Local residents raise awareness on national topics

A local grassroots group has formed to air their concerns about the environment, women’s issues such as funding for Planned Parenthood and President Trump’s executive order banning travel into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Bartholomew County Indivisible is working to make their local members’ voices heard at the Indiana Statehouse and in Washington, D.C.

The group has been meeting weekly since Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration and has about 60 members, said Terry Whittaker of Columbus, former owner of Viewpoints Bookstore.

After members express their concerns to the group, it will work to devise strategies to reach state and federal legislators, Whittaker said.

“It’s important to understand that this is not a partisan political group. We are not connected to any political party,” he said.

Melisa Miller, owner of Knitters Nook and leader of the group, said that while interest in starting it came initially from Democrats, the organization has moved away from party politics and is focusing on being nonpartisan. The group also includes Republicans, independents and representatives from the local Black Lives Matter and the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana organizations.

The idea for the group came from the national Indivisible movement, which revolves around a document posted online by former congressional staffers.

The staffers wrote in indivisibleguide.com that they witnessed the Tea Party beat back President Barack Obama’s agenda. In their document, they provide an agenda to use that same strategy on Trump’s administration.

The website offers tips and insider information on how to best influence Congress, beyond telephone calls and petitions. The guide contains information on how a congressional office is organized, how to get voices heard within that office and what not to do when trying to influence a representative or senator in Congress, according to the website.

Miller said while the Bartholomew County group is modeled after the ideas in indivisibleguide.com, it’s not about the tit-for-tat aspect of turning the tables on the new administration.

“We’re using it as a procedural guide, not an ideology,” she said. “We’re not in this for anger or hate, and we’re not saying those who did this previously were, but we want to keep what we’re doing positive.”

The focus is on getting federal and state legislators to listen to the people they represent and hear concerns from the grassroots level, Miller and Whittaker said.

In one of its first meetings, Bartholomew County Indivisible asked people to list their concerns and issues, and the group selected six to initially focus on. However, Whittaker said those six may change as meetings continue and more people.

The top six so far are:

Voter suppression and redistricting, particularly on the state level

Health care and actions by Congress on the federal Affordable Care Act

Efforts to get rid of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulations

Human rights and immigration issues including the federal travel ban and the wall proposed for the Mexican border

The Trump administration’s ties to Russia

Women’s health issues and funding for Planned Parenthood

In a social media invitation for people to attend the group’s meeting, members issued a statement that the group incorporates inclusion, respect, fairness and non-violence in all actions.

So far, the group includes a wide range of ages — from high schoolers to people in their 70s and 80s, Miller said.

One of the advantages of that is the group has members who Miller describes as veterans of social justice who can provide mentorship for those in Miller’s generation, which followed that of the 1960s and 1970s activists.

The group has divided into small groups based on the six interest areas and will be bringing back ideas for how to accomplish short-term and long-term goals at Thursday’s meeting, Miller said.

Bartholomew County Indivisible is preparing to go live with a new website in addition to its current presence on Facebook.

“A lot of people are scared with what’s going on nationally about the Trump administration’s first weeks in office,” Miller said. “Basically we want people to feel they can take action. A lot of people are sitting home worrying. We want to get our voices and theirs heard by Congress and local legislators.”

If you go

What: Bartholomew County Indivisible meeting

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Viewpoint Books, 548 Washington St.

For more information: Questions may be emailed to 1pointer@comcast.net

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.