The hour and a half zoom session begins with images that have been around the world: a dance and music scene in the queue of an early voting center in Philadelphia. That party was not improvised or casual: behind it was Joy to the polls (Joy to the polls), an initiative that he devised Nelini Stamp, a young activist and member of the Working Families Party, which is also one of the national organizers of Election Defenders (Defenders of elections).
— #JoyToThePolls (@JoyToThePolls) October 25, 2020
This is one of the many groups that, in the face of the most tense and volatile elections that are remembered in United States, are helping citizens to organize, mobilize and try to help not only that the vote this Tuesday passes in order, but also for possible barely democratic settings that could occur from day 4. Among them: the possibility that the president, Donald Trump, prematurely declare a victory, as it has been published that he plans to do the same night of November 3 if the first results give him the appearance of an advantage, or that he tries to prevent the counting of each and every one of the votes that, before the The explosion of the vote by mail in the middle of the pandemic and due to the legal times to count them, could take days.
A fundamental first step has been to convene tens of thousands of people to work in the voting centers. That work, for which it is received training and what is remunerated, traditionally they have been carried out mainly by people over 60 years old, the most vulnerable in the middle of the pandemic. And the response to make up for their casualties has been overwhelming. Power the polls, one of the main groups behind the effort, set a goal of bringing together 250,000 people and has trained more than 700,000. And in places like Arizona’s Maricopa County, where authorities needed 1,800 people, 20,000 showed up.
Neutralize acts of bullying
Outside those voting centers will be volunteers like those of Election Defenders, with their gold jackets and caps. Your mission, as explained in the zoom training session, will be support voters delivering water or material to protect against the coronavirus. But they will also be there to try to facilitate de-escalation if they occur acts of intimidation and to document them and notify authorities or organized networks of lawyers. “It is important to ignore the harassment, not to bite into the bait of the shakers,” recalled one of the trainers.
The organization this year in the US, however, goes far beyond the day the vote ends. Initiatives such as Choose Democracy Y Protect the results, a coalition of more than 100 groups, who have their sights set on what may happen from the 4th and already have more than 450 events scheduled for Wednesday.
In June, for example, Ankur Asthana and three other activists posted the guide online Hold the Line, a 55-page manual on how to act and organize in the event of three scenarios: Trump’s declaration of victory when the results are still unclear, that declaration arrive while there are signs of irregularities or manipulation or a refusal by the president to leave office even in case of defeat. More than 18,000 people have downloaded it and just last month the website was visited by more than 40,000 people, who are now familiar with those in power in each state, governors, legislators, prosecutors, state secretaries, county election commissioners. They are the people to whom they will have to appeal if Trump or the Republicans violate the process.
Individually, according to Asthana in a telephone interview, the four organizers had been following the citizen mobilizations after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police. But once Trump deployed the national guard in Washington against peaceful protesters to take a photo, they decided to come up with something more concrete about how to prepare, how to help connect people “in this moment of so much fear and darkness“.
The response has been energetic and Ashtana, who is 32 years old and usually works helping NGOs organize, believes that “they have had to do with the collective challenges that the US is facing, from questions of race even for the health and economic crisis coronavirus or climate emergency. Everything has put a clearer focus on the importance of having a voice in the elections, “he explains.” A movement is being built.
People like Reverend Lauren Grubaugh, 29, who has been studying the history and strategy of nonviolent struggle for three years and is participating in Colorado organizing and civil response efforts in these elections. “It is not just about being part of democracy but about making it stronger“he explains over the phone.
Nonviolent civil resistance
Another of the lines that differentiate this movement from others that have confronted Trump appears in their conversation, such as the women’s march that received him in Washington the day after he took office in 2017. “It is very important that he movement know that there are more options than the demonstration, “he says. “It is not just a matter of going to the street but of creating political and economic costs for those in power. “
His focus on providing citizens with “tools that can function as weapons in a war without weapons” is similar to that of other prominent activists who have also turned to training and preparation courses on the internet such as the sociologist George Lakey, who published in 1964 ‘A manual for direct action’, which was a reference book in the fight for civil rights. They move guided by the philosophy and the proven effective practice of non-violent civil resistance, capable of attracting or arousing sympathy to people who ideologically move away from extremes. And they have managed to start moving ideas like those of strikes O boycotts.
The reverend knows that “in the United States there is not much practice of doing this in an organized way” and regrets the lack of a historical and civic education that, for example, does not favor the simplistic narrative that summarizes struggles like that of Martin Luther King in their speeches instead of in their strategies. But she is “hopeful and grateful for living a powerful moment in which so many things can change.”