As Hillary Clinton works to court millennials this week, a handful of them got arrested for taking on her opponent, Donald Trump. A dozen protesters — all under the age of 32 — held a sit-in outside of Paul Ryan’s office Tuesday, calling on the speaker of the House to “reject Trump and GOP’s dog-whistle racism.”
Those arrested are part of a millennial-led campaign called #AllOfUs, whose website outlines three goals: to reject Trump’s racism, to vote against him — for Clinton — and to challenge Wall Street Democrats. In other words, the group is trying to create space for young voters to support Clinton, in order to defeat Trump, even though many of them may be to the left of her and skeptical of her policies.
While millennials tend to abhor Trump, recent polling suggests some 44 percent of millennials might cast their vote for third-party challengers.
Darius Gordon, a Washington, D.C., native who was not arrested, participated in the sit-in “not to show the differences between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, but to show the similarities.” An organizer with Citizen Action of New York, Gordon is also a member of Justice League NYC, one of the groups that’s mobilized around the movement for black lives.
“I’m a native-born American citizen, even though I’m a 6’7” black man,” Gordon said by phone, when asked about his motivations for joining the demonstration. “I don’t want to live in a world where someone feels threatened by that, and I don’t want my future children to live in that world either.”
“We need a new ideal of what it is to be an American,” he added. Part of the group’s name and strategy, Gordon explained, is about making clear the line between Trump-style nationalism and a kind of critical patriotism.
“We understand this is a great country,” Gordon told In These Times, “but it can be a lot better.”
He cited San Francicso 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent national anthem protests as a model. “I think (Kaepernick) is being a patriot. He’s saying he loves this country, and that’s how I feel,” Gordon said. “If you play sports, you know that if the coach isn’t riding you, it means he’s given up on you.”
Like Gordon, many of those who took part in the sit-in have been active in social movements before, from Occupy Wall Street to the fights for racial justice and against climate change. Among those who participated Tuesday was Ashley Williams, 23, who made international headlines for disrupting a Clinton fundraiser. In February, she held up a sign with a quote of Clinton’s: “We Have to Bring Them To Heel,” a line from a now-infamous speech in which the then-First Lady called young African Americans “super-predators” while supporting 1994’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. “You owe black people an apology,” Williams said months back, referencing — among other things — the bill’s role in creating harsher sentencing laws for African Americans.
Gordon is skeptical that any president will make change from the Oval Office without pressure from below.
“Regardless of who’s in office,” Gordon told In These Times, “I’m not going to stop fighting. On one hand, we have a harder uphill battle if Trump gets elected.”
His vote for Clinton comes from a place of strategy, not passion: “Hillary isn’t my candidate, but I will not feed Donald Trump. It’s by desperation that she’s getting my vote.”
Kate Aronoff is a staff writer at The New Republic and author of Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet — And How We Fight Back. She is co-author of A Planet To Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal and co-editor of We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism—American Style. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff.