Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president on Nov. 8, 2016 a young, married couple in Washington, D.C., began thinking about ways to fight back.
Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, who both had worked as campaign and congressional staffers to Democrats, decided to model their tactics on the conservative Tea Party movement that sprung up after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama and led to big Republican victories in the 2010 mid-term election.
Greenberg and Levin decided to organize a resistance movement on a local basis, creating a 26-page guide to instruct citizen activists how to best pressure members of Congress and named the umbrella group they formed — Indivisible.
Almost immediately Indivisible groups sprung up across the country. There are now 6,008 separate Indivisible groups nationwide, including 268 Indivisible groups in Illinois. According to Indivisible’s website, the group’s mission “is to fuel a progressive network of local groups to resist the Trump Agenda.”
And now Indivisible has come to this area. An activist group in Riverside, now called Indivisible West Suburban Action League, decided this fall to align with Indivisible. Meanwhile, a new Indivisible group was created just last month in Brookfield.
The Riverside group, formed last year, originally was linked with an Illinois group called Action for a Better Tomorrow. Last fall, the group changed its name to West Suburban Action League and decided to link up with Indivisible because of its stress on action and advocacy.
“When we saw what our goals were as a group, we thought Indivisible would be a better fit,” said Cristin Evans, publicity chair and spokesperson for Indivisible West Suburban Action League.
The new Indivisible Brookfield group is holding a social hour on Thursday, Jan. 11 from 7 to 9 p.m.at Irish Times in Brookfield where members and prospective members can mingle, meet and learn about a number of candidates for office who will also attend the event.
“We really have to get to know each other,” said Mitzi Norton, one of the five women who make up the Indivisible Brookfield Steering Committee.
Marie Newman, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski in the 3rd Congressional District in the March primary will be at Irish Times in addition to some candidates for judge and the Cook County Board.
Lipinski was not invited.
“I think he already has a track record of not voting along the Democratic Party line,” Norton said. “I think that his public record already speaks for itself. I think we already know enough about him and we want to know Marie more. We haven’t met her yet.”
Two members of the Indivisible Brookfield Steering Committee, Carrie Felix and Bridget Tarrant, were active members of the Riverside-based group. This fall they decided that Brookfield should have its own group.
Most of the founding members of the Indivisible Brookfield first got to know each other in the fight to persuade the Brookfield Village Board not to opt out of the new Cook County minimum-wage ordinance that increased the minimum wage and required employers to offer paid sick leave.
Brookfield resident Adam Kader, who works for the advocacy group Arise Chicago, was instrumental in organizing the Brookfield Working Families Committee to lobby the village board to support the new county ordinance. Although the Brookfield Village Board voted 4 to 2 last summer to opt out of the Cook County minimum wage ordinance, members of the Working Families Committee were inspired by their fight and decided to move on to other issues.
“For many of the people involved with Brookfield Working Families committee it was their first time being activists,” Norton said. “It really got people out of their comfort zones. Even though we didn’t win, a fire was lit under us, so we decided to kind of stay together.”
In December, the group decided to formally align with Indivisible and became Indivisible Brookfield.
“We knew that we needed something bigger than ourselves that had structure to it to kind of help bring us together,” Norton said.
Although Indivisible tends to focus mostly on national issues, the members of the local groups want to work on state and local issues as well.
The steering committee of Indivisible Brookfield are women who are both new to Brookfield and longtime residents. Norton moved to Brookfield two years ago and Meaghan McAteer just moved to Brookfield last year, while Felix and Tarrant have both lived in Brookfield for more than 20 years.
“I had not met any of these people before,” Tarrant said. “It’s a nice way to connect with people with like-minded values.”
Tarrant’s daughter Gabrielle, 17, a senior at Riverside Brookfield High School, is the youngest member of Indivisible Brookfield. Her friend and fellow RBHS senior Sara Meeks is also part of the group.
“I feel like I need to make a change other than just complaining about everything that’s happening,” said Gabrielle Tarrant.
Indivisible Brookfield is not planning to endorse candidates in the upcoming March primary.
“Right now we’re just aligning ourselves with progressive values,” Bridget Tarrant said.
As of Monday afternoon, 105 people, not all of them Brookfield residents, have joined Indivisible Brookfield’s Facebook page, but a much smaller number have been active members thus far. Eleven people attended the group’s December meeting.
Indivisible Brookfield is holding its monthly meetings at the Brookfield Public Library on the third Thursday of the month.
“We have a really good group of impassioned people who care about what’s happening locally and nationally,” McAteer said.
Members have enjoyed changing perceptions that some might have about Brookfield.
“Brookfield isn’t always seen as the most progressive suburb, but it’s very young and growing right now, and there are a lot of progressive minds here,” Norton said.