They don’t consider themselves to be activists or organizers, or even particularly active politically, but since Nov. 9, a husband and wife from Little Rock have begun standing at the State Capitol Building for 15 minutes every Wednesday at noon. And they have invited their friends.
Although they number just a handful of people thus far, what the tiny group lacks in size, they compensate for with determination.
The day after the General Election which resulted in Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s electoral vote victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Jeremy Rhodes of Little Rock decided it was time to get involved. And, social media being the force it is today, he put it on Facebook, starting a public Facebook group called “We're Still Here and We'll Keep Going Higher.”
“We came out here the day after the election because we want people to know that we are still here, that more people did vote for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump, and that there is a majority of people out here who want more progressive ideas rather than hate and fear mongering,” said Jeremy Rhodes. “We also want to support our legislators who are fighting for us and maybe talk to the ones who we might could sway, or change, but just talk to them.”
With Wednesday being only the third outing to the Capitol for the group, Rhodes said interest and participation has yet to take off, but he said gathering a large crowd to make a big splash is not the goal.
“I thought this would be something that would start small, but if we show up every Wednesday and show them we’re still here that maybe it will get some attention,” Rhodes said. “There are a lot of people out there like me who haven’t been politically involved, and we have had some of these people come out and show their support.”
Rhodes’ wife, Bernadette, said she is also committed to the effort, to seeing it grow, and said she envisions the weekly noontime assembly being a small part of a growing effort to watch legislation move through the state house, and to let legislators know they are watching.
“Too many of us are tempted to become ‘fingertip activists,’ where our activism only goes as far as our side of the computer screen. So, we want to have a short period of time where we can get together every week and share what’s going on so we can be informed of what bills are coming up for a vote, what the committees are considering, and how we can be more involved with advocating the ideals that we believe in,” Bernadette added.
Jane Meadows of Little Rock was one of an additional five or six people who joined the group during the quarter hour they stood in front of the Capitol. She said she was happy to join the group because she sees it as an important counterpoint to the divisiveness and rancor that seemed embedded in the recently concluded campaigns.
“We’re not against something, we want to be inclusive. Things happened in this last election that were a little scary. I have friends who are minorities who are now feeling threatened. I think we have to come together as a country and support everyone’s rights, and to remember when we say the Pledge of Allegiance, it’s ‘and justice for all,’ not just for the ones who look like us,” said Meadows.
Although taking charge of forming and nurturing this group[ could be considered a form of activism, Jeremy Rhodes said he doesn’t consider himself to be an activist, and indeed, seems intensely uncomfortable with the idea. But, he said, he feels like he is standing at a moment in history when doing nothing is not an option.
“We’re out here to share resources and to talk about what we can and can’t do on an individual level,” he said, the words coming out haltingly, then in a rush. “It’s out of my comfort zone to call up and talk to legislators but hopefully a showing of people will provide some encouragement to them to work for all of us.”
For their part, Jeremy and Bernadette Rhodes said they plan to be right there in front of the Capitol every Wednesday from noon to 12:15, whether they number two people, or 2000, and to keep doing so until their government starts listening.