PRISM: Quaker Alert re plans for resisting an illegitimate power grab in the presidential election

Shirley Way

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Poplar Ridge Friends Meeting <pr.prism@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 1, 2020 at 6:23 AM
Subject: PRISM: Quaker Alert re plans for resisting an illegitimate power grab in the presidential election
To: <poplar-ridge-friends@...>

Dear Friend,


We (Bruce Birchard and Michael Wajda) have become very active in a major, partially Quaker-led program to prepare for the possibility of an attempt by Donald Trump to subvert the election and hold onto power, regardless of the true outcome based on counting all the ballots.  The risk of this undemocratic power move—essentially a coup—has risen in the past few weeks.  We particularly recommend the article in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman, The Election that Could Break America.


In late July, a small group of Quaker and other activists created Choose Democracy with the goal of training and equipping hundreds of organizations and their supporters to engage in effective nonviolent actions to resist such a power grab.  This effort was initiated by nonviolent strategist and author George Lakey (Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting), along with colleagues of his in the U.S. network of nonviolent action scholars and practitioners.  Other prominent Friends include the two of us, Sam Caldwell (former General Secretary of Philadelphia YM), and Henry Freeman (Development Consultant). In early September, I (Bruce) e-mailed an initial description of this effort to 140 Friends.  That report also included a list of helpful written resources on responding to a power grab; a copy of this earlier report is attached.


We are particularly concerned to inform and prepare Quakers for this effort.  Given Friends’ extensive experience with nonviolence and our dispersal throughout thousands of American towns and cities, we can play an important role in preserving our democracy.


The Choose Democracy Program


There are hundreds of grassroots-based organizations and networks (e.g., Indivisible, Black Lives Matter, Move-On, Sunrise, Movimiento Cosecha, Republicans for the Rule of Law, the Lincoln Project, 350.Org, Black Futures Lab, ACLU) preparing to mobilize millions of supporters to protest and resist an attempted Trump power grab.  Choose Democracy was created for three purposes:

1.      Prepare effective, research-based nonviolent strategies for resisting a coup attempt.

2.      Prepare and disseminate resources on nonviolent resistance for hundreds of organizations and their supporters.

3.      Provide virtual nonviolent training sessions for 100,000+ activists who can in turn help millions of their constituents to nonviolently and effectively resist an illegitimate power grab.


A critical aspect of our training program is to help activists and supporters understand that mass action to defeat a coup attempt is very different from protests in support of progressive social change.  Major differences include:

1.      Stopping an undemocratic power grab must be done in a matter of days and weeks.  We would not have years, or even months, to preserve our democracy.

2.      Support from the “middle” of the political spectrum is absolutely critical in preventing an undemocratic takeover.  Anything that alienates our “politically average” citizens is likely to fail.

3.      Support from important institutions—political, economic, social and religious—is vital.


To learn more about what we are doing, please go to There you can sign up for How to Beat an Election-Related Power Grab, a special Zoom-based nonviolence training session on October 1st and 6th led by George Lakey and Zein Nakhoda of Training for Change.  As of 9/25, we had 3,000 people signed up for this training program.  There is no limit to how many can join. 


When you go to our website, we suggest you consider signing the 4-point pledge, check the box “Opt in for Updates from Choose Democracy”, and check out the four highlighted resources which you can access from the website.  We particularly recommend Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy.  This was written specifically for Choose Democracy as a “how-to manual” on what to do in the event of a Trump effort to subvert the election results in order to claim victory and the presidency.  Also, Daniel Hunter’s article on Ten Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup has gone viral, with over 230,000 reading it so far.


The Emerging Plan


Discussions within Choose Democracy and with key people from many other organizations about an effective strategy and associated actions (“tactics”) for this campaign are ongoing.  Everything we have seen so far involves an emphasis on local actions—NOT on big protests in major cities.  The initial emphasis will be on demanding that every vote be counted before a winner is declared.  (This is the 2nd step in the Choose Democracy pledge.)


The national campaign is likely to include witnesses at voting sites and the offices of elected officials at all levels (towns and townships, county offices, cities, local offices of state legislators, governors, members of the U.S. House and Senate, and many federal officials), demanding that they publicly insist that all votes be counted.  We may call for witnesses at polling places, and possibly public presences at election sites where the ballots are being counted. December 8, when state legislatures select the electors to proceed to the Electoral College and choose the next president, could become a nationally coordinated day of actions.


While these actions are likely to involve actual witnesses and (mostly small) demonstrations in various communities, there will be plenty of opportunities to support our demands online and in conversations with our friends and neighbors.  Many of us feel the need to refrain from joining large groups due to Covid19, even if they are outdoors, but this would not close all opportunities to press our collective demands.


Finally, if necessary, we could call for mass noncooperation with any orders issued by illegitimate authorities.  This could conceivably extend to a kind of national strike in which people are encouraged to stay home from work, students would refrain from attending classes at their schools and colleges, and we would all seek to shut down normal business for several days.


We Are Building Momentum


As of one week ago, we had raised more than $100,000 to support Choose Democracy. (You are welcome to add to that total by clicking on “Donate” in the upper right hand corner of our website.) Three new staff have been added in the past ten days, including general communications and digital communications experts.  The first Zoom-based training session included 500 people, with more than 3,000 already signed up for the training sessions on October 1st and 6th.  We are working with other nonviolent activists and organizations to engage several more experienced trainers who can in turn train tens of thousands of people from hundreds of organizations from all over our country. 


We all hope that the election will go smoothly.  Maybe we won’t need to do much.  But the better prepared we are, the more likely it is that wiser heads in Washington and state capitals will realize that an illegitimate power grab has little chance of success.  Given what Donald Trump has been saying, we need to be prepared to defend American democracy.  With all its faults, it is still one of the most important and long-lived democratic experiments in the world. 


Yours in the Spirit,


Michael Wajda <mfwajda@...>, Bruce Birchard <brucebirchard45@...>


P.S. Yes, it is possible—though not likely—that Donald Trump could legitimately claim victory after all the ballots are counted.  If it really is a legitimate outcome, we’d be anguished, but we would have to accept the result.

PPS  Please address any replies to both Michael Wajda and Bruce Birchard

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