Beginning shortly after 10 a.m. this morning, as part of a campaign dubbed 100 Days of Action, members of the Colorado People's Alliance will be among those scheduled to show up in force at the local office of a U.S. senator, where they'll make it clear that putting out a statement critical of President Donald Trump's refugee ban isn't enough. (The senator's identity won't be announced until shortly before protesters arrive.)
"We're in a political climate where we can't just settle for representatives making a statement," says COPA community organizer Lupita Carrasquillo. "They have to take a stand. They have to choose a side and choose to put in as much effort as they can. People can say, 'They issued a statement about how wrong it is for XYZ to happen,' but statements aren't promises to act. Unless you make a promise of some sort, you can't really be held accountable for it. And we need to see accountability for those who represent us, now more than ever."
Events like this one will be happening regularly over the next three months or so. Presidential administrations are measured in part by how much they accomplish during a chief executive's first hundred days in office — and 100 Days of Action is intended to counter Trump's actions with equal and opposite resistance.
In addition, the project provides an opportunity for those who took part in the Women's March on Denver and other affiliated events across the country to build on the momentum they created in a meaningful and impactful way.
"I previously organized in Chicago," notes Carrasquillo, who's been working in Denver for the past five months, "and Chicago has a different culture of direct action than Colorado does. Colorado is, I would say, more mild. But we know the things that are happening in Chicago are also happening in Colorado. So it's like, how do we up the ante? How do we make people feel the same urgency that our immigrant and people-of-color communities feel every day? It's really about standing up and taking up the space and showing that collective resistance instead of saying, 'I marched that one time and it was great, but that's all I did.'"
The seeds of the 100 Days of Action campaign were planted late last year. "In December, some COPA organizers and a few of our members went to an organizers' conference with People's Action, which is our larger umbrella organization," Carrasquillo explains. "Some of our affiliates in other states had come up with plans for consistent action against all of the things we knew the Trump administration was going to be pushing. So we figured that instead of having one huge protest, we would have a series of events that would be multi-dimensional in terms of who it's targeting, whether we're targeting legislators or corporations or Donald Trump himself."
Just as important is the chance to connect with other organizations instead of competing with them.
"We're part of the nonprofit industrial complex, where we're constantly battling each other for headlines and funders and resources and things like that," Carrasquillo says. "But we have to be more united. It's not about whose name is at the top of the press release; it's about what's being won for our community."
Most People's Action events across the country are scheduled for Tuesdays (hashtag: #ResistTrumpTuesdays), but COPA chose Wednesdays because that day worked out better for its membership, Carrasquillo says. As soon as Trump was sworn in, the action began on a slew of fronts.
For instance, COPA is supporting two bills before the state legislature associated with the I Drive Colorado campaign, which is about making it easier for immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.
According to Carrasquillo, "There's a correlation between not having a driver's license and being criminalized as an immigrant. If you're an immigrant and you don't have a driver's license and you're driving your kids to school and get pulled over, right away you're criminalized — and then you're much more at risk based on the newest executive orders to be targeted for detention or deportation."
Another ongoing effort involves trying to win union rights for immigrant workers at Denver International Airport; click to access a petition on the subject. "Everyone who works at the airport, they're suffering from some level of negligence in the workplace," Carrasquillo maintains. "Thousands of people go through the airport every day, and people with families make that possible. At COPA, we're working hard to change the narrative that workers are just bodies or tools that serve a purpose. They're human beings."
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Today's rally and protest represents even more direct action, but Carrasquillo hopes it may also start a conversation.
"We know the senator won't be there, but we'll be talking to their staff and asking for a meeting and some accountability," she says. "When you go to political officials and say you need a meeting, sometimes they'll tell you, 'We're busy,' or they'll talk to you about the schedule and all this other stuff. But the communities we're working with have a really intense sense of urgency, which is why we're going directly to them and giving them the opportunity to have a dialogue about the issue of immigration, and also to build that relationship. Even if we don't agree with the actions, or lack of actions, from our target, we're definitely open to having a dialogue, since our lives depend on it."
The 100 Days of Action events page will be updated regularly over the course of the next few months, and Carrasquillo says some actions may come up suddenly depending on Trump moves. But, she emphasizes, "We're trying to have as much of a coordinated effort as possible to make sure we're being strategic and not solely reactionary. The things you see every time there's an executive order signed — the protests, the people coming out — all of those things are reactions. They're also extremely meaningful and very justified; I'm not one of those people who thinks that protest isn't effective. But we should have the balance of a strategy that's long-term — to not just say 'We're mad,' but to say 'We need to change this stuff, and this is how to do it.'"