Meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s state director: Event recap

Original event link.

  • We successfully brought a prestigious member of Congress staffer to the East Bay.
  • We got him to commit to Sen. Feinstein holding a town hall during the next recess period!
    • “It would be the week of April 17th. She made the commitment, she will hold to the commitment, and we’ll figure out where and when it’s going to be—and it might not just be one, we’ll see.”
  • We gave dozens of people the opportunity to voice their concerns to someone with the ear of a Senator. Watch this video clip to get a glimpse of how it went down!

 

Over 100 people came to our meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director at the Berkeley Public Library on Friday. Sean went over the best ways for us to communicate with his office and then we had some in-depth discussions about the budget, the supreme court, immigration, the Russia investigations, education, and more. Several of our members shared personal stories about what they stood to lose under the AHCA, and the whole room cheered when someone announced the news that the Republicans had just withdrawn the bill. Sean also confirmed that Sen. Feinstein has committed to hold a town hall in April (and hinted at more). And at the end of the meeting, he said, “Let’s do this again.” And we will!

So goes the East Bay, so goes the country

I wasn’t an activist when I arrived at Barbara Lee’s town hall meeting last Saturday. I’d RSVP’d to attend a day or two before the event, disgusted at the antics of Congress over the AHCA, hoping that I’d find some way to plug into the movement I can feel coalescing around me.
Indivisible East Bay did an amazing job of putting together the event. The energy was infectious. It was more than just the failure of the Dickensian “replacement” for the ACA, though we pulled strength from that victory. Our voices and applause filled the gym at Laney College. We knew we were part of something, and many of us, like me, were there for the first time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and our numbers are growing. We have to, as Barbara Lee said, “stay woke, work hard and resist.” She praised us for fighting, graciously handing the credit to the people—but it was Barbara Lee who took the time to return to Oakland and speak to us before flying back to Washington to continue the fight. We can do no less than have her back. As she said, “So goes the East Bay, so goes the country.”
The speakers were as diverse as Oakland. Mayor Libby Schaaf started us off and introduced Barbara Lee. She was followed by Rabi’a Keeble of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque, Paul Chavez, Esq. of Centro Legal de la Raza, Andreas Cluver of the Alameda Bulding and Trades Council, Dong Suh of Asian Health Services, and Madihha Ahussain of Muslim Advocates. It was a real slice of the Oakland I live in every day and it was very good to see.
The four breakout sessions were timely and diverse. I chose the Road Map for 2018 House Races, team facilitated by Andrea MacRae of the Sister District Project and Lucia Nunez of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They gave us a quick synopsis of what makes a district flippable, and how to identify them. They also discussed how the work of networking and cooperating between organizations is best accomplished and what the organizations they are working with are doing. It was very informative and I left feeling empowered, and ready to get to work. Other sessions included How to be an Immigration Advocate; Know Your Rights – How to Protest Safely; and How to Run for Office. If they were as well organized and presented as the one I attended, this town hall meeting was time well spent. I am looking forward to Barbara Lee’s next town hall, which she says will happen sometime in June.
I may not have come to this event an activist, but I feel I’ve gained valuable tools for the work that lies ahead. As a matter of fact, I ended up joining Indivisible East Bay because if they can put something like this together so soon after forming, then I want to learn and grow with them.

New Member Meeting: “I could see that spark”

While reading an article in the Guardian entitled “Protest and Persist: Why Giving up Hope is Not an Option,” by Rebecca Solnit, my thoughts drifted back to a recent meeting of Indivisible East Bay that I attended on March 12. We met in a Berkeley Sports Basement community room bulging with folding chairs. It was a new member gathering, and the room was so packed that by the time the meeting started, it was standing room only. I was hopeful and excited to see so many people poised for resistance. The faces around me looked energized, nervous and ready for action. It was exhilarating to be a part of this massive group of would-be-activists, all here because they care and want to see progressive change.

About 5 minutes into the meeting, one of the organizers asked us an unexpected question, “How many people feel like we can make a difference?” A little more than half of the hands in the room shot up. He continued, “and how many people feel hopeless?” The rest of us raised our hands tentatively. I looked up at my own hand as if it had betrayed me. I felt ashamed that part of me had given up so easily. Two months earlier, at the Women’s March, I was alive with a spark of righteous anger. Those who marched with me were similarly engaged and passionate. And we knew that we could win, must win, against the threat of Donald Trump and all that he represents. But since then, that drive to combat Trump has begun to wane into despair. New activists are slumping against the daily onslaught of bigoted and dangerous policies. And we are losing the one thing that has elevated the spirit of so many people in the past and has empowered them to resist: hope.

We need to have something to cling to in the midst of such turmoil and political tyranny.

Hope is that light in the darkness. Solnit gives us these poignant thoughts on the concept of hope, stating that it divorces us from the “false certainties of optimism and of pessimism, and the complacency or passivity that goes with both.” With the future as an unknown, we are no longer mired in the dread of doomsday certainty. We free ourselves to act, because “the future is unpredictable, but we may be able to write it ourselves.” We must be free to act, and we must act, now.

In this political climate, the future feels unknown, and even terrifying. Solnit gives us a way of looking at the past which energizes the future. We may not win each and every battle. Solnit writes about previous political struggles, both the successes and failures. She cites LA Kauffman’s Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, about the Clamshell Alliance of 1976, which failed to stop a nuclear power plant from being built in New Hampshire. While this specific attempt failed to achieve its intended goal, the Clamshell Alliance eventually “inspired people around the country to organize their own nuclear groups.” These groups led to the “cancellation of more than 100 planned nuclear projects…and changed public opinion about nuclear power.” Further, according to Kauffman, this “failure” became the “dominant model for large-scale direct-action organizing for the next 40 years.” The activists involved in the Clamshell Alliance likely felt overwhelmed and defeated, but their endeavors created a lasting legacy of change.

Solnit states that “newcomers often think that results are either immediate, or they’re non-existent. That if you don’t succeed right away, you failed.” By looking to history, we can see that some of the greatest changes happen gradually, over time.

Further, change is a catalyst that has an endless ability to inspire and duplicate itself. Gandhi wrote that, “Ideas are contagious, emotions are contagious, hope is contagious, courage is contagious.” Solnit reminds us that Gandhi was originally inspired by British Suffragettes in 1906, who fought for the right to vote. Gandhi’s political organizing inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in the American south. Dr. King in turn influenced John Lewis, who is fighting the Trump regime today. This path of resistance by these famous men and women led us to today. Regardless of the individual outcomes of each political struggle, the seeds of change are sown. Their courage and perseverance are in our DNA. We have inherited the rich history of peaceful protest, and we must transmit these actions into the future, for all of the activists yet to come.

Standing in the community room of the Sports Basement, I was filled with hope again. New members and organizers alike shared ideas and strategies. We planned, with our diverse ideas coming together. And I could see that spark, that deep yearning for change, in each and every person there. Looking around the room, I knew that this same thing was happening all over the country. People are gathering. They are gathering in our community, across the state, and around the country. We are gathering in the streets with the ghosts of Gandhi, MLK, and the suffragettes all by our sides. Their resistance gave birth to demands for social justice, and eventually, to change. So we have every reason to hope. We are the next generation of activists and political resistors, and our story doesn’t end here.        

Meeting with Rep. DeSaulnier’s office – went beautifully!

On March 17th three members from Indivisible CA 11 United – a coalition of Indivisible groups from Congressional District 11 – met with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier’s main campaign staff. The primary purpose was to build a relationship with Rebecca Barrett, learn about DeSaulnier’s stance on a variety of issues and to learn about his plans for his upcoming recess and how Indivisible can help. At this meeting we learned that Congressman DeSaulnier is considering holding a large conference called Resistance Assistance with breakouts on a weekend in late April to assist activists with some tangible tools and capacity building opportunities.This event has not been confirmed – but we ensured that Indivisible supports the event and will assist in any way that we can. His district staff will also be holding traditional Town Halls during his recess. We made it clear that we expect better targeted outreach toward low-income and people of color and provided many recommendations for how that can happen. Ms. Barrett will share our recommendations with the district staff. Finally, we expressed our deep concern regarding the Sheriff’s contract with ICE and urge the Congressman to take a stronger public stance against the Sheriff. Ms. Barrett assured us that he stands with us and recommends mobilizing our constituents to write letters to the editor and focus on the moderates in Contra Costa County urging them to support SB 54. The moderates that we plan to target are: Tim Grayson (Concord), Steve Glazer (Orinda) and Jim Frasier (District 11 – Brentwood/Antioch)

The general consensus as we closed the meeting is that we are all excited to foster these relationships and that the partnership is just beginning. DeSaulnier loves Indivisible! – Rebecca Barrett

Our next meeting is April 19th from 7-9pm, location TBD
For more information or to stay connected contact Kristen indivisiblerichmondca@gmail.com

Sen. Feinstein Empty Chair Town Hall Follow-Up (Spoiler: It was a success!)

Thank you to everyone who came, volunteered, sent us their ideas and feedback, and supported us in ways big and small. Not only was the event a success in and of itself, it was a reminder of how strong and positive the IndivisibleEB community is.

Rep. Barbara Lee Meeting: Making Ourselves Heard

At the February 18th Town Hall meeting with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13), she answered many questions that were written by IndivisibleEB. Rep. Lee responded to our questions about defending the ACA, preventing Democrats from compromising on fighting its repeal, saving nutritional standards for school lunches, working toward single payer health insurance, preventing the National Guard from becoming a deportation force, and what it would take for her to support impeachment.

Why were our concerns so clear? Because we made it easy for attendees to ask the questions we cared about. CA-13 organizer Ben met with members the night before to craft questions for the event. The next day he arrived an hour before the event to pass out 50 copies of the question sheets to IndivisibleEB members and other enthusiastic attendees.

By the time the doors opened and event staff distributed question cards, enthusiastic attendees were ready to fill out their cards with pre-written, compelling questions. An estimated 1,000 people attended the Town Hall meeting. Our voice came through loud and clear thanks to our well-prepared question-scribbling members and allies.

Working together makes a difference. Don’t believe it? Just go watch the tape!

IEB outreach: Inclusivity = success

Outreach is working on forming partnerships with local organization, especially focused on groups supporting marginalized peoples. We have a number of leads in Oakland, but are struggling to find such groups in other areas like CA-11 and 15. Please fill out this spreadsheet with information about groups that you know about and if you can volunteer to speak on behalf of IEB with these groups as a Coalition Builder.

Rep. Lee visit: A perfect illustration of what IEB is

On February 9th, IEB members and members of Indivisible Lake Merritt met with Joshua Quigley, Barbara Lee’s District Director, during a regularly scheduled office hours session at the Alameda city library. More people showed up to the office hours in Alameda than ever before. Joshua told IEB attendees that Lee’s number one priority at this time is to resist the Trump administration’s agenda in any way that she can and that the efforts of activists throughout the country have already stalled the pace of planned executive and legislative actions. The continued pressure of protestors, callers, and constituents is essential according to Joshua.

This past week Lee herself has also been active in using her power to represent the wishes of her constituents this week. She is investigating legal remedies to remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council and released public statements in opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. Lee also sits on the house appropriations and budget committees, both of which currently have the ACA repeal and the ACA replace bills before them. Calls to Lee this week should be to ask her what she is doing to protect the immigrant communities in CA-13 from recent ICE actions, to urge her to influence the budget and appropriations deliberations on the ACA in any way that she can, and to thank her for her public and unequivocal opposition to many of the Trump nominees and legislative agendas proposed thus far.

Blog post: A different kind of call and an impassioned letter to Sen. Feinstein

A big part of the Indivisible playbook for holding our elected officials accountable is appearing at public events and asking questions. And the congressional recess period, when our Members of Congress come back to their states and districts, is coming up. During this time our Members of Congress are supposed to meet with their constituents, that is, if they’re doing their job.

Unfortunately, Senator Feinstein does not normally attend town-hall style meetings where she takes open-ended questions from her constituents. That may change this year, thanks to Indivisible East Bay leader Amelia Cass. Cass drafted a letter asking Senator Feinstein to participate in a town hall on February 26 in Oakland. To support the request, Cass not only found a venue for a town hall event, but also collected endorsements from local Indivisible chapters and other local groups representing nearly 15,000 members in the Bay Area. There’s no guarantee that Senator Feinstein will agree, however. You can do your part to help make this idea a reality by calling Senator Feinstein’s office this week (here’s a link to our daily call page), mentioning the letter and making a direct request that Senator Feinstein appear at the event.

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