The young minds behind the anti-police violence resource Campaign Zero launched an online tool on Monday that shows activists how to resist President Donald Trump's agenda at the local level. "Our States," a website that Mic previewed exclusively, gives users a state-by-state breakdown of bills that, if enacted, would strip civil rights and other legal protections from communities of color, women and LGBTQ people.
With Trump more than halfway through his first 100 days in the White House, much of the left's resistance has focused on the president's attempts to round up undocumented immigrants and restrict the travel of people from Muslim-majority nations. But focusing the fight at the federal level is potentially dangerous, Our States creators say. As Trump stumbles through his first months in office, Republican-controlled state legislatures are considering laws that would criminalize protests, restrict protections against LGBTQ discrimination and limit women's access to safe and legal abortions, among other proposals.
"The purpose of Our States is to ensure that citizens know the legislation being proposed in their respective state, so that they can mobilize to either support or oppose it," activist and Campaign Zero co-founder Deray Mckesson said in a statement to Mic. "The stakes are high."
There's urgency at the state level, Sam Sinyangwe, the data scientist behind Campaign Zero and lead coordinator of the Our States project said in an interview. Most of the 32 GOP-led legislatures will end their sessions for summer recesses in two months — and they'll have either passed anti-progressive measures out of committee, approved them for signature by their governors or defeated them on the floor.
"In many of these states, you have Trump's agenda already being legislated," Sinyangwe said. "If we don't engage in the states to block them, it will in effect enact Trump's agenda, despite our efforts to stop it in Washington."
Our States was a crowd-sourced effort. With the help of the legislation tracker, Open States, volunteers gathered information on legislative proposals in all 50 states and in six categories: immigration, policing and protest, reproductive justice, voting rights and LGBTQ equality.
The data is compiled and displayed on an interactive map, showing states that are considering progressive or restrictive legislation. The website also features an "advocacy tool," allowing users to enter their zip code for a listing of their state representatives and, in some cases, their city leaders. The website also suggests strategies for influencing state legislators, such as asking for a face-to-face meetings, following up and applying pressure through direct actions and protests.
Allie Monck, a first-year New York University student and Our States volunteer who hails from Kentucky, said she eagerly gathered information for the project's reproductive rights category, after Sinyangwe personally assigned it to her. On Jan. 9, the Kentucky Senate has passed SB5, a measure that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to the the Our States database. That same day, HB2, a bill requiring pregnant women to receive an ultrasound prior to an abortion, also passed in the Kentucky House.
"Reproductive justice is something that I'm particularly passionate about because, now that I live in New York City, which protects my rights as a female, my home state is taking everything away," Monck said in a phone interview.
Monck, 18, said being involved with the Our States project proved to her that "you don't need to have graduated from law school to have influence" or to arm people with knowledge.
"I think that's something that Sam and his counterparts have done a really good job of," she added.
Our States is the third major release of organizing tools by the Black Lives Matter movement activists Deray Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, Johnetta Elzie and Sinyangwe. In 2015, following months of protests over the police-involved deaths in St. Louis, New York and Cleveland, the activists launched Campaign Zero, an anti-police violence policy platform. Their 10-point platform includes proposals for police body-worn cameras and use-of-force policy reforms, among other solutions. The platform was followed by the release of Resistance Manual, released after Trump's inauguration.
Sinyangwe said he and the core organizers set a goal of activating 100 million people around the country to join in their work. While they're a ways off from getting anywhere close to that number, they've engaged 22,000 volunteers through Campaign Zero, the Resistance Manual and, now, Our States.
The project wouldn't be possible without volunteer efforts, Sinyangwe said. Ultimately, grassroots organizing is vital to refocusing resistance where policies will have the most impact on people's day-to-day lives, he said.
"Our States is created out of the realization that, in the conversation that we're having about equity and justice, state level politics rarely comes up in that conversation," Sinyangwe said in the interview. "If we're going to block [Trump's agenda] from happening, we've got to create avenues for people to get informed."
Watch this Facebook Live with Mic's Aaron Morrison and Campaign Zero's Sam Sinyangwe, as he explains how the new "Our States" tool works.