Group Leader ResourcesHealth CareLocal OrganizingSave the ACA

Save the ACA: Die-In Planning Guide


Die in at Rep. McSally’s office via @Indivisible_SAZ
Die in at Rep. McSally’s office via @Indivisible_SAZ

Status Update on the Fight for Health Care

After two embarrassing failed attempts earlier this year, Republicans finally managed to pass an Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill in the House by a vote of 217-213. The bill is a parade of horrors. It harms the poor, children, women and families, persons with disabilities, and even people with employer-provided coverage. The only folks who benefit are the wealthy and corporations. Simply put, if your Member of Congress (MoC) voted for TrumpCare, they voted to give Donald Trump a few political points, at the expense of their own constituents.

But the fight isn’t over. If your MoC voted for TrumpCare, this recess it is critical that YOU hold him/her accountable for every one of the terrible provisions in the bill.

Goal, Strategy, Tactics

This bill is a disaster for all Americans, and will kick 24 million people off of health care. Our goal is to hold MoCs who voted for this bill accountable, and to do so in a way that makes attempts to pass terrible bills in the future even harder. Our strategy is to make voting for this bill absolutely politically toxic by publicizing and personalizing the problems with the bill and by holding any Members of Congress who vote for this bill very publicly accountable. As a first tactic, we are planning die-ins at district offices or public events with the Representatives who voted for this bill.

What’s a Die-In?

A die-in is a form of nonviolent direct action protest where participants publicly pretend to die to highlight a deadly problem. Its origins are hard to pin down, but it was notably used to powerful effect by ACT UP during the 1980s AIDS crisis and more recently by the Black Lives Matter movement during the Ferguson protests. This tactic is most powerful if done at the closest district office of a Representative, or at a public or private event at which the Representative is in attendance. This is a tactic designed to attract attention from passersby and people in positions of power, and can be used to disrupt business as usual at a problematic institution. It holds most power if media attend the event and/or if photos and video are shared to social media.

How to Plan a Die-In

Call an emergency team meeting. Now that the House vote on this bill has happened, we need to hold Representatives who voted for it accountable or thank members who opposed it.

  • Secure a venue for your meeting
  • Send an email to your list
  • Put an event on Facebook and register at www.indivisibleguide.com/act-locally
  • Write an agenda
  • NOTE: If you already have an event scheduled, and do not have time for a meeting or new action, feel free to skip this and look through this toolkit for ideas that you can easily incorporate into existing plans.

Before your meeting:

  • Identify the best time and location for your die-in if your MoC voted for TrumpCare
    • Is your MoC holding a town hall during recess next week? If not, we recommend that you call and demand a town hall. Please note, we are specifically focusing on the House with this tactic.
    • Are they having a fundraiser?
    • Will they be at a public event?
    • If none of these are happening in the next week, go to their district office. Have you already visited the office? You’ll want to scope out the best place to position yourselves—space that will look good in photos or with media.
  • Gather art supplies
    • Posterboard/cardboard
    • Paint/paint brushes
    • Markers
    • Pens and paper
    • Fabric (if making a banner or costumes)
    • Tissue paper

At your meeting:

  • Have everyone sign in!
  • Thank everyone for attending on short notice and remind everyone why we’re here:
    • Give the ACA status update;
    • Explain our overall goal and strategy for the campaign, as well as what a die-in is and why we’re doing it (if your MoC voted for TrumpCare).
  • Tell everyone the time and location of the die-in (and if possible, where to park for it).
  • Pass around a sign-up sheet, collecting the contact information of everyone who is available to participate in the event, and who is willing to “die-in.”
  • Designate key roles:
    • Main speaker (will speak into bullhorn or microphone and introduce storytellers)
    • Someone to give a signal that it is time to die-in
    • A responsible person who will make sure the art makes it to your location
    • Photographer/videographer (this is really important; without photos and video, the die-in might as well not have happened)
    • Social Media coordinator
    • Media Liaison
  • Ask the room who has a story that they would be willing to share at the event, illustrating how people in your district rely on the Affordable Care Act.
    • One leader from your group should take these people aside and lead a storytelling exercise, where everyone writes out their ACA stories. Try and keep these to 500 words or less. Shorter is always better for media coverage, although of course be sensitive to people in this moment of pain.
  • Those who will not share stories, cannot make it to the event, and those who will attend but cannot die-in should begin the art efforts.
      • Be creative!
      • Some suggestions:
        • Make cardboard tombstones for every dead constituent in the action.
        • Make a banner that can be seen from a distance. Use bold colors. If you want to make it look professional, use a projector to project letters or a picture onto your surface, then trace your image in pencil and paint inside the lines.
        • If anyone has sewing skills, they can make a grim reaper costume. These are also pretty easy to find at costume shops.
        • Make tissue paper wreaths or bouquets for the deceased constituents.
        • Make enough picket signs so that there are no empty-handed participants in the die-in.
        • Make sure that your art calls out your MoC by name wherever possible (this will make your target clear in photographs of the action!).
        • Be creative and don’t underestimate the power of humor and theater in direct action.
  • Those who will die-in should be asked to stay an extra 20 to 30 minutes at the meeting to practice.
    • Decide together how everyone will know it is time to lie down.
      • Will someone raise a hand? Some other nonverbal cue?
      • Will one designated person announce that it is time?
    • Practice sharing stories and lying down when the signal is given. Have someone roleplay as a disgruntled staffer, a Trump supporter, a confused bystander, or anyone else who might throw you off. Is everyone still lying down on time and at once?
    • Write/practice your chants! Try to project your voice.
      • For example: “Don’t take away our ACA!”
    • Make sure everyone agrees on how long you will stay on the ground. No one should be forced to stay longer than they are comfortable with, but everyone dispersing at random could compromise the effectiveness and appearance of the action.

Media

To change the narrative in your MoC’s home district, it’s critical to get media attention at constituents events like a die-in. Get started with our local organizing explainer, “How to Get Press to Cover Your Event.”

On the Day of the Action

  • All people in key roles should meet 45 minutes in advance. Bring snacks and water, assemble any art pieces that need assembly, test any technology, make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend, and begin to get in position.
  • Meet outside the MoC event or district office. Once everyone has gathered, the Main Speaker should state clearly why you all are there, and that many people in your district will be affected by this vote.
  • The Social Media Coordinator should record, live-tweet and/or Facebook-live the entire experience.
      • Make sure that you are recording and taking photos horizontally, not vertically. It really helps the video get shared and makes it usable for press.
      • Be sure to tag your Member of Congress.
      • Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter.
      • Post photos of the action.
  • Storytellers should stand in a line next to the speaker, so they can easily pass the microphone or bullhorn to share their stories. You may want to start with some group chanting.
  • At the appropriate time, someone will give the signal and participants will die-in and stay in place as long as possible (or for the agreed upon period of time). You may wish to have a 30 second moment of silence while people are on the ground; after that point, people who are “dead” should remain silent but the Speaker/Storytellers should start speaking.
  • Anyone who is unable to lie down should stay standing during the die-in, holding signs and, when appropriate, participating in chants.
  • When the die-in ends, everyone should clean up and leave quickly. You may also wish to end with some chants. The mood is somber, so be aware of media and social media coverage before you assume things are finished. But do regroup off-site and congratulate yourselves!
  • Leaders should plan a debrief meeting.
  • Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to stories@indivisibleguide.com.

Optional:

  • Bring a bullhorn or portable microphone.
  • Agree on a dress code. Wearing the same color creates a strong visual impact, makes it clear you are together, and looks great in photos.
  • Collect all of the constituent stories that you can, and deliver them in a package to your MoC. This is a great way to incorporate the stories of folks who couldn’t attend.
  • Make funeral bouquets or wreaths out of tissue paper.

Note: Familiarize yourself with our resource A Note on Police Encounters in case you are stopped by the police at your event.