You Can Beat the NRA
The National Rifle Association punches way above their weight. More than their direct contributions to politicians, they have a pool of committed single issue voters, and they are experts at turning them out. But the Marjory Stoneman Douglas kids are showing us the way.
In February Andy, a friend from the Rise and Resist activist group, sent around a flier that they had somehow found. The Brooklyn Friends of the NRA are having a fundraiser for the NRA. My email exploded. Everyone wanted to get them to cancel.
I buy tickets.
The effort to cancel was largely focused in Brooklyn, centered on the folks at Get Organized Brooklyn, the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative, and Marjory Stoneham Douglas alumni. The restaurant for this shindig is Gargiulo’s, a Brooklyn institution – my son had his eight grade prom there, very swanky.
I stay out of the fight, sitting on my four tickets.
Last year when Trump was visiting New York for the first time as president and we were planning a response, a co-organizer Betsy proposed getting tickets to that event. Apparently this was a classic ACT-UP tactic, take the fight to the enemy’s safe space. Dress up in suits, first person stands up and starts a speech. When they get shuffled away by security, the next person stands up and picks up at the same spot.
Tickets to the Australian American Association dinner on the Intrepid were already sold out when we called. We did a great protest anyway in front of the Intrepid, in coalition with the Working Families Party and many others. And I filed away getting tickets.
Then we got word of a visit by Frank Gaffney to the Women’s National Republican Club. Anne took the lead organizing a group of infiltrators. They held up signs in turns in silent protest and refused to leave until NYPD was called in. They spoke truth to power.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt cancelled his speech at the Harvard Club when he heard we were there.
I started a new folder in Gmail to keep track of these “welcome” events. Intelligence is key, SIGINT research on the internet, HUMINT. We have the beginnings of a John le Carré novel.
And it’s the president again. Breakfast at Cipriani’s, a fundraiser. Got signs printed, organized with Jaime and the other members of the Rise and Resist actions committee.
And I wrote my first bot. After taking legal advice, I entered a lottery to get free expenses paid tickets to see Trump stump for cash. 50,000 times. My guess is that I failed a background check, no tix. We had a great protest anyway, joined by SEIU and the New York Nurses Association. Plenty of coverage.
So back to my NRA tickets. I got them in February. The event was not until April 12th. I had to give my real name for the credit card, I worry that they will discover me and cancel my tickets.
It turns out that our intelligence was better than their counterintelligence. The NRA emailed me that they have rescheduled for the Grand Prospect Hall, in blue-state/blue-borough/blue-neighborhood Park Slope, my home for 30 years. My ex went ballistic over dinner, how can they?
The Park Slope crowd went crazy when I let them know. Phone calls to the Grand Prospect, site of so many of our celebrations. Social media. The local PTA went on record that they will cancel the prom. City councilor Brad Lander went on cable news to condemn it. NY1, New York Post and New York Daily News cover it.
Within 21 hours of my posting, Grand Prospect Hall cancelled. The waiting game begins.
The NRA emailed ticket holders that the event is still on, but due to “press interest” they will not let us know the location until the day before. We continued to organize. Facebook event to recruit protesters. Fielding the press. Legal coverage in case we are arrested (unlikely, but the experienced among us advise it is possible). Claire of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas New York alumni and I talked, and it turns out we used to live in the same building. Tony of Gays Against Guns wrote the press release. The magnificent Elissa on graphics, Michael of MGX Copy on printing. Sandi on video for NowThis.
Jamie and I called every likely venue, no one ‘fesses up. Virginia and I prepare cover stories.
Eventually I broke down and called the local organizer the day before. He said the national organization will make an announcement by 5pm, sit tight.
And at 5:30, out came the NRA email. They have cancelled!
Shortly after I learned that they have also cancelled the event in Connecticut, near Sandy Hook.
So lessons learned. Local direct action works. It’s work, but it’s worth it. Act in coalition. Consensus is key.
We will likely never know exactly why the NRA folded. Maybe they saw the buzz on social media and realized that they faced a real drubbing in the press. Maybe if we had relied on word of mouth I would have had my 15 minutes of fame on NowThis.
But this was a solid win. The NRA can be beat.
Eventually they held their fundraiser, and were met by protests. NY1 covered it.