Mainers Flock to Augusta to Learn How to Be Radical Together
RESIST protests maturing into a movement
Thursday, March 09, 2017 11:32 AM
People of all ages came from all corners of the state to Augusta on Sunday, March 5, to learn how to become effective political protesters.
Sing louder. They can’t hear you. Maine Resistance Summit organizers lead the audience, many of whom are baby boomers, in a peaceful protest song at the Augusta training. (Photo by C. Parrish)
The Maine Resistance Summit, a day-long training organized by the Maine People’s Alliance, attracted over 800 people, kicking off in the morning with a two-hour session on how to mobilize an effective political resistance and turn it into a strategic and organized movement that leads to policy change.
Sessions on how to use social media as an effective organizing tool, how to effectively go door-to-door to promote a cause or a campaign, how to write opinion letters that get published, and how to effectively lobby elected officials were among the many break-out sessions available in the afternoon.
Hilary Kahrl, 41, came to the Summit from Bath to make connections with other activists and to learn how to run for local office. Kahrl, a stay-at-home mother, said she calls her elected representatives three times a week.
“The interns who answer the phones know my voice, now,” she said.
“I found out how to use Facebook to organize and more about the mechanics of how a Facebook page works,” said Abby Sayen, 65, from South Paris. Sayen, a retired town administrator and former academic director at Colby College, attended the training with her lifelong friend, Allie Love, 65, of Brunswick. Both belong to Paris Resistance, a newly formed activist group made up of 14 friends.
Many of the attendees found out about the Maine Resistance Summit through Facebook.
Sayen said she found out how to use Facebook as a tool for raising money or to spread information about rapidly changing events. She also found out that Twitter is better for putting public pressure on politicians.
“I got good tips on how to structure an effective letter to the editor,” said Love. “Their advice was keep it short, get to the point, don’t get into statistics, and don’t repeat any arguments before you get to your point.”
“Our plan is to go back and share what we learned here with our Paris group,” said Love.
“One of the reasons that I think this movement is going to succeed is women,” said Sayen. “They are very involved and when women get pissed, they don’t give up.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree told Summit attendees that protests are making a difference. She urged Mainers to keep the pressure on at the state and federal levels.
“Dont let anyone tell you it isn’t making an impact,” said Pingree. “As difficult as these times are, with a person in the White House who doesn’t deserve to be there and Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, I think we are already having an impact.”
Pingree pointed to the January bill that would have weakened the ethics standards for government officials.
“That is when it was clear people were watching,” she said. “They jammed the phone lines and the result is that the bill never got heard.”
“Everywhere, there are more people showing up than anyone expected,” said Pingree, warning attendees to keep their eye on the budget process and target their responses to specific budget items.
More trainings are in the works for Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor, according to Jesse Graham, the executive director of the Maine People’s Alliance. The dates should be announced within the week, he said.
“We’ve also seen a lot of interest in Rockland and Belfast, so we are looking at holding a training there, too,” said Graham.