Representatives from more than 20 Santa Barbara organizations, galvanized by Donald Trump’s election, gathered Friday evening on the Westside to mark the beginning of a collaborative movement. So new it has yet to be named, the coalition formed as a follow up to the march on Saturday, November 12, that brought together more than 2,000 people to protest the president-elect’s policies that would harm immigrants and other vulnerable groups.
“Through this unintended political consequence, we can bring out the energy that people have around these issues,” said Nayra Pacheco, a seasoned organizer who helped facilitate Friday’s meeting. “These are people who are coming together that traditionally don’t, and now they are reaching out and making time” she added. El Centro was filled to capacity, with people standing out the door, and college students, high school students, community members, mothers with their children, and older folk all present and eager to organize.
Whilst a large assembly, time was allotted for each individual to introduce themselves, their respective organizations, and to voice their concerns. “Listening to each other is important right now,” said Pacheco. Moving through introductions, the group composed a list of what they deemed to be the most pertinent issues — immigration, equity for Santa Barbara, environmental issues, and so on.
The group met in subcommittees organized by issue, and the members exchanged information and talked in detail about action plans and future meetings. As the committees reported back to the larger group, other members offered assistance, collaboration, and even spaces to meet in. “Let’s use energy wisely; let’s consolidate work and projects,” voiced one attendee.
Pacheco spoke about the energy that has sprung from the election result: “Things like sanctuary cities, no one would’ve been down last year, but now, here we are. There has always been a need,” she said. “Santa Barbara has one of the highest deportation rates in the state.” When The Santa Barbara Independent asked if the increased organizing around the election was a blessing in disguise, Pacheco answered, without hesitation, “No, because oppression is not a blessing in disguise. Resilience has always been there.”
As one Santa Barbaran, Javier Rivera, said earlier last week: “Cada gobierno tien el gobierno que se merece”, quoting Joseph de Maistre — “Every country has the government it deserves.” In the coalition members’ view, Trump is one individual in the larger system that has historically oppressed and marginalized communities. The organizations gathered on Friday all existed prior to the election — now they have decided to work bigger and work smarter.
The meeting ended with all members participating in a solidarity clap, an analogy for what they hope to see in their own organizing: slow and disorganized at first, but picking up speed and becoming more united.