Hyperlocal activists hit the streets

Dana Wabner demonstrates with #StandOnEveryCorner Sept. 17 at East Diamond Lake Road & Portland Avenue.

Bryce Tache will have to break a 90-day streak of daily protesting near Pearl Park. But while he’s traveling on business, he can find a similar protest in another city.

That’s because the movement he started, #StandOnEveryCorner, has now spread to 219 corners in 43 states across the U.S.

Thinking of his kids, who are immigrants, Tache started protesting the administration’s family separation policy on June 20. He plans to continue every day from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. until  Election Day. People wrongly think their political voice is limited to voting, he said.

“If we actually had millions of people out in the streets every day, we’d be able to influence things before election day,” he said.

Pearl Park 3
Ann Meyer, Bryce Tache, Nancy Karter and Dana Wabner (r to l).

Another group called Garfield 2018 started with a retired police officer’s email in January 2017, inviting her Garfield Avenue neighbors to bring a pillow, have a glass of wine and “discuss, commiserate, float ideas, organize, do something.”

“I wanted to carry on what happened … with the Women’s March across the nation,” said Juliann Brunzell, who was the state’s second female police officer.

She considered blanketing the neighborhood with signs of welcome, or walking down to The Malt Shop with friends wearing pussyhats from the Women’s March.

The group she gathered, which is concentrated at the 4900 block of Garfield, went on to launch a nonprofit get-out-the vote campaign. They’ve registered voters at every Open Streets event this year and recruited captains from all 40 blocks in the precinct to encourage their neighbors to vote.

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A Garfield 2018 voter registration drive at Open Streets Lyndale. Photo by Ann Burns

“It feels energizing,” said Brunzell. “It feels organized, and the energy feels pretty high here on the 4900 block of Garfield.”

They’re not the only new grassroots group on Garfield. Members of the Garfield Resisters collected household items for the International Institute’s Refugee Services program. One member trained to mentor a refugee. Another organized a book sale with proceeds supporting immigrants separated from children at the border.

Margaret Tobin, who started the Linden Hills/Fulton Community Action Group, was calling elected officials from her kitchen, and felt there must be other people doing the same thing. She reached out to friends and they started meeting every two weeks in each other’s homes. They “adopted” candidates in red districts, door-knocking and phone banking for candidates Heather Edelson and Dean Phillips. They also started nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives, sending postcards and visiting younger voters at Uptown and Loring Park apartments.

Members of the Linden Hills/Fulton Community Action Group. Submitted photo
Members of the Linden Hills/Fulton Community Action Group. Submitted photo

“Most of us are really very new at this,” Tobin said. “It really is everyday people who decided we needed to take action and do something. … It took a long time to get over the jitters of making that phone call.”

WRAPMembers of the group Women Resisting and Persisting (WRAP), launched by an East Harriet resident, decided to educate themselves by meeting regularly, forming a Facebook group to share information, and meeting all the Minneapolis mayoral candidates last year at Whole Sum Kitchen.

“With the election, I think it was kind of a wakeup call for everybody,” said member Kathy Palmer.

The state chair of the Minnesota GOP, Jennifer Carnahan, said she isn’t aware of similar small right-leaning groups that are new to Minneapolis. The GOP offers a grassroots training program that teaches the basics of the political process and campaign techniques.

Volunteers at the nonpartisan League of Women Voters has noticed a surge in interest. Voter Registration Chair Anita Newhouse said that in the past, about five people might show up at a training session to learn how to register new voters. This year, a typical session draws at least 50 people. And the League picked up 75 new members this year, when the average is about 30.

Some residents said they aren’t thrilled with some of the new activists’ strategies.

“I’m not disputing the validity of their sentiments,” wrote resident Joan Chartier, who lives near a daily evening protest at 51st & Xerxes. “I’m disputing whether getting passing motorists to honk agreement, during the dinner hour, is the most effective method to show disapprobation towards this administration. I still believe contacting one’s Congress person (by conventional means…not honking…), and/or writing a check to the ACLU, for instance, would certainly garner better results.”

In response, Michelle LeBlanc said she’s moving her #StandOnEveryCorner protest down 50th Street to an intersection with a stoplight and fewer nearby residences. She hopes to improve safety for distracted drivers and give neighbors a reprieve.

“While we don’t want to interrupt anyone’s quiet dinner, we find that to be lopsided with the issues of children separated from their parents who don’t have a quiet dinner,” she said.

When LeBlanc read about Tache’s protests near Pearl Park, she made a sign and brought it to the corner the same night. She’s been joined by neighbors from the block where an officer shot and killed Justine Damond.

Despite the inconvenience of protesting every day, she said she appreciates seeing people wave, hold hands to their hearts and wave the peace sign.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

“What is your take-to-the streets moment?” she said. “…Where you want to show your neighbors, your children and the history books that I did not sit back? That informs my conscience and will not allow me to sit on the couch.”

Tache said the number of street corners involved in #StandOnEveryCorner ballooned in the past month. He trades ideas and lends moral support to other groups, and he advises groups to be positive, peaceful, family-friendly and safe. A group in Salt Lake City is at 60 days and counting, Naperville is at more than 50 days and Mankato recently hit the 50-day mark.

If a group of protesters can stand outside every day for months, voters may realize the least they can do is show up at the polls, he said.

“I feel like silence sanctions what’s going on,” said LeBlanc. “Silence is not neutral.”