New Group Rouses Activism

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As a high school senior in 1967, Jackie Parker marched on Main Beach against the war in Vietnam. Since then, the 57-year Laguna Beach resident hasn’t engaged in anything more political than casting her ballot in elections.

That changed in January when she joined a resistance march in Santa Ana, one of at least 600 women’s marches across the country and many more in capitals around the globe.

At the inaugural huddle of Laguna Unites, members self-select tables with talking points about issues and convey their concerns via post cards to elected representatives. Photo courtesy of Tad Heitmann.
At the inaugural huddle of Laguna Unites, members self-select tables with talking points about issues and convey their concerns via post cards to elected representatives.
Photo courtesy of Tad Heitmann.

“It felt so great; I could do something positive,” said Parker, who in the weeks that followed redirected her new-found enthusiasm to a grass-roots “huddles” meeting in Laguna Hills even as her partner sat in on ones in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

The fledgling huddles sprang from an advocacy playbook distributed online to participants in the women’s marches, whose organizers urged women to continue to stand up for their values by joining activist communities and expressing their views to elected officials. It’s an outgrowth of the resistance movement and the 5,800 local groups that have registered at IndivisibleGuide.com, agreeing “to resist Trump’s agenda, focus on local, defensive congressional advocacy and embrace progressive values,” the website says. Locally, members of Indivisible OC 48 organized protests at the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, whose local district stretches from Seal Beach to Laguna Beach, seeking town hall meetings.

“Let’s do one here,” Parker said she decided with a few co-organizers who included Tad and Susan Heitmann. They tapped a list of those who showed interest in the Jan. 21 women’s march. Parker expressed surprise when more than 100 people showed up last month at Laguna Unites’ first huddle, where participants learned about online advocacy tools, how to navigate and research websites, and wrote about the issues dearest to them on post cards pre-addressed to elected officials.

“Huddle sounds warm and fuzzy; these women mean business,” said local resident Janine Robinson, who attended the inaugural huddle at the Woman’s Club and a subsequent meeting this week that focused on climate change.

“It was comforting to be around other savvy, pissed off women,” said Robinson, a professional writing coach.

Laguna Unites joins ranks with the local Democratic Club as sponsors of a Main Beach rally calling for President Trump to release his tax returns at noon Saturday, April 15. At Tuesday’s huddle members also learned of other upcoming regional “actions,” marches supporting science and climate action. The speaker, UC Irvine Professor Kathleen Treseder, forecast sea rise of up to six feet that will inundate the north coast of Orange County in 80 years if climate change continues. More heat waves and wildfires will also result, she predicted.

“People need to act on it; it’s a serious issue,” said Treseder, citing a Yale survey of the 48th Congressional District showing 75 percent of residents support regulation of climate-warming greenhouse gases. That consensus contrasts with Rohrabacher’s pro-environment voting record of .7 percent, she said, citing PoliticsThatWork.com, a website that compiles voting records and policy statistics.

Anne Johnson, a veteran at managing campaigns for Laguna Beach candidates, said she was impressed by the organization of Laguna Unites and its apparent outreach beyond the town’s established progressive organizations. “For me, this group was a lot of new faces. None of the usual gang was at the meeting,” said Johnson, a longtime city planning commission member. “My concern is will it grow and stay effective ‘til the next election next year?”

Kristy Melita isn’t sure of the effectiveness of Laguna Unites’ writing campaign, but she appreciates the group’s focus on issues rather than partisanship and the convenience of receiving talking points to make her case in writing. “That’s very helpful. Because otherwise, I might not do it,” said the 12-year Laguna resident and private yoga instructor.

Over the years, causes from AIDS research to abortion rights propelled her to join the ranks of at least four other issue-oriented political marches, including the women’s march in Los Angeles. “I think people are very motivated,” she said. “I have adult children; I’m thinking about their future.”

The prospect of eroding women’s rights prompted local Anne McGraw to attend the huddle accompanied by her 17-year-old daughter, Annika. The pair also raised their voices at the women’s march in Santa Ana, a first political rally for them both.

“I never felt the need before,” said McGraw. “The way things are going for girls, equality for women is going to be difficult,” she said, citing expected funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and health care.

McGraw, a Catholic, has volunteered for two decades helping girls who have hid pregnancies. “Having health care available to them is very important to me,” said McGraw, whose daughter wants to start a high school huddle. “I’m going to support my daughter. She’s always standing up for what she believes in.”

For Parker, too, the huddle yields an unintended consequence. She’s stopped in the grocery store and thanked by participants who share their appreciation for now knowing outlets where they can express their opinions and resources that support the causes they care about. “It’s very gratifying,” said Parker, a technology trainer.

“We’re taking the stance that this is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.

While the concerns of Laguna Unites members span a range of topics, from climate change to immigration to women’s rights, Parker urges a peaceful, positive forum. “We don’t want to offend anyone,” she said.

Even so, Parker recognizes that the direction of the organization may shift with the political winds. “We’ll evolve as members’ interests evolve,” she said.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Driving to protests and expressing your hatred of President Trump is “do(ing) something positive”? Since when? You lost the election. As Barack Obama said years ago, “Elections have consequences. We won. You lost. Get over it.”
    Your side has been running down America, spending us $19.5 trillion in debt. It’s time for change. Give the man a chance. He hasn’t been in office 100 days and all your side can do is riot and shriek. How petulant of you.

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