Hundreds of people turned out in Salem today to support immigrants and refugees and to protest Trump's anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies. By extension, this rally and others like it are especially important as a measuring stick for resistance to Trump's policies and as a means of measuring the depth and commitment of that resistance. This event was organized largely through social media and wasn't "owned" by anyone. It took place as local resistance to Trump's anti-immigrant policies is reaching a new stage. The rally organizers are to be commended and supported for their good work.
There will be another important rally tomorrow (Monday, President's Day) at the State Capitol at noon.
We heard from many people at the rally that they wished that there was one event rather than two. I hope that this was a matter of people not getting the word out early enough and well enough rather than a matter of political differences. I think that at this point that if a rally is not endorsed by Causa, PCUN and the stand-up Latino organizations around it and the broad coalition supporting Causa, labor and LGBTQIA+ rights then we need to work on unity and direction. Tomorrow's rally has that broad support.
There is certainly much work to be done, as today's rally and many of the speakers today pointed out. It was again great to hear Cara Kaser, DREAMers and others send hopeful messages about building at the base and taking political action. People in Salem who take this seriously need to turn out at the next City Council meeting (Monday, Feb. 27 at 6:00 PM) to support an immigrant rights agenda. Folks can join Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee (next meeting is March 8 at 6:00 PM at the First Congregational Church at 700 Marion St. NE), Causa, the NAACP or, if your drive and goals are socialist and leftist, our Oregon Socialist Renewal. What's important is that we organize, as Cara Kaser pointed out. Everyone should belong to something and be active. It was great to hear this message at the rally today.
Speaker after speaker took a positive line. There was much emphasis on what is good and right here in Salem and in the U.S. This is a good place to build from. The speakers were multigenerational, multiethnic and, for the most part, inspiring and good teachers. It was also great to see so many children present.
Where our movement stumbles and falls here are on our approach to slavery, our approach to Native Americans and what sometimes sounds like misplaced patriotism, or even nationalism. We were pretty far into the rally today before anyone mentioned African Americans and First Nations peoples. In all of the talk about immigrants and immigration from white people there was little or no acknowledgement of this land belonging rightfully to First Nations peoples and little or no acknowledgement of slavery. Indeed, the "we are all immigrants" line taken up by whites masks racism and settler-colonialism at some point.
It's hard hearing the narrative that the U.S. is exceptional and great and not hearing a narrative that is explicitly anti-racist and anti-imperialist and a narrative which connects anti-racism at home and anti-imperialism around the world. It's hard hearing Obama get a pass today, as if deportations have not been a problem over the past 8 years. It's hard hearing an attack on the Syrian regime and what was essentially a conservative analysis of the situation there. And it's hard not hearing more emphasis on immigrant women and women of color and working-class issues after the womens' march and at a moment when immigrant women, people of color and class struggle intersect. Teresa Alonso Leon's election was an all-peoples' victory; let's celebrate that and understand its context and mention her and the other brave immigrant women standing with her.
New people coming into the movement may not yet get the nuanced political approaches needed, the need to do short rallies when its pouring rain and cold, and the need to push people to take specific actions. They don't understand that the political left was the glue holding social movements together before a liberal establishment, union leaderships included, "NGOized" social movements. Still, people show up with signs, demands, passion and a desire to take meaningful action which often transcends what rally organizers call for and expect. Our vision of the left is one in which people---women, people of color, workers, youth, LGBTQIA+, immigrants and others--- come together to learn and to fight back with their passions and their own multiracial and feminist leadership in place.
Photos from Facebook posters.