Why hundreds of people showed up outside Mitch McConnell's house in Kentucky last Friday.
“I feel like people feel like everything has to be this huge thing. This was not a lot of work,” says Molly Shah, a stay-at-home mom who helped convince a few dozen of her neighbors to protest outside Mitch McConnell’s house in Louisville, Kentucky, last Friday.
The Louisvillians swarmed the Senate majority leader’s residence on Feb. 10 to read Coretta Scott King’s letter opposing Jeff Sessions’ 1986 federal judgeship nomination — the one Sen. Elizabeth Warren was blocked from reading on the Senate floor.
Photo by Molly Shah/Facebook, used with permission.
Putting it together was no big deal, really. According to one organizer, turning out the crowd was a matter of a few Facebook posts.
The protest made headlines across the country.
Good old-fashioned, in-person activism is having a moment in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House.
Much of that activism has been driven by groups affiliated with the Indivisible Movement but also by established groups that are seeing a surge of interest and participation.
The protest in Louisville was organized by Parents for Social Justice, which Shah and others founded two years ago to help fellow parents with busy schedules stay active in politics.
Protestors gather in front of McConnell’s home. Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.
“Our voice isn’t always at the table because we have trouble getting there,” Shah explains. Since the election, however, she’s seen an increased desire to do something from friends and fellow parents, many of whom were novice activists and saw the McConnell protest, which was planned just two days ahead of time, as an “easy way in.”
“Refusal to engage with constituents ticks me off,” explains Jim Gardner.
Gardner, a tech industry consultant, went to McConnell’s house to protest what he sees as the majority leader’s “poor constituent services” — refusing to answer calls and respond to criticism.
“If he’d do his job, I would never demonstrate at a private residence,” Gardner says. “But, the senator left us no choice.”
Around 300-400 people attended the event, according to several participants.
The protestors took turns reading sections of King’s letter, and the event lasted about an hour.
A protestor reads King’s letter as a fellow attendee shines a light. Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.
“It’s like our own little Arab Spring going on here,” said Lynda Clark, a Louisville accountant, who found out about the event through Facebook. She praised the police officers, who cooperated with protestors, and defended the group against accusations leveled in conservative media that the crowd was a “mob.”
“The funniest part about it was, for a while you couldn’t hear because there was a bunch of little kids that I assume were with their parents who were rolling down a hill and laughing and giggling,” Clark says.
That McConnell happened to be in town for the protest was a happy accident according to Shah, who hopes the Senate majority leader realizes that “Kentuckians are done” with being ignored.
“We’re going to speak out, and we’re going to be there. We’re going to show up to everything,” Shah says. Next on her radar is Kentucky’s HB14, a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that defines offenses committed against law enforcement — potentially including resisting arrest — as a hate crime.
Photo by Jim Gardner, used with permission.
In the meantime, she hopes to see more small actions like the McConnell protest, which are symbolic, simple, and — perhaps most importantly — fun.
“They don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be epic. You can just keep moving forward. Just keep doing something.”
Correction 2/15/2017: An earlier version of this article said that organizer Molly Shah estimated the protest was attended by 100 people. She and other participants actually estimated 300-400 people attended the event.
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