By Tanya Halkyard, Robyn Murgio, and Elizathen Farren.
American Expats for Positive Change (AEPC) was founded in London last November in the wake of Trump’s election. On November 9, one of the founders of AEPC, Robyn Murgio, woke up feeling defeated, scared, exhausted from staying up until 6 am watching election returns and powerless living so far away in the midst of such crazy upheaval back in the states. Then, to add insult to injury, she had to break the news to her 7 year old son that America had not elected the first woman president as he had hoped. Through his tears, he asked her, “What can we do?”
At first she had no idea what to say because she was struggling with that same question. Then it came to her, she told him that more than ever we need to speak out against injustice and stand up for our beliefs. Later that day, during a conversation with another American in London, they talked about how to go about accomplishing this goal. Their coffee quickly turned into the first meeting of the American Expats for Positive Change. Tanya Halkyard in Rome found AEPC through a Facebook search the next day and our second chapter, based in Rome, was launched.
AEPC’s mission is to facilitate opportunities for expats around the world to connect with one another and mobilize efforts to bring more unity, understanding and most importantly action. They aim to fight against inequality, divisiveness, dishonesty and corruption in a positive way.
In response to the 45th president’s first overseas trip, a group of organizers from AEPC joined fources with Women’s March Rome and Democrats Abroad Italy in coordination with activists from Israel and Belgium, came together to show the president and the world that they will not stay quiet. With progressive values under attack, and with the administration roiled in Russiagate, there are numerous people who are outraged and ready to do what they can.
On May 24 approximately 150 people gathered in Rome, Italy to stand up for women’s rights, human rights, immigrant rights, a free press, climate change research, and the many other issues that the Trump administration is threatening. The protesters gathered in Piazza Bologna, a commercial and residential area in close proximity to Rome’s largest university.
The protest was both peaceful and energetic; the protestors sang “This Land Is Our Land”, chanted “Tell them what democracy looks like: This is what democracy looks like.“ As well, they held a variety of signs that said things such as, “Hello Mr. Trump, Italy has already seen fascism. Can we spoil the ending for you?“ There were some Italians present, though the majority of the protestors were American nationals.
While this protest was taking place, a small group of activists hung a large banner off the famous Bridge of Angels, which carries pilgrims into Vatican territory from the center of the city. The banner boldly stated, in Women’s March font, “ROME RESISTS”. The activists held the banner in place for a few minutes–just long enough to take photos and videos. The pictures and videos were then re-shared and retweeted thousands of times across the world. At the very same time, a virtual protest was also taking place. The virtual protest was organized in coordination with Israeli and Belgian activists, and the central hashtags for the event were #UnitedWeStand and #TrumpnotWelcome.
What this and other similar protests have proven is that the resistance movement is continuing to grow, and that the activism set into motion by Trump’s election is not diminishing. While the activists are very concerned about standing up for the numerous issues at risk right now, they are also concerned about maintaining this swell of energy, and making sure that overseas voters get themselves to the polls for the 2018 elections. The true mark of success will be if more overseas voters motivate to make their voices heard in the midterms.