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Defending Democracy

by Margaret Butler

(The crowd from Wednesday night, demanding every vote be counted. Photo credit: Lorene Scheer)

On Wednesday, November 4th, the Defend Democracy Coalition marched for Black Lives and Counting Every Vote. As hundreds gathered at Revolution Hall, the sun peeked out and lit up signs and banners.

I woke up Wednesday morning extremely glad that XR and Sunrise and J.U.I.C.E. and more than 40 organizations had come together to Defend Democracy in Portland. Predictions of a landslide victory for Democrats turned out to be wishful thinking, while Trump continues to refuse to abide by the will of the voters. Now that the election has been decided, we can pivot and face the fact that there is a long road ahead and much work to do to heal the divisions in our country. We need to turn the corner on supporting Black lives with systemic change, as well as drastically transforming our economy so that economic justice becomes a reality and so that life on earth can survive. Changing the President has always been only a necessary first step.

In my book, Wednesday’s rally and march was another step. We need each other so much! Working together in this coalition brought together folks from many parts of the Portland social justice infrastructure. Some had worked together effectively before, others had not. As someone who has worked in the labor movement in Portland over several decades, building a labor-community coalition, it was heartening to see how quickly people came together and worked well with each other. There were places where it was rocky and folks stepped back, but mostly we stuck with each other. That seems to me to be a step forward.

Wednesday was not without challenges. The issue of different formations, different strategic approaches and different tactics requires much thought and energy. How do we build a mass movement of working people when there is no agreement about how we approach that movement building? We continue to try to work through these issues.

Another challenge continues to be the way our world is steeped in white supremacy culture. We white organizers still have so much to learn about how to follow BIPOC leadership by building real relationships and handing over real decision-making power. I hope that we will continue to listen and act on what we learn. And I hope the relationships that were built will continue as we work to build the broad-based movement we need to win justice and stop extinction.

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