. The organization called on all women, girls, trans, and gender non-binary people to skip work and take to the streets. According to its website, more than 7,000 individuals participated in the strike.
Paulina Davis, a 32-year-old living in Flatbush, joined NWL's Women of Color Caucus last year. "It doesn't shock me that Trump was elected, but I wasn't expecting it either," Davis told Gothamist. NWL says its first meeting following the election was its largest ever and the group had to scramble to find another space for all of its new members. "Our veteran organizers proposed a mass women's strike, laying out the things women could strike from and it immediately resonated with everyone there," Davis said. "We began surveying women about why they would strike and what form it could take. We knew we had to go back and mobilize as many people as possible with the hope that people are going to stay engaged."
Davis fears that in the wake of the inauguration, enthusiasm for the movement might fade right when it's needed most. "Having a mass action that can bring as many people in as possible will help us keep as many people as possible engaged after inauguration weekend," Davis said. In addition to the strike on Inauguration Day, NWL contingents marched in NYC and DC on the Saturday Women's March. "We need to use those days to talk to one another about how to move forward and keep our momentum going."
The NWL's Women of Color Caucus was created almost 15 years ago as a response to demands from women of color in NWL that the group should represent the needs of all women, and not just the white women who were then leading the NWL. "Women of color live at many intersections of oppression. They are a marginalized group that is oppressed by male supremacy, but also they're oppressed by racism that is often perpetuated by white women," Davis said. "There's a need to have women of color meet separately from white women to discuss what is keeping us down, what are the root causes of our oppression, and ensuring the women's liberation movement is one that includes our issues and holding our white companions accountable."
The Anti-Violence Project
For over 35 years, the Anti-Violence Project has been advocating for and working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected people in the New York City area. Among other things, AVP provides legal services, crisis intervention, and counseling for people who have experienced violence. The election of Trump, a man who has bragged about his own sexual assaults on women, has proven just how vital groups like AVP are in time where sexual violence is not only being tolerated, but accepted for the holder of the highest public office in the land.
In the run-up to the Trump presidency, AVP focused its legal clinics on securing people less precarious legal status, with the looming specter of mass deportations and a Republican Congress focused on advancing a radical right agenda on gender issues. "We've been focusing more on immigration cases, name changes, documentation changes—those are the things that are becoming integral right now and have seen a real need for," said Sue Yacka, the communications director for AVP. "We've been holding free legal clinics to address things that will be immediate targets of the Trump administration, in particular issues that might relate to LGBTQ immigrants, undocumented folks, and transgender people at large."
With the Violence Against Women Act up for reauthorization, AVP is very aware of how quickly Congress can make millions of women and LGBTQ people drastically more vulnerable to violence and other forms of abuse. To that end, AVP has been working closely with other advocacy groups focused on gender issues to create a unified resistance to the Republican agenda. The goal, Yacka said, is to form a coalition that will outlast the Trump administration. While AVP is still trying to figure out exactly what this will look like, it hopes that its work will be able to reach an even larger audience, and that groups will be able to approach their similar work in a more unified way.
"The connections we're making now are really valuable and maybe the fact that they weren't in place before was part of what comprised the movement. These connections we're forging are going to be what sustains us moving forward," Yacka said.
Black Lives Matter protest in July 2016. (Scott Heins/Gothamist)
Black Lives Matter of Greater New York
Started by the activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter first gained widespread attention during the 2014 protests in Ferguson. Since then, BLM's campaign against police brutality and systemic racism toward black Americans has notched some major political victories—from influencing the Democratic presidential primary to ousting corrupt prosecutors to bringing police reform to cities around the country.
The decentralized nature of Black Lives Matter—a loosely knit confederation of local chapters and affiliated groups—can make official participation a bit confusing. In New York, there are several groups working under the banner of BLM, with varying degrees of openness to the public.
One of the more active BLM groups in the city is Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. In the lead up to Trump's inauguration, the group organized coordinated marches throughout the five boroughs to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and protest the incoming president's policies. Leaders of the group are also seeking an audience with President Trump.
"We demand that he meets with the people who are in the streets fighting for victims, working on programs and working in the schools," said Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. "If he's staying true to the message that he'll do things differently, then he'll meet with groups like ours and really get some answers from people on the ground."
In addition to protesting Trump, the group is organizing the Black Lives Caucus, which aims to restore the black vote and increase turnout in local elections, "so that we don't ever again end up in a situation where we're stuck between political rocks and political hard places." The initiative will involve youth-led marches, community education drives, and voter literacy workshops—a workshop open to the public will take place on February 8th. "Our goal is to either register or activate 75,000 New Yorkers to vote in their best interests," said Newsome, "and that's in a way that advances our platform, which spans from safer communities to criminal justice reform."
The best way to get involved right now is to contact the organization. Newsome recommends sending in a simple bio and a description of what you can bring to the movement. The group also plans to begin hosting biweekly public meetings in the coming months.
The New Sanctuary Coalition
The New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City is an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and activists working to protect undocumented New Yorkers from detention and deportation. Since its creation in 2007, the faith-based coalition has focused on preserving family unity by offering various forms of sanctuary. Sometimes that means hosting legal clinics and solidarity events; other times it means giving literal sanctuary to an immigrant facing immediate deportation.
Predictably, Trump's election has forced the coalition to expand the scope of its work. It has also, as I reported recently, attracted a new crop of congregations to the coalition. The New Sanctuary Coalition is currently seeking volunteers for a variety of causes, including a program that pairs immigrants facing removal with volunteers who can accompany them to periodic check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More information about volunteer opportunities and upcoming events can be found here.
DSA Inauguration Day rally on Wall Street. (Facebook)
Democratic Socialists of America
Socialist used to be a dirty word in America, used to derisively describe a part of the left that had been marginalized and dismissed by red-baiting conservatives and Wall Street-loving liberals alike. But with the mass mobilization for presidential candidate (and avowed democratic socialist) Bernie Sanders last year, socialism has been thrust into the mainstream, embraced by a new generation of leftists. Following Trump's election, the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America experienced a massive groundswell of interest, as Sanders supporters and disillusioned Democrats alike searched for a substantive way to change the country's more left-leaning party for the better. The organization says that in the past nine months, it has doubled its membership.
"For most people in America, electoral politics is the only political activity they engage, but more needs and should be done to help organize people," said Rahel Biru, co-chair of New York City's DSA chapter. Biru joined DSA in 2014 after becoming involved in the Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street movements, both of which left her interested in an organization that had a more defined structure when it came to achieving its goals.
According to Biru, in the case of DSA, the "long term goal of replacing capitalism" can be achieved by fighting for a more equitable world through organizing on a community level, and encouraging politicians to move ever further to the left. But Biru wants to make clear that DSA doesn't exist to simply prop up dems, it means employing a strategy Biru described as "inside/outside." Inside being politics, while outside being community organizing.
"The outsider coalition building, especially with groups that aren't explicitly on the activist leftist is primarily about taking the ideological struggle to the people, saying we must unite together across differences to directly challenge capitalism and neoliberalism," Biru told Gothamist. "Especially now, in a time when the establishment forces who support those ideals, are being discredited on every level and Sanders demonstrated the potential political power of supporting democratic socialist values."
In New York City, for example, the DSA is currently organizing with the Crown Heights Tenants Union against a plan to turn Crown Heights' Bedford Armory into a massive development with market-rate townhouses. The organization is also pushing for the City Council to pass the Right to Know Act by rallying with other groups to convince City Hall that substantive police reform is necessary. Biru admits that each of these "aren't explicitly democratic socialist, but necessary steps to achieving our bigger goal."
According to Biru, DSA has also begun considering whether to endorse candidates running for City Council this fall, or even going as far as running its own candidates. With membership across the boroughs surging, DSA has started new chapters and meeting in Brooklyn, Queens, and Upper Manhattan/The Bronx. You can find out more information about DSA on its Facebook page, become a member here, or go straight to volunteering by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Showing Up for Racial Justice, also known as SURJ, is another group that has seen a surge (sorry) in membership since the election. A group of white people committed to ending white supremacy in the United States, SURJ has chapters in cities throughout the country and its New York contingent in recent months has been participating in marches and rallies in support of communities in the crosshairs of the Trump administration. During its first meeting after the election, the organization had to change venues to fit the more than 700 people who attended.
Answering Gothamist's questions as a collective, SURJ's communications committee wrote that, "At SURJ, we don't see ourselves as 'helping' communities of color. We talk about the term 'mutual interest' to help us move from the idea of helping others, or just thinking about what is good for us, to understanding that our own liberation as white people, our own humanity, is inextricably linked to racial justice."
That dedication to racial justice means showing up at rallies and in the courtroom with the Justice Committee on behalf of the family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teen who was shot by the NYPD in his grandmother's home over five years ago. SURJ has also been working with Just Leadership USA's campaign to close Rikers Island as well as other initiatives that would challenge mass incarceration in New York State. Like DSA, SURJ is involved in trying to convince the City Council to pass the Right to Know Act.
SURJ members participated in both the Washington and New York City marches, but the organization is looking at this moment in a larger context.
"The inauguration is one catalyzing moment for people, but we are also in a larger 'movement moment' inspired by Black Lives Matter, the indigenous uprising at Standing Rock and the ongoing fight for immigrant justice," SURJ wrote to us. "There is a long history of white folks engaging in anti-racist solidarity and we want to continue that tradition in this moment when we face both entrenched inequality and new threats from a racist, sexist and xenophobic President elect."
To get involved with SURJ in NYC, you should attend an orientation before going to a general meeting. The next orientation is February 15 at 7:30 p.m—the location is yet to be determined. Find out more information here.
It's going to be a tough few years, but these groups offer a way to stay active and find common cause among like-minded people. Solidarity!