We are in STILL in the middle of a constitutional crisis.
On May 9th, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Director Comey was in the process of leading the investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential elections, including possible connections to the Trump campaign. We’ll repeat that: Donald Trump fired the person charged with investigating his Administration. This is a big, flashing, red alarm sign for our democracy.
On May 17, in response to outrage from Indivisible groups and others around the country, the Deputy Attorney General appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as the special counsel investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This is an important first step, but is not nearly enough. We need to be sure that many of the important facts of this investigation get aired publicly, and that Trump can’t just fire the person doing the investigation. See our explainer on different types of investigations.
This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about the defending our most basic democratic institutions and values. Your Members of Congress (MoCs) need to decide whether they’re on the side of truth, or on the side of Trump.
You can take a stand, in a way that will attract media attention and focus the spotlight on why your MoC isn’t doing more to demand truth and justice.
Goal, Strategy, Plan
The goal: To get Congress to realize that a special counsel is nowhere near enough; they must create an independent commission to look into Russia.
The strategy: Push members of the House to sign onto the “discharge petition” to force a vote on the Protecting our Democracy Act; push members of the Senate to sign onto S. 27, which would create an independent commission (see our explainer on Russia and Trump for more details on these bills).
The plan: Hold actions at MoCs’ events or district offices to dramatize the threat to our democracy and attract media attention to this issue, pressuring MoCs to take action.
Why all the drama?
All politics is local—MoCs are very attuned to their local image. They care deeply about how they’re portrayed in their home state. Dramatic, highly visible actions make for good photo and video opportunities, which make for more press coverage. Your MoC can ignore one of you, or maybe even ten of you, but MoCs can’t ignore something that makes it in the local paper or the nightly news. We have to keep this issue in the news so that MoCs will really feel the heat and start doing their jobs.
At the same time, we want to be conscious of the image you are projecting and keep the tone and look of your action on message. Defending our democracy should not be a partisan issue, and we want to speak to people who may come at this issue from very different perspectives.
For more help on getting press coverage, check out our guide: How to Get Press to Cover Your Event. If media contacts your for an interview, great! If you want help prepping, check out this guide: How to Give a Media Interview.
The Frame: Where’s Justice: Truth or Trump?
The broad theme of this dramatic action will be “Where’s Justice: Truth or Trump?” Your MoCs have a choice: they can choose truth or they can choose Trump—but they can’t have both. Your job is to make clear that every day your MoC fails to take action, they’re choosing Trump over truth.
Keep on message. Regardless of what you include, just make sure they fit together in a specific narrative, so that your overall message is clearly communicated to your MoC. Remember: you want your MoC to take action to support an independent commission in addition to the special prosecutor. That’s the ultimate ask.
Be creative. Be creative in how you design this; there is no one right way to do a Truth or Trump action, and there are lots of images and ideas you can incorporate. We have a few ideas below, but ultimately this up your Indivisible group to figure out. Feel free to get playful—sure our democracy is on the line, but there’s no reason you can’t have fun defending it.
Here are some ideas you can consider, depending on your specific narrative (note: these ideas do not all fit well together):
- Hold a mock trial. Hold a mock trial where you illustrate the mounting evidence of ties between Trump’s camp and Russia (more info on those ties in our explainer here).
- Illustrate the choice between Trump and truth. Create two camps that are physically separated from each other, marking one space “truth” or another space “Trump.” Have someone in your group play the MoC; announce to the MoC that they have to choose.
- Costumes and props make great visuals. There are a lot of options on this front:
- Have someone dress up like Lady Justice, and/or have people searching for Lady Justice.
- Hold a hand scale, for the scales of justice.
- Wear judge’s robes or carry gavels.
- Dress up like Sherlock Holmes or another detective.
If you have a particularly creative approach, let us know! Tweet pictures, videos, or ideas @indivisibleteam. We’ll both shine a spotlight on your idea, and we can share it as a best practice for other Indivisible groups.
How to Plan a “Truth or Trump” Action
Call a team meeting:
- Get a place. Secure a venue for your meeting.
- Send an email to your list or to your leadership team inviting them to the meeting.
- Put an event on Facebook and register at www.indivisibleguide.com/act-locally
- 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 Truth or Trump action. You want it to be someplace where your Senator and/or their staff will see it, but also someplace where you can get media attention.
- Look for public events. Is your Senator holding a town hall during recess? Are they having a fundraiser? Will they be at a public event?
- District offices work too. If none of these are happening in the next week, go to one of their local offices.
- Scope out the location in advance. Whichever place you choose, scope it out in advance to figure 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, scissors, etc.
- Make a sign-in sheet that you will use at your meeting. This is crucial—it’s how you will make sure there’s follow through AFTER the meeting. You can do the sign in sheet on paper, but if possible, we recommend using a Google spreadsheet and then just passing around a laptop for people to sign themselves in at the meeting. This makes it easier for you to keep records of who is attending your meetings and how to reach them.
- All sign-in sheets should include the topic of the meeting, the date, a field for everyone’s name, their email address, and their phone number.
- People are much more likely to include their phone numbers and emails if you fill out an example line with your own name (“Jane Doe, firstname.lastname@example.org, (456) 123-4567”)
- Prepare some starter ideas for discussion about what your Truth or Trump action will look like. You’ll spend time brainstorming with group members at your meeting, but that process will go more smoothly if you come to the meeting with some ideas.
- Write an agenda for the meeting. List the amount of time devoted to each part of the agenda. Make sure you leave enough time for the brainstorming process (but you’ll want to keep to that time, or else the brainstorm could consume the whole meeting). Check out our guide on How to Run Group Meeting for tips on how to make this a productive use of time.
At your meeting:
- Sign in. Have everyone sign in, either on paper or on the laptop. (If you’re using a paper sign-in sheet, don’t forget to collect the sign-in sheet after the meeting and then enter the information in your computer.)
- Open the meeting. Thank everyone for attending on short notice and remind everyone why we’re here:
- Update group members on what happened with FBI Director Comey.
- Explain our overall goal and strategy for the campaign, as well as why we are doing dramatic visibility actions.
- Make sure people understand the stakes—our democracy is at risk.
- Cover the details. Tell everyone the time and location of the Truth or Trump action (and if possible, where to park for it).
- Brainstorm together. Spend some time (up to 30 minutes) brainstorming the specific theme and imagery in your Truth or Trump action. Be creative, and keep track of the ideas with a note taker, butcher block paper, or a whiteboard. Remember to keep your imagery consistent, though; if you have too many images incorporated, it may dilute your message. For good meeting practice, make clear to everyone in advance who will make the final decision on the theme and imagery (Will it be you? Will there be a vote among the top few ideas? It doesn’t matter; just let people know in advance).
- Assign roles. Figure out who’s responsible for what, and assign roles. Key roles may include:
- Main speaker (will speak into bullhorn or microphone and introduce other speakers)
- Speakers telling personal stories about the importance of American democracy to them (or something similar that fits with your theme). Make sure to practice the stories in advance
- A responsible person who will make sure the art or props make it to your location
- Photographer/videographer (without photos and video, the event might as well not have happened)
- Social Media coordinator
- Media Liaison
- Agree on shared chants. This seems small, but it’s actually quite powerful, and it will be harder to do if you wait until the event itself. For example:
- “Hey [Senator name], grow a spine, we’re already out of time!”
- “Trump or Truth!”
- “Just Say Nyet!”
- Get commitments. Pass back around the same sign-up sheet you previously shared, getting people add two details: whether they are participating in the Truth or Trump event, and what role (if any) they are playing. Ask every person who agrees to attend to bring at least one friend. The more people, the better!
- Begin the art project. Even people who cannot attend the event can help make art. Be creative, whatever fits the theme! A few ideas:
- Feel free to make costumes where appropriate.
- 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. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect—it’ll look quite good from 25 feet.
- Make enough picket signs so that everyone who wants to can carry a sign.
- Make sure that your art makes clear our ask for an independent special prosecutor, and calls out your Senator by name wherever possible (this will make your target clear in photographs of the action!).
- Don’t underestimate the power of humor and theater in visibility actions, and don’t be afraid to be funny.
After the meeting:
- Call the media. To change the narrative in your area, it’s critical to get media attention at constituent events like the Truth or Trump visibility actions. Get started with our local organizing explainer, “How to Get Press to Cover Your Event.”
- Recruit for your event:
- Send an email to your list, inviting them to join, and asking them to RSVP.
- Put an event on Facebook and ask people to RSVP. As well, register at www.indivisibleguide.com/act-locally
- Recruit from your personal network, through email, phone calls, or text trees.
- Let other like minded organizations know about your event and invite them to join.
- Ask group members to do their own outreach.
- Send out a reminder: One to two days before your event, make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend or who RSVP’ed to your event via Facebook or email. This is super important, as you’ll increase your attendance by as much as 25 percent.
On the day of the action:
- Remind people. The morning of your event, make one last round of reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend. If your event takes place in the morning, make reminder calls the night before.
- Get there early. 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, and begin to get in position. Remind everyone who the Media Liaison is, and make sure everyone is ready to help direct attendees who weren’t at the preparation meeting.
- Meet outside the Senator’s event or district office (assuming that’s where you’re holding the event). Once everyone has gathered, the Main Speaker should state clearly why you all are there and make clear that our ask is for Senate business to slow to a crawl until an independent special prosecutor is appointed.
- Carry out the event according to your plan.
- The speaker should note that many people in your state will care about their actions.
- Storytellers should stand in a line next to the speaker, so they can easily pass the microphone or bullhorn to share their stories.
- The Media Liaison should be looking out for press and speaking with them personally or directing them to appropriate speakers.
- Record everything! 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 Senator.
- Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter.
- Post photos of the action.
- When the event ends, everyone should clean up and leave quickly. You may also wish to end with some chants. Be aware of media and social media coverage before you assume things are finished. But do regroup off-site and congratulate yourselves!
- Debrief. Leaders should plan a debrief meeting or call to discuss how the event went, what went well, and what could be better next time.
- Let us know how it went! Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to email@example.com and tweet at @indivisibleteam so that we can boost them on social media and send them to press! This will also help us elevate best practices for other Indivisible groups.
- 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 in advance. Deliver them in a package to your Senator. This is a great way to incorporate the stories of folks who couldn’t attend.
Note: Familiarize yourself with our resource A Note on Police Encounters in case you are stopped by the police at your event.