The Women’s March is organizing a mass mobilization on July 14th to call on the National Rifle Association (NRA) to take actions to protect the safety of Americans—in particular communities of color.
Recently the NRA released a video that peddled an “us versus them” narrative and called for the Women’s March’s grassroots, nonviolent resistance movement to be met with violence by NRA supporters. In response, Women’s March wrote an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre calling on their organization to take the following actions:
- Immediately remove the recent irresponsible and dangerous propaganda videos narrated by conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch.
- Issue an apology to the American people for the video the NRA sponsored, which bore their name and logo. It suggested armed violence against communities of color, progressives and anyone who didn’t agree with this Administration’s policies.
- Make a statement to defend Philando Castile’s Second Amendment right to own a firearm and demand the Department of Justice indict the police officer who killed him for exercising his Second Amendment right and his privilege as a licensed concealed carry permit holder. This call is clearly in line with the mission and purpose of the NRA as an organization that purports to be the lobby and defender of the right to bear arms.
Rather than engaging with Women’s March in a dialogue about these demands, the NRA released a new ad that featured conservative talk-show host Grant Stinchfield titled “We Don’t Apologize For Telling The Truth,” that specifically called out Tamika Mallory for writing the open letter. In response, Women’s March has planned a mass mobilization effort to challenge the NRA and speak out for the safety of communities of color and other marginalized communities.
Ms. spoke with activist and national co-chair of Women’s March Tamika Mallory about the upcoming mass mobilization against the NRA and what’s to come in the fight for justice at the intersections of gun violence, race and feminism.
Aside from the content of the open letter, what was your main goal and what kind of attention were you hoping for when you published the open letter?
We were hoping for increased awareness around the fact that the NRA stands for a race group. We wanted to make sure that protesters, organizers and people who are exercising their First Amendment rights were aware of that, because many people probably would not have seen the organization in that way. We put the open letter out there to make sure that folks were aware of the type of rhetoric that the NRA was advertising. We needed to make sure that people were not walking around unaware of the fact that the NRA is a threat to their safety.
Did you anticipate that this letter would lead to this mass campaign and action within the span of a couple of weeks? What are your main goals for the action that will happen next Friday on July 14th?
We wrote the letter and expected to hear back directly from the CEO of the NRA since they claim to be the “oldest civil rights organization” in the United States. What we stated in the letter was that their organization poses a potential threat to the lives of Black and brown people, particularly those who protest against the actions of this Administration. We sent the letter to raise a flag around their recent conduct that threatened the safety of communities. Instead of hearing from them, we saw that they released another video that called me out and placed me in danger. Rather than putting faith in me and other organizers of the Women’s March, they acted in the complete opposite manner and did not engage in a constructive conversation. Once they posted the second video, we realized that we needed to ensure that our voices were as loud, if not louder, than the NRA. We are not going to be scared into silence, and will not be pushed to the side. We are a force that must be reckoned with, and we need in fact to stand up and stand taller and stronger in the face of such hate.
Would you consider this action happening on July 14th the biggest mobilization effort since the march on the 21st? Can you talk a little bit about how successful the Women’s March on January 21st was at mobilizing women, in particular women of color, into the position where they’re now considered the leaders of the contemporary civil rights movement?
The Women’s March was hugely successful in terms of the turnout and the number of people who were able to come off of the sidelines and get out of their homes to protest the state of our country. We got them activated and engaged. I don’t think a lot of us are trying to create these comparisons, with other mobilizations or actions that have occurred since the march. We are in a very historic moment, and we are not in any way attempting to recreate that or try to compare with any large-scale expectation. We understand the fact that a moment where lots of people come out to be a part of something is much different from actually organizing and getting people to be a part of a movement.
So we definitely don’t try to compare in any way because our work is to continue to work and speak out on issues we feel are important for us to be involved in. We have been a part of every mobilization that has happened since the march in January: the Truth March, all of the different actions around the Muslim ban, we’ve been at the airports, and involved with the 5,000 groups that developed across the nation that marched on the 21st. We are focused on how to capture that energy to get people involved more. We are trying to run toward this thing called equality, equity and justice, but it is not something that will happen just because we have won that mobilization on the 21st.
How would you describe the past six months of continuous activism from people who showed up to the Women’s March?
That is something that we are very proud of. The fact that we’ve been very successful in terms of getting people to continue to be active and showing up and make their voices heard. But what is also important, and what we at the Women’s March have been very intentional about, is to educate people about issues they may not have been aware about in the past. We have been very intentional about educating people around issues within the African American community, within the immigrant community and within the Muslim community. And we have been very intentional about raising the concern around race in America. For us, that is the success of the Women’s March. Unapologetically and blatantly speaking about issues that are difficult can be tough, and we have received a lot of push-back. There are even some people who have walked away from working with the Women’s March because of our focus on these types of discussions. While that is unfortunate, we will continue to work in this intentional manner.
What are some issues people did not know much about until your started talking with them?
I think the issue of police brutality, and police misconduct across the country was one that many white people didn’t know that much about. They did not necessarily understand how many people, disproportionately Black folks, have lost their lives due to police misconduct. Many white women we spoke with really did believe that if a person of color was killed, that the victim must have done something wrong. The Women’s March has engaged in many conversations with people around this very question that someone could die after simply walking on a highway. We feel like these conversations are a step in the right direction. We’re definitely not there yet, but we are moving in the right direction.
We have also focused around the issue of mass incarceration. People really believe that if Black men and brown men are locked up, they must have done something wrong. What we need to continue to do is educate people on the disparity in sentencing, and around the fact that a white man can commit the same crime as a Black or brown man and the person of color will receive a sentence that is much more harsh than the one the white man will receive.
These issues are ones that a lot of people have either turned a blind eye to, or have not necessarily been exposed to. Because of our work at the Women’s March, they are beginning to see that Donald Trump is not the beginning of unfairness in our unjust society. This has been happening to people for a very long time.
How has your position as a civil rights activist changed since the Women’s March, especially now that you are more in the public eye? How do you intend to use your platform to advocate for issues you believe in?
I have been doing this sort of work for a very long time. I will continue to do this work, and work with communities for the anti-gun violence movement. I will work to continue to build power through grassroots organizing and working on the ground. In terms of that, my work hasn’t changed.
But now I’ve been given an opportunity and a platform as an organizer of the Women’s March. I believe it’s my responsibility to use that platform to uplift organizers around the country. What I will say has changed is that I am more conscious about my personal safety. Now that I am in the public eye, I am more careful about my surroundings and about where I am in terms of what I’m doing. That has changed.
Otherwise, in terms of working people I’ve been working with, that has not and will not change. My hope is to continue to bring more people into the movement.