ITHACA, N.Y. –– A large group of Ithacans from several local advocacy groups gathered Wednesday afternoon on the Commons, hoping to inspire continued community organizing going forward regardless of federal leadership in the United States of America.
The gathering comes on the heels of Election Day Tuesday which yielded a lack of resolution on the next Commander in Chief.
Organized by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, the event urged attendees to keep working on their objectives of social justice and a dismantling of capitalism and implored people to avoid complacency after the results of the ongoing presidential election are finalized. About 50-60 people came to the event, many of them there to promote participation in their various organization’s missions.
The Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Council, Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Ithaca Tenants Union, Extinction Rebellion, the Poor People’s Campaign, the Ithaca Pantheras and the Democratic Socialists of America were all among the groups that had representatives address the crowd as the night went on.
The overarching theme of the event was obvious and repetitive: that whether former Vice President Joe Biden or current President Donald Trump is declared the winner of Tuesday’s presidential election, it won’t immediately fix the problems being faced locally or nationally and thus pressure is still necessary on politicians and work independent of politicians is still crucial to achieve the goals of the assembled groups.
The event was hosted by locally known DSA figure Russell Rickford, a Cornell University professor, who led the crowd in the familiar “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA!” chant to start the event. He delivered remarks that reiterate much of what he has articulated at previous rallies over the last few months: that the system itself is the problem, not who is in charge of it.
“It’s a good day for a people’s assembly,” Rickford said as votes continued to be counted across the country to determine who has won the presidential election. “Regardless of who wins the election, regardless of who gets named the CEO of capitalism (…) We know that electoral politics is a system run by the business class for the business class. Wall Street never loses an election. Bezos can’t lose the election, he wins either way. And in a real sense, we lose either way. Working people lose either way.”
Many of the other speakers had similar messages, perhaps out of a concern that if Biden pulls off an electoral victory, which looks increasingly likely, that people who used their opposition to Trump as inspiration to get involved with community organizing over the last four years will retreat if Trump is no longer in power. Ellie Pfeffer, of the Ithaca Tenants Union, recounted the group’s accomplishments since its founding in May, aiming to spotlight that effective, vivid organizing is taking place locally after months of enthusiastic hard work.
Gerardo Veliz-Carrillo, a representative of the Anti-Racist Coalition, said the timing of the event was intentional and important. He said he wanted to see the people in Ithaca, often liberals, who use the plight of poor people to advance their own agendas, get involved in a manner that could have a more direct impact on improving the lives of marginalized communities.
“Some people’s political action and activity begins and ends with presidential elections, it comes in four year period waves,” Veliz-Carrillo said. “What we wanted to do was sort of break people out of that cycle and let them know that politics is a daily thing. Some people are forced to encounter it and be conscious of it as a daily thing, and some people can check back in every four years. We want people that say they care about racism, say they care about poor people, to remember that some people are practicing people’s politics, politics of self-determination and survival and struggle every day.”
Like Pfeffer, Veliz-Carrillo emphasized that local residents don’t have to look at nationwide organizations to get involved in causes they believe in. Often, he said, there is a group locally that is working on similar issues and where people can have more effective impact.
“We have taken the time to organize here, and we want to make sure that people can plug in,” he said. “Because we are looking for people to plug in, to lend themselves to the brewing change here.”