How the AIDS movement has given birth to the Trump resistance

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Lessons for Fighting a Demagogue, From the People Who Survived a Plague

By Michelle Goldberg
Slate

When Annette Gaudino, a longtime activist with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, realized that Donald Trump was going to win the election, she felt a sick sense of déjà vu. Now a middle-aged woman with an established career in health care advocacy, living in a world where the vice president of the United States presides over gay marriages, she suddenly remembered what it was like to be a young person consigned to marginality and surrounded by death. “It’s new and unprecedented, but also so familiar,” Gaudino says of our reactionary moment. “That’s what makes it feel like you’re in a dream. I could swear this happened when I was 25. How is it happening now that I’m 50? We had this little window where we all fell a little bit for the illusion of progress, but it’s like, oh, just kidding.”

Gaudino, who now works at the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS research and policy think tank that grew out of ACT UP, wasn’t sure if she could again marshal the energy to throw herself into confrontational activism. But on Nov. 22, she joined several hundred other people at a mass anti-Trump meeting called by ACT UP members and realized that she still knows how to organize in the midst of crisis and despair. “It’s like riding a bike,” she says. “The muscles are there. You just have to start using them.”

From that meeting, a new group emerged devoted to direct action against Trump and Trumpism. The name of the new outfit is still being tweaked, but it will be some variation on Resist or Resistance. Like ACT UP, which meets on Mondays, the Resistance group has been gathering weekly, every Tuesday, usually from 7–9 p.m. Eastern. It’s been convening in uptown Manhattan churches while members look for permanent space.

At this week’s meeting, the pews of the West Park Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side were packed with well over 100 activists, some brand new, some longtime ACT UP members who’ve known each other since the 1980s. Committees—on props, communication, and logistics—reported on their progress. Plans were finalized for a picket in front of Trump Tower later in the week—Thursday—to protest the appointment of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist. An activist visiting from a separate group announced a phone-jamming campaign against Trump’s hotels also directed at Bannon. (It launched on Thursday with a sign-up tool that sends Trump hotel numbers right to users’ phones.) Ideas for other demonstrations were discussed and refined.

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