Augusta Free Press

Virginia progressive leaders reflect on the community organizing that defined 2017

On Tuesday, Virginians gathered across the state to hear leaders discuss the status of the progressive movement after the first year of the Trump administration at the “State of the Resistance” event. The event, which took place in Arlington and was live streamed across Virginia, highlighted impacted communities who united and took action to protect their rights, their democracy and their planet in 2017.

Panelists included Terence ”TC” Muhammad from the Hip Hop Caucus, Djawa Hall, from the Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, Claudia Cubas from the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Amy Hjerstedt from the League of Women Voters, Maya Castillo from New Virginia Majority, Laura Mayock from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia and Hurunnessa Fariad from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center.

“The work this past year has been relentless and sometimes draining; but as this event and others like it from around the country demonstrate, people are full of hope, optimism, and passion,” Amy Hjerstedt, Board Director with the League of Women Voters, said. “They are committed to challenging unfair laws, discrimination, and bringing new people into the sphere of influence. As history has shown us repeatedly, people rise to the occasion, and when they do, they disrupt what is unfair and they bring new ideas for reform.”

The discussion profiled moments that defined the progressive movement in 2017, including protests and rallies, marches, legal battles and communities organizing themselves by building local coalitions. The panelists represented groups organizing for climate justice, voting rights, women’s equality, civil rights, labor and immigrant rights.

Over 80 people filled the room at the main event in Arlington, with more joining at watch parties in Richmond and Norfolk and online statewide via webinar. The panelists shared some of the strategies being applied to defend decades of progress and what key battles are expected in 2018.

“Virginians showed up big to resist the Trump Administration attacks on the air we breathe, the water we drink and the way we live our lives,” Kelsey Crane, Conservation Program Coordinator with Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, said. “Virginia’s commitments to climate progress, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and capping carbon pollution helped stave off the worst effects of the Trump Administration’s climate denial. Donald Trump’s attacks on the power and funding of the Environmental Protection Agency continue to put Virginians health at risk.”

Virginians were the epicenter of pivotal resistance moments in 2017, showing up big at mass demonstrations like the Women’s March and the People’s Climate March. Virginians fought to keep families together and stood up to violent racism and white nationalism in Charlottesville. 2017 ended for the commonwealth with a historic election that saw the first Asian-American women, the first Latina women, the first openly gay woman and the first openly transgender woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.