By Abigail Bickel
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the Cleveland chapter of Refuse Fascism met downtown for a series of community speak-outs and a march. The group gathered at 3 p.m. to hear testimonies from core chapter members as well as interested community members, followed by a march through Market Square and ending with another series of speeches.
Refuse Fascism is a national nonprofit organization that identifies the Trump-Pence administration as a fascist regime and firmly believes in the necessity of removing it. The organization embraces the slogan, “This Nightmare Must End: The Trump-Pence Regime Must Go! In the Name of Humanity, We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America.” The movement was initiated as a response to Trump’s presidential election in 2016, and their call to action is to incite change through nonviolent protests.
“We firmly believe that we have a responsibility to humanity and the survivability of humanity, because of the danger this regime represents, to drive it out of office,” Cleveland chapter member Jeremy Brustein said. “We believe, because of its fascist nature, the only way that can really be done is to mobilize millions in the streets with nonviolent resistance.”
Last week’s march was called for by Refuse Fascism’s national office in New York City for a number of different reasons including: the memorial of the late Arizona state senator John McCain, which mobilized a set of powerful people to combat a perceived instability Trump is creating within the system; the anonymous editorial written by one of Trump’s administration officials and published by The New York Times that upended the administration’s security; and the pending confirmation of Supreme Court elect Brett Kavanaugh that represents the ability to put a majority on the Supreme Court.
It is not uncommon for the movement to resurface in the streets because of a culmination of smaller incidents, but without a particular event to catalyze a resistance, the organization’s members often find themselves protesting with just their core members as they were on Wednesday. And it is through small acts of mobilization that they intend to grow their following.
“We consider what we did as a very important part of getting our message out, and we always meet people, we always get names, we always bring our influence,” Brustein said.
The movement tends to ebb and flow according to national attention-grabbing issues. Their largest march was shortly after their conception and Trump’s presidential election. Drawing roughly two thousand people, the organization took to the streets after the first Muslim ban was called for. However, over the course of their lineage, core members can trace the response from the public as initial horror to a complacent normalization, and normalization is what they hope to combat.
Most of the focus was on the speak out portion of the event, which drew various community members to share a few words. The underlying theme of the march was standing against hatred as people shared their personal feelings about how they experience this administration.
“We were really able to pull ordinary people forward who wanted to express from their own point of view how intolerable this regime is,” Brustein said. “They identify Trump with hatred against different sections of people, and this is the thing that they found most hurtful and that they spoke to.”
One of their biggest struggles in bringing grassroots people to the streets to protest is relaying the need to fight continuously. In trying to mobilize average community members, most of their turnout only comes when the community feels compelled by an individual act of protest rather than an ongoing resistance.
“This can’t be about this individual act of protest and that individual act of protest as important as they are. Their importance is laying the groundwork to get to something much bigger,” Brustein said.
The event was a prelude to a nationwide mass protest on Saturday, Sept. 15, drawing chapters in major cities across the country.
“It was a good day, but it was a good day within that situation and it mainly being the core, really getting great responses, and seeing the distance we’re starting to travel and not being satisfied until we travel that,” Brustein said.