THE BLOG
01/24/2017 11:12 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2018

Building An Inclusive Movement Against The Far Right

Trump, Brexit and the resurgence of the far right across the West will likely lead to a dawn of mass protests like never before. Their effectiveness has already been seen; Trump immediately went on the defensive about his inauguration crowd size vs the size of the Women's March. Pressure works, particularly when the egos of politicians are at stake, but if protests are to be the way forward they have to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Protests generally miss out on one core group - disabled people. Marches can be long, tiring and on bad pain days or low energy days disabled people won't be able to attend; but that doesn't mean disabled people can't be part of the movement. Disabled people are usually hit hardest (and first) by any new administration policies as those in power seek to capitalize on the fact that disabled people often can't protest. It's therefore vital that protests become accessible.

Strategies can include (but are not limited to): having supportive walkers alongside visually impaired people, if there are speakers then ensure that they stick to time limits, a disabled march could start a few blocks away so that it feels less claustrophobic and disabled people can set their own pace and venues along the route should be contacted to see which are the most accessible for when people need to take a break. At meetings, wherever possible, have someone who can translate in sign language and all handouts should be in large print and/or braille. All venues should be assessed for accessibility.

For those who can't march at all, there's still a vital role to play so don't undervalue disabled people. Due to not being able to attend events, disabled people have had to develop skills at protesting online so utilize those talents. Put disabled people in charge of creating networks of contact and building up support for activists on Patreon. Let disabled people at home monitor the news and relay any relevant information (such as perhaps where to avoid any areas of conflict). Don't forget the power of petitions and lobbying. To this day, politicians are still likely to listen if their phone rings enough times or their emails get clogged up enough. If a movement is to work, it needs to cover all fronts.

The Women's March was fantastic, but there's plenty of women who wouldn't feel safe; particularly transgender women. Given Trump's comments, it's no surprise that so many signs were filled with comments about grabbing women but feminists must remember not to associate body parts with gender. Statistically, trans women are far more likely to experience sexual assault and violence than cisgender women. It's also important to only give platforms to those who are inclusive and who don't promote hatred towards women who experience the most marginalization.

It's rightly not gone unnoticed the vast crowds for a women's march compared to what a Black Lives Matter event would draw. White people should have showed up long ago. Hopefully this is at least a signal of the start of change among the left where marginalized people are put front and center as they are harmed the most. In which case, we need to keep showing up or giving support where possible. Not all events will want us. Some women's events will be women's only, just as some events highlighting racism will not focus on white people. It's up to the organizers to do what they feel is best. What we all need to learn to do is ask "how can we support you?" and then take it from there. Occasionally, our presence may not be desired, and that's okay. We can offer support in other ways and at other times, but a lot of the time white people are wanted at a BLM event because white people can use their privilege to support the movement. White people are far less likely to be harassed by the police and so it makes sense to utilize this. This does not mean that white people should ever talk over people of color; if our privilege is used it should be to empower those facing oppressions we do not which is precisely why it's so important to ask "how can we support you?"

It's also important to remember that every and any event may be oppressive. Within the equality movement, hierarchies are replicated all of the time. Gay rights rarely focus on bisexual oppression and monosexism (and only a handful of LGBT venues are ever accessible to disabled people), feminism focuses upon white women and cis women etc. Intersectionality is constant work. We can't just focus on single issues such as class and ignore the fact that disabled people and people of color are far more likely to live in poverty. We can't call for better mental health without recognizing LGBTQ+ people have horrendous rates of mental illness and rarely get support. We can't campaign for better access to healthcare for women without demanding that trans women get support to be able to transition.

We're out of time. We coasted into this which was years in the making. If anything has been proven true in the last twelve months it's that rights are not permanent. They can be taken away by a mob rule, regardless of what our legal systems intended. If we're to stop the pandering to bigotry and we're going to stand up for oppressed people, we have to do so for all marginalized people. Throwing others under the bus to save ourselves is not good enough. Clinton was right about one thing; we're stronger together and it's only if we work together across the West that we can get through these uncertain times.