'Messy, Disruptive, Loud' : South Floridans Get Training on Resistance And Protest

Mar 13, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  kicked off a national strategy to give citizens and local governments tools to counter what the organization sees as “unfair policies coming from the Trump administration.”

“Messy. Disruptive. Loud. That’s what democracy looks like,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, at an event held Saturday evening at the Watsco Center of the University of Miami. 

The ACLU called the event a “resistance training” to launch their new online platform, called “People Power.” The tool acts as a community database to help citizens mobilize. 

A group of people hold up signs during a meeting called "The Resistance Training" hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Coral Gables, Fla.
Credit Associated Press

“We need you to be protagonists in this struggle, we’ll do the work in the courts. You do the work in the streets,” Romero said. “Our rights the Freedom of Speech, the Freedom of Protests, the Freedom to Petition One’s Government, those are not just rights, in the Trump era those are obligations.”

The project gives its members access to nine “model” ordinances which aim to create “freedom cities,” or cities that are friendlier to immigrants.

One ordinance encourages cities and counties to use their right to leave detention and deportation matters up to the federal government.

Kirk Bailey, the executive director of the ACLU in Florida, said local law enforcement is usually under local jurisdiction.

“The federal government has a more stand-offish role when it comes to local law enforcement and so it’s an interesting way for us to sort of push policy in a place where they can actually make policy,” Bailey said.

But last month, the Miami-Dade County commission voted to support the decision of Mayor Gimenez to comply with federal detention requests - steering it away from what the ACLU might call a “freedom city.”

Bailey says that’s one of the reasons the ACLU chose to announce this campaign in Miami.

“The explicit desire to say that we here in this community are not a sanctuary, it seemed to me beyond the line,” Bailey said.

At the event, hundreds of attendees held large posters displaying an issue they are passionate about.

"We're not to be used for your own political gain. We're not here for you to look better. We're here for ourselves" - Ashley Dunbar

Ashley Dunbar, a public defender in Orlando, took some time off from her vacation in Miami this weekend to stand for Black rights at the ACLU event. Her poster said: “I am not your negro.”

“We’re not to be used for your own political gain. We’re not here for you to look better. We’re here for ourselves,” Dunbar said.

Chezare Palacios was also at the event. He said as a gay man, he identifies with the whole LGBTQ community, and he was frightened to see a rollback of President Obama’s protection of Transgender rights.

“It’s important that all of the groups that are feeling oppressed stand together and stand up against somebody who’s rhetoric so clearly is trying to hold us all down,” Palacios said. “I think it speaks volumes as to the fact of ignoring their existence.”

His last protest was in Mar-a-Lago. He says he wants to learn more about his rights for future protests.

On stage, attorneys gave advice on how to protest peacefully.

Lee Rowland is a free speech attorney at the ACLU. She talked about where to protest.

“Streets. Sidewalks. And Parks,” Rowland said.“Number one, anything you can - record. You have the right to photograph anything in public view if you are lawfully present.”

Andre Segura, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project attorney explained what to do if ICE agents show up at your door.

“Basically they need to have a judicial warrant. Which is what we should all know. ‘Do you have a warrant?’ Okay, if you don’t, please leave the materials and don’t open the door,” Segura said.

One of the featured speakers was Padma Lakshmi, star and executive producer of the TV show, “Top Chef.”

She gave an emotional testimony against hate speech.

“I don’t have to Muslim or Mexican to be offended by what’s happening. As Americans, we should all be offended we shouldn’t have to walk in someone else’s shoes to see that those shoes must really hurt and hurt terribly,” Lakshmi said.

L.A.-based musical artist “MILCK” ended the night with her song “Quiet,” and was joined by the Master Chorale of South Florida.

Her pop-up performance at the Women’s March, back in January, went viral.

The ACLU says there were more than 2,000 gatherings across the country, livestreaming the event.