Women Rise Up to Protest Trump's Boast of Sexual Assault and GOP's Legacy of Sexism

Posted Oct. 26, 2016

MP3 Interview with Brigid Flaherty, organizer with the grassroots group, “GOP: Hands Off Me!”, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


The political environment in the U.S. presidential election campaign began shifting after the release of a video recording in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. “When you’re a celebrity, they let you do it,” he said. The video clip, where Trump boasted about kissing, groping and attempting to have sex with women, was recorded in a 2005 conversation with “Access Hollywood” TV show host Billy Bush, which was captured on a live microphone. Since the release of the tape more than 10 women have publicly accused Trump of engaging in harassment and sexual assault over the last decade or more.

Some Republican elected officials who had endorsed Trump disavowed him, while many others have maintained their support for his candidacy. Accusations that he had harassed mostly white women brought the issue closer to home for many white politicians, who could imagine their wives or daughters being similarly assaulted.

First lady Michelle Obama’s heartfelt, unscripted nine-minute speech about Trump’s behavior went viral, in which she said the men in her life – and the men in millions of other women’s lives – don’t engage in the kind of so-called “locker room banter” that Trump alleged this was. Another response to the scandal was a grassroots uprising of women who demonstrated on Oct. 18 in 15 cities under the slogan, “GOP: Hands off me.” They excoriated Trump and demanded that the Republican party withdraw their endorsement of the real estate billionaire. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with one of the action’s organizers, Brigid Flaherty, who explained how the simultaneous demonstrations were organized and their plan of action after the Nov. 8 election.

BRIGID FLAHERTY: This really is a grassroots, organic response – definitely prompted by the Trump tapes being released last week, but I think also women who have been outraged since the first time Trump made an outrageously racist and sexist comment, which was that all Mexicans are rapists, right? For some time now, for his entire run for the presidency, there has been anger brewing and a fight back brewing. Women across all races. And I think the Trump tape was the spark that ignited women taking to the streets and really saying that we are not going to stand for a president, but also a system, that is building its power and policies off of racism and sexism.

It was definitely this moment when a couple of friends got on the phone and said, we have to respond and we have to get out there, and really show that there is a multi-racial feminist movement that is emerging and growing, and really taking its power from the other organizing that has happened before, particularly with women of color, in racial justice spaces – Black Lives Matter, Mi Gente – but this was really just a moment of saying, we’re pissed.

BETWEEN THE LINES: But you’re not just focusing on Trump, right?

BRIGID FLAHERTY: GOP Hands Off Me is really just an expression of rage against the entire Republican Party – all of their electeds who basically made Trump, right? Trump was created by the Republican Party, by their policies and practices over so many years of misogyny and racism and anti-immigrant hatred, and that’s why we’re directing it at Trump, but also at the Republican Party because of their role and the responsibility they have in this moment, creating this man, who literally embodies everything terrible about this system.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Brigid Flaherty, tell us what happened across the country when women came out for these actions.

BRIGID FLAHERTY: On Oct. 18, thousands of women across the country did GOP: Hands Off Me actions in 15 cities. You saw them in smaller places like Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and then you had New York City, Miami, Philly, Oakland, Denver – thousands of women taking to the streets, multi-racial feminist wave of action demanding the GOP take their hands off them and create a world that values women – women of color, immigrants, trans and queer folks.

BETWEEN THE LINES: When you focus on criticizing the Republican Party, does your movement take any position on the election, or on the Democratic Party?

BRIGID FLAHERTY: You know, I like to say that rape culture is a bipartisan problem. This is not something that is unique to the Republican Party and we know that (inaudible) have also been complicit in creating a culture that doesn’t respect women and have created policies that in particular have hurt women of color and immigrants. But for right now, we are very focused on ending the racist and sexist reign of the Republican Party and making sure Trump doesn’t get into office. But you can believe that when anybody gets into office, whether at the state level, the federal level or president after Nov. 8, that there’s a movement of women that will hold them accountable for creating a world that values women of color, that values immigrants, that values queer and trans folks. And that’s what we’re going to be doing after Nov. 8.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You said it was very grassroots and individuals got together. Is there any organization that contributed to making this happen?

BRIGID FLAHERTY: I would say that the women who got on the phone that Friday night, we come out of a tradition of organizing. We’ve all been organizing for many years, again, in racial justice and gender justice and immigrant justice movements. It’s women who have been active in organizing and have built relationships for decades. But, really, the moment we’re in now and the uprising of women that you’re seeing is truly just – we created a container for women to come in and heal in a space and be seen by each other, but also express their rage, and that is truly a grassroots movement.

For more information, visit GOP Hands Off Me Campaign at gophandsoffme.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/GOPHandsOffMe.

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