Close to 200 people packed the largest community room at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on Friday, eager to voice feelings of disappointment and anger over the election of Donald Trump as president and a yearning for action.
Many said they had previously expressed their thoughts only to loved ones or on social media and were grateful for the interaction with like-minded strangers.
“We are all afraid right now, all of us in this room, of what Trump represents,” said Matthew Hurley, 27. “And we need to let that become something like anger, something righteous, something that will drive people to the polls in two years, four years, eight years, to put that into something actionable.”
The event, put together in a hurry by the Fem Dems of Sacramento, was an introduction to a new group called the Stronger Together Coalition, meant to be a forum for peaceful organizing, said Candice Riley, the group’s member services and outreach coordinator.
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Organizers never expected lines for the event to run through the long hallway and out the side doors of the Sierra 2 Center, a former elementary school.
“This was our first meeting to talk about what we can do moving forward … to make sure the damage isn’t too bad in the next four years,” Riley said. “People are pumped up, and we’re ready to move forward and get organized.”
The crowd, some in Hillary Clinton T-shirts or wearing Bernie Sanders pins, ranged in age from babies to seniors and included people of varied ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. There were students, teachers, community organizers and state workers – all gathered to commiserate over what many described as a bizarre and traumatic week.
Central Sacramento, including neighborhoods such as Curtis Park, is largely Democratic, and many residents greeted the election of Trump as president with dismay. At the same time, many voters in the Sacramento suburbs of Placer and El Dorado counties, where Republicans predominate, were joyful over his election.
Arturo Jackson III, an AIDS survivor and activist, counted himself in the former group. He took the microphone at Sierra 2 to express his concerns about the future of services for seniors and people with disabilities. Dozens of others followed, calling for community conversations about racial inequality, women’s reproductive health rights and more.
“I feel like I’m coming out of a state of shock,” Jackson said. “I was blown away to see you organized this group. Point me in the direction of how I can help. … I’m here to join the fight.”
For more than an hour, attendees took turns stepping up to the microphone, first discussing strategies used during campaign season and then volleying ideas for actions moving forward. Audience members signaled approval by wiggling fingers in the air and asked to speak by pointing upward. It was a mostly quiet event, with booing and other interruptions prohibited.
Shilpa Girimaji, a 29-year-old lawyer, said she was happy to see Democrats of all stripes coming together for a common cause.
“There are two parts of the Democratic party right now, and we need to unify them,” she said. “Because on Facebook and Twitter, we’re just fighting with each other and blaming each other. … We need to work together because the Republicans have succeeded in dividing us, and that’s not good. We need to work on finding common ground and finding people to put in the Senate and the House who work for both of us.”
Using markers and large notepads, participants sketched out major themes such as “voter turnout and registration,” “reconnect with labor” and “take back the house.” The Fem Dems intend to follow up on the well-attended event with a series of other forums including subcommittee meetings and to provide paths to more formal political organizing, said Riley, who works in the state Legislature.
“As a first meeting, we had a lot of people expressing their emotions, their shock,” Riley said. “We did have a lot of great ideas – reaching out to other communities, binding together, making sure we’re more inclusive, and also being more organized.”
Bernadette Jones, a 53-year-old Elk Grove resident, said she was pleased to hear information about other local groups working toward change, such as one called Showing Up for Racial Justice.
“I have a passion for Democrats and now that I’m retiring I will probably get involved,” she said. “The world is changing and I’d like to be a part of it.”