Tonight I attended an inspiring panel discussion about activism in Los Angeles, presented by the Hammer Museum. The event location was changed from the Hammer Museum courtyard to Royce Hall at UCLA due to 2000 RSVPs on the Facebook event. I would estimate around 1500 attended, which was a really impressive turnout for a Monday night without any celebrity panelists when it potentially could have rained (rain rendering most Angelenos immobile ;).
This was the lineup...
Jessica Yellin, former chief White House correspondent, CNN
Devon Carbado - UCLA Law Professor
Susan Dunlap - President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles
Lorri L. Jean - CEO, Los Angeles LGBT Center
Angelica Salas - Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Hector Villagra - Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California
Villagra spoke about the ACLU's work in the courts regarding Trump's executive order / Muslim ban (he said we should not be calling it "travel restriction" and we should call out the media when they do that). Although Trump said only about 100 people were impacted, Villagra said they were aware of 721 people detained at airports on the first day alone, along with 60,000 visas that were revoked. When asked if he thought the court order would be overturned, Villagra said he didn't think so and he pointed out that Trump has talked about a muslim ban on the record many times - on TV and radio - and that anything he said would be admissible as evidence of his true intentions. Villagra also mentioned that Mayor Garcetti has not officially declared LA to be a sanctuary city and has so far declined requests to meet with Villagra and Salas on the issue - meanwhile Garcetti has allegedly met with Trump three times. There's an ACLU app and a website about volunteering.
Salas said her group has been busy dealing with a shocked and terrified community and the impact of Trump's three swift executive orders on immigration. She spoke of the importance of SB54 needing to be passed - a bill that would make California a Sanctuary State. When asked about Trump's threats to pull federal funds from California if this bills passes, she said that he undervalues the weight of California being the most populous state and the rest of the country's dependence on tax money from California. She said 50% of Californians are immigrants or the children of immigrants. CHIRLA is now offering free legal services and encouraging people to apply for citizenship. They need volunteers to help at their citizenship clinics, as they are getting many inquiries.
Carbado was an excellent speaker and often critical of progressives. He spoke about how progressives fail to engage on a host of racial issues that were pre-Trump. He wants us to talk about voter suppression, not voter fraud. Since the 2013 repeal of part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, certain states that have special conditions where they needed to pre-clear changes in their voting machines with the Department of Justice no longer have to do so, and voter suppression has occurred in 8 of those 15 states. He talked about state bills that are being discussed that will limit our right to protest, including a North Dakota bill that says it's OK to hit a protestor with your car if the protestor is in the road! In speaking about the Supreme Court, he said the Right has Roe Vs Wade as a galvanizing issue, but the Left really has nothing. The Right has more positive-sounding terms like "Pro Life", "Border Security", and "Right to Work" which seem easier to get behind. We need to figure out an issue and organize around it. He pointed out problems with Goresuch's judicial philosophy but said he didn't think any other Trump nominee would be better, referring to the list as "a parade of horribles." Carbado downplayed the idea of social media being useless since most of us are in "bubbles" - "Preaching to the choir isn't a bad thing. The choir doesn't get together to practice enough. Some members are off key."
Jean talked about a March 2 orientation meeting happening at the LGBT center and the "100 Days and Me" action plan outlined on their website, where they will be communicating actions related to LGBT causes as well as other issues. Jean said social media is a definite tool to use, but we also need to get off our phones and couches and be active. When we hear a lie, we need to call it out as a lie. As for going beyond social media, she talked about the "coming out" movement among LGBT folks and how we can learn from it - personal, face to face conversations can forge connections and greater understanding.
Dunlap stated that 30% of all Planned Parenthood visits take place in California. With proposed defunding of Medicare, that's 1.5 million patient visits lost for low income women seeking health screenings. She told a story about a woman who flew from Florida to get an abortion in California because she was worried about people in her town finding out. She encouraged the audience to approach people with empathy and gentleness and look for common ground. She lamented that Washington democratic leadership doesn't seem to be coming up with a plan to mobilize all those who want to be involved, so we'll need to forge our path, and there are many ways to contribute.
All the speakers felt they had not seen so many people who want to be engaged and active ever before. They recommended reading The Indivisible Guide to find ways to get active.
Many questions from the audience were taken. I didn't stay for all of them because as usual at these kinds of events, people were using their thirty seconds to sound off on their pet issues or plug their websites/foundations/charities.
Watch the full video of the panel discussion.