The day after the 2016 election, Suz Lipman went to a candlelight vigil in Mill Valley, California. “I wanted to fight back,” she said. Surrounded by neighbors, friends and strangers, she saw the people in her town expressing fear, sorrow, disdain, outrage and rebellion at the election’s outcome. Mill Valley is in Marin County, which voted 77% for Hillary Clinton, and has arguably the best educated population in the nation, according to its Congressman Jared Huffman.
Over the next few years, there will be a lot of fighting. The good news I can offer is we should, if we stand together, be able to defeat a lot of this. It takes good old-fashioned activism,” Huffman said.
At the vigil, Lipman met Bernard Catellanato and June Cooperman, and they agreed to talk more to figure out what they wanted to do. On November 25, they hosted a meeting and 40 people showed up.
That day, they formed eight working committees, focusing on communication and outreach, electoral, educational, environmental issues, civil rights/immigration, health care, Trump resistance and women’s rights. They named the group the Mill Valley Citizens Action Network and put up a Facebook page, where they issued a call out to the community.
On December 19, Congressman Huffman held a town hall meeting in San Rafael, and MVCAN passed out flyers. “This is the fight of your life. Don’t sit on the sidelines,” the flyer read, announcing its next meeting at the Mill Valley Community Center on January 8, 2017. On the evening of January 8, as a torrential downpour flooded the Bay Area and the power went out in the Mill Valley Community Center, 140 people showed up — illuminated by candlelight and flashlights — to organize efforts to resist Donald Trump’s administration.
“People must find strength together, in numbers. We must amplify our voices. We in Congress will be on defense, while looking for opportunities.”
Before the end of day that Sunday, the group’s Facebook page had posted a playbook on influencing Senate confirmation hearings, along with the telephone numbers of Senate committee chairs and a script template for callers. They also posted the Indivisible Guide, A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda, and began phoning and emailing senators and members of Congress about the Trump cabinet nominee confirmation hearings and proposed plans to gut the Affordable Care Act.
Led by their Health Care Committee, MVCAN members joined the rally in support of the Affordable Care Act that drew more than 5,000 people to San Francisco’s City Hall on January 15. On January 16, members joined in the Marin City celebration of Martin Luther King Day, where Congressman Huffman addressed the biggest crowd he said he’d ever seen at the annual event, urging those in attendance to: keep to the high road, keep their eyes on the prize and keep on fighting.
As of January 18, MVCAN members numbered 250 and had already hired two busses and a private ferry to carry people to the January 21 Women’s March in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, other new and already established social justice, community action, and other grassroots organizations had begun coordinating too. Around Marin County, more than 20 separate organizations active in Hispanic, Black, environmental, health care, and social justice advocacy had increased their cooperative ventures. The Marin Peace and Justice Coalition meeting, for example, now included members of the Marin MoveOn Coalition; Bridges Not Walls and the Canal Alliance joined with the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, which resulted in a message from Valerie Pitts, the district’s superintendent, to the full district.
“In the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, we serve ALL children and we fully embrace the diversity of our students and families. This will not change despite recent national discussions regarding immigration,” Pitts said in her email.
Sustainable Fairfax, Sustainable San Rafael, and Sustainable Marin all agree that it’s up to cities and towns to curb climate change and build sustainable communities with environmental balance, economic vitality and social equity.
350Marin.org is a completely youth-led group, with the goal of taking action on climate change. The Marin City Dr. Martin Luther King Coalition is a collective of groups advocating for health, education, local governance, and housing issues affecting Marin City. The Canal Alliance works for immigrant families against overcome poverty and injustice.
Pro-active, educated and environmentally conscious, Marin County had already established a County Climate Action Plan, in part because rising seas have already begun inundating parts of the three highways — Highways 1, 37 and 101 — leading into and out of the county during heavy rain storms. The Marin County plan calls for a reduction of emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by the year 2020. Marin’s position is consistent with the state of California’s goals. In 2016 Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law requiring the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Certainly California has the economic, political and cultural clout to withstand a lengthy war from a hostile administration and a GOP-led Congress. But the conflict must not be underestimated. “You can’t overstate how bad this will be,” said Congressman Huffman. “We will see the most aggressive, backward agenda, promoted relentlessly and ruthlessly. We have to move the needle of public opinion [in the right direction].”
“The support in rural communities and elsewhere for Planned Parenthood is really important, Huffman pointed out. “And remember, the whole world is watching. If the Republicans take away these very important health care gains, then they are responsible for what happens next.”
“With respect to sanctuary cities, which the attorney general nominee has threatened, it is very important that local elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders get together and start talking about this right now. We don’t want to return to the days of the Bush administration, when local law enforcement agencies were being pressured into being immigration enforcement officers.”
“With respect to the Supreme Court, the best case is that we return to the 5-4 balance we had under Scalia. But the worst case is that the new administration may get one or two additional appointments.”
Huffman’s immense district runs from the Oregon border to San Francisco Bay, comprising nearly 14,000 square miles. He represents about 750,000 people — an eclectic mix of urbanites, farmers, ranchers, wine-grape growers and marijuana growers, salmon fishermen and Indian nations, colleges and communes — yet there is widespread agreement on issues throughout the district regarding social justice, health care, immigrants’ rights, jobs, education, environment and women’s rights.
In Marin County, it’s game on.
– Martha Ture