Durham, N.C. – Since the election of Donald Trump as president, activists across the country have been experimenting with various forms of resistance and power-building. As millions of women and their supporters marched on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C., across the country and the world, tens of thousands demonstrated in cities across North Carolina to protest the administration’s far-right program.
Mass protests coast-to-coast denounced Trump’s Muslim ban, including at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Tens of thousands of immigrant workers refused to go to work on Feb. 16, “A Day Without Immigrants,” including in this state.
Additionally, some 3,000 people earlier demonstrated against the Ku Klux Klan’s pro-Trump, so-called “victory kavalcade” on Dec. 3 in North Carolina.
A broad formation of grass-roots organizations has come together in North Carolina to build a People’s Assembly, pulling together many of the local struggles for Black, immigrant, Muslim, worker, women’s, LGBTQ, environmental and electoral rights. The assembly seeks to turn spontaneous actions into sustained organizing.
Over 100 people converged Feb. 25 at the third People’s Assembly since November in Durham. They came from throughout North Carolina’s Triangle region, including from Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Organizers seek to develop the People’s Assembly as the frontline of resistance, uniting all forces in local communities, schools and workplaces, and engaging newly active people.
Coming on the heels of the Day Without Immigrants, the assembly’s opening panel featured organizations which mobilize with undocumented workers, mostly Latinxs. These included Comité Popular Somos Raleigh and Alerta Migratoria NC from Durham. Organizers opened up with this struggle to allow participating workers to draw out lessons of this important strike, including how it relates to the Black freedom struggle, Trump’s attacks on Muslims, the capitalist economy and all people’s movements.
Since the November election, police and state troopers in Durham have killed three Black men: 24-year-old Kenneth “Simba” Bailey Jr.; 34-year-old Frank “Scooter Bug” Clark; and 31-year-old Willard Eugene Scott Jr. The People’s Assembly will work with many forces to help organize future actions against police terror.
To continue developing mutual fightback plans, the assembly works to pull together activists from four key areas of struggle. These include those organizing around Black Lives Matter, police violence and prisons; immigrant rights; Islamophobia, repression against refugees and anti-war issues; and workers’ rights, unionization and the Fight for $15.
At the assembly, participants broke down into these four areas and were encouraged to discuss how they could “go deeper” and reach out and build bases. They were asked to identify strategic workplaces, communities and schools where the movement should focus attention.
One example concerns a historically Black neighborhood in Durham, known as Lakewood. Due to recent gentrification, a lot of middle-income white people have moved into the area. The new residents are monitoring Emerald City, a Black-owned bar and community center, to document evidence of alleged wrongdoing in order to have the city shut it down. Assembly participants discussed building a presence in Lakewood as an act of solidarity with the Black community.
Build mass action on May Day!
Coming off the momentum from the Day Without Immigrants and hearing calls for a National General Strike — a day with no work, no school and no shopping — assembly participants discussed plans for local mass actions on May Day, International Workers Day. High school students discussed the potential for walkouts on May 1; workers took up the possibility of calling in sick to work.
Teachers with Organize2020 and the NC Educators Association announced plans to have morning “walk-in” rallies at flagpoles in front of their schools before the facilities opened in order to engage students, education workers and the community.
In fact, Chapel Hill schools have recently announced an optional teacher workday on March 8, International Women’s Day, because so many teachers have announced they will not be at work that day. Other actions are being planned in the state to honor women’s struggles on that historic date.
These are stepping stones to bigger, broader actions on May Day. Others encouraged plans to disrupt business as usual.
May Day originated in 1886, when workers, mostly immigrants, staged massive protests to win the 8-hour workday. In 2006, a massive countrywide strike by immigrant workers showed the potential for May Day this year.
There are many critical struggles going on now at the local, national and international levels. This year, May Day will show how people’s power can be harnessed to shut down the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-worker system and build a new society.