Katie Wheeler said after the election she felt like a jerk.
She’d voted for Hillary Clinton, but felt like she could have done more to get involved in the effort to defeat Donald Trump; she thought the election was in the bag.
“That reality is pretty powerful and embarrassing,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler and her husband, Trent Huntington, were one of the estimated 175,000 to 200,000 participants in the Jan. 21 Womxn’s March on Seattle, believed to be the largest demonstration in the city’s history. Like many that tried to use the city’s public transportation system, there were difficulties.
“It was a comedy of errors getting there,” Wheeler said, recounting how they gave up on a bus and attempted to drive; the battery was dead. “It was so cool, because the battery was dead, and Trent jumped out in the street, and the first car that stopped was going to the march.”
Due to a lack of parking, they found themselves joining the march from the International District.
Following the march, the national movement began its 10 Actions for the First 100 Days campaign, where communities come together and visualize a more equitable world and the steps needed to reach that future.
These huddles, as they’re called, can be organized by anyone that wants to host one. The Women’s March organization provides all of the information and videos to facilitate them. Wheeler and Huntington ended up hosting a huddle of 300 on Monday, Jan. 30.
“It was crazy,” Wheeler said, “because it actually started with me being angry and inviting my friends.”
But then the Facebook event Wheeler created with her professional account — she’s a cartoonist and illustrator — was shared, and a lot.
“It was kind of an accidental activism, but it was so easy to do,” she said. “So many people showed up.”
The huddle ended up being around 300 people, she said, all planning to meet up at the Montana bar in Capitol Hill.
Wheeler said she was freaked out about the numbers, so she went and warned the bar and others nearby, with Revolver, Hillside and Dino’s Tomato Pie taking the overflow of participants.
People filled out about 600 postcards that night to legislators, expressing what it is they stand for and things they stand against. Betsy DeVos, a billionaire opponent of public education who became education secretary through a 50-50 tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday, had her name on a number of those cards, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said they raised funds after running out of postcards, and had $500 left over to donate to the ACLU.
“Once I kind of got organized, I felt good about it,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler and Huntington hosted a group of more than 40 during the second action at the Fred Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday night.
This huddle focused on community members getting to know each other and discussing actions they could take to ensure a brighter future.
Wheeler played the Women’s March video, then asked participants to close their eyes and imagine what the world looks like four years from now; the assumption being that the Women’s March campaign triumphed, and Trump was voted out of office.
“If you’re anything like us,” Huntington said, “you probably feel like the next four years are going to be hard.”
Occurrences that led to this better future world expressed by participants included a Trump impeachment, taking back the House, the removal of ineffective Democratic politicians and a nation that goes beyond a two-party system.
Huntington then asked participants to write out to pretend they were news reporters, and to write a short article about 2021.
Lance Rivera-Toledo, who described himself as a gay person-of-color, said it was hard for him to do this exercise. Trump could be in office for eight years, he said.
“It’s hard to push out an incumbent, and even some of the best efforts in the past have failed,” Rivera-Toledo said.
Rivera-Toledo participated in the first Women’s March action.
“It does make me feel hopeful,” he told the Capitol Hill Times. “It means that other people are affected, and it isn’t just me in my own bubble.”
Participants were then split up into three groups, for more focused discussions on action plans that could be achieved locally.
One woman talked about a campaign that provides people with five daily action phone calls they can make, to lawmakers, organizations, etc.
Another woman, who is working with the League of Women Voters on prison abolition and restorative justice, recommend the movie “13,” then watching “Black Power Mix Tape,” followed by another viewing of “13.”
A man in Huntington’s discussion group described interning with the ACLU.
“It’s just an awesome experience,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something really great and making a difference.”
Emma Allen with the Radical Women socialist feminism group said she took part in four actions in one week; a counterinauguration for Trump, the Womxn’s March on Seattle, a solidarity protest with the Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock over the Dakota Access Pipeline and occupying Sea-Tac International Airport after Trump’s executive order banning people from seven majority Muslim countries on Friday, Jan. 27, led to people being detained in transit.
Allen found out about the Women’s March huddle on Monday, she said.
“It’s good that a lot of people who are new to activism or want to get involved are here,” Allen said. “It’s good for people to figure out where they want to get plugged in.”