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We Won’t Go Back: Responding to Roe During July 4th Recess

You can download and print this toolkit by clicking here.

What Just Happened?

The Republican Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), stripping the fundamental right to abortion from millions of Americans. While this is the culmination of a fifty-year, right-wing crusade to end safe and legal abortion, the radicals on the court and in Congress are not stopping there. MAGA Republicans have made it clear that they intend to pursue repeal of rights including access to contraceptives, marriage equality, and even same-sex relationships. We are in a moment of crisis, and it is more important than ever that candidates and elected officials be held accountable by their constituents for protecting access to abortion and preventing more rights from being denied by radical judges and MAGA politicians.

The July 4th Recess

This July 4th, Congress is going into recess. From June 24th to July 11th, legislators will be in their home districts, celebrating our nation’s promise of freedom even as essential components of that freedom are dismantled. It is a critical moment for constituents to make their voices heard: abortion and contraception must be protected, access to essential health services must be restored, and they cannot allow more rights to slip away.

If you’ve been organizing with us for the last several years, you may remember the July recess of 2017: Republicans everywhere got an earful about health care at parades and protests outside of their district offices. The media narrative coming out of those two weeks in July was that Republicans were met with the rage of their constituents. That time, it looked like Republicans had the numbers to repeal Obamacare. Our outrage was ultimately enough to make them hesitant to use it, the ACA survived, and Republicans paid a political price.

We need the same thing to happen now. Clarence Thomas made clear where the extremist majority in control of the Court intends to go from here–after other fundamental rights like same sex marriage or access to contraception. Once again, we need to buy ourselves time while we continue to build the expanded power we need to end the filibuster, codify these rights, and expand the Court. We need Republicans to pay a political price for pursuing a radical agenda so horrifying out of step with the American public. Plus, there are cascading state level fights about reproductive healthcare happening right now, too! A powerful backlash across the country will help locals win state fights like those in Kansas or Michigan too. 

During recess, we will organize to engage directly with candidates and elected officials to get them on the record—not just about the Dobbs decision, but about what’s next. At 4th of July parades, campaign events, and town halls, we will make our voices heard and remind them and the country: we won’t go back. 

Tried and True Tactics: Birddogging

What is Birddogging? 

Birddogging is a powerful tactic used by grassroots activists to get candidates and elected officials on the record about important issues. And if you’ve been organizing with us for a while, you already know how to do it. Indivisible activists have bird-dogged visibly and effectively since Indivisible’s inception. Did you ask a question about the Affordable Care Act at a town hall? Did you ask a congressional candidate to commit to a position on democracy reform or the filibuster? Have you shared a recording of your interaction publicly on social media or with the media? You are already an Indvisi-birddogger. 

Here’s the TLDR version: show up at at public or non-public event (like a July 4th parade!) where your local MAGA, anti-choice MoC will be, ask a tough question about abortion rights, federal abortion ban, or access to contraceptionto force them to take an unpopular position or make it clear they’re deflecting reasonable questions from constituents, get it on video, get that video everywhere you can from social media to local print, radio, and TV news.

Birddogging Step-by-Step

Recruit and Train Your Squad

Birddogging is best done with a group of people that are dedicated to getting a candidate on record and can take on a variety of necessary roles. Your squad should be nimble, fearless, and dedicated to tracking down candidates (even if it means listening to the same speech over and over again).

At the very least, you need two people to pull off a successful birddog -- one person to take action and one person to film or take a photo. An ideal squad has at least one person for each of the following roles (or two, or three, or four so you can sub in based on availability).

  • Question askers: These are the members of your group that are bold and assertive. Think about the members of your group that ALWAYS ask to speak to the manager and don’t give up until they are satisfied with the answer they are seeking. 
  • Recorders: These folks are diligent, good on their feet, and always remember to hold the cell phone camera in landscape mode.
  • Spokesperson: The best spokespeople are good communicators who can talk to press, upload your video footage on your social media sites, and report back on your findings. Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam in your posts on Twitter! 
  • Trackers/Researchers: These squad members might not be as comfortable asking questions in person but they are great at doing research and tracking the target. They know how to scour official websites, candidate websites, social media platforms, local news sites, and city/town public events and have all the best google alerts set up. 

Find Opportunities

When you know which candidate you want to target, your tracking and research team can search their websites, sign-up for their newsletters, or call their local congressional or campaign office to ask about upcoming public events. Sometimes events are posted only a few days—or even a few hours—in advance. Work with your Trackers to create a rapid response Birddog squad that can mobilize quickly. 

Research Your Target

There’s no shortage of questions to ask your intended target (we’ve provided some great examples below), but it’s always best to tailor it to the individual you’re asking. Take some time before the event to research their record on these issues. If they’ve made statements on abortion or contraceptives, use those to ground your approach.

There are a ton of resources available to track candidates. This resource from American Bridge is a great tool that provides information on statements and positions from state and federal candidates in a set of key states. Research like this, combined with the questions below, will make for an impactful and informed birddogging action.

Attend the Event & Get Them On the Record

Arrive Early. To maximize your chances of having the opportunity to directly confront a Republican MoC at a public event like a parade, fish fry, or town hall, you want to be as close to where they are going to be as possible. In order to do that, you need to arrive as early as you can to figure out the right place to stand at the event.

Have Your Question Ready & Ask It Right Away. Your group should have decided on the right direct, concise question to ask ahead of time. We’ve included some example questions below. You want to be prepared to ask it as early as possible — there’s no telling if you’ll get a second opportunity if the first chance passes you by.

Take Up Space. Elected officials and candidates love walking through crowds, shaking hands, and having short conversations with constituents in attendance. Be ready for these one-on-one opportunities with your question and a cell phone to capture video. Put yourself directly in their path and make it hard to pass you by.

Disperse Throughout the Venue. Whenever possible, more than one person in your group should be prepared to ask a question and get it on video. You should take every possible opportunity you can to get candidates on the record on their MAGA, anti-choice extremism.

Be Calm and Reasonable. Remember: the goal here is to expose MAGA, anti-choice Republicans as the minority. You should be direct, but you should be calm — we are the reasonable ones, after all. Screaming at an MoC doesn’t achieve that goal. If they deflect or try to change the subject, ask the question again.

Record a Video. If there isn’t a video it didn’t happen — it’s really that simple. The only way to use birddogging to expose their extremism is to get your question and their response or deflection on video. And remember: film horizontally, not vertically if using a cell phone camera and get as close as you can for a higher quality shot and so that your microphone can pick up the audio from the exchange.

Get Footage Up on Social Media and Out to Local Media

Once you’ve got a video of your birddogging and the candidate’s answer or deflection, get it up on social media as soon as possible. Explain where you were, what you asked, and what the candidate’s response was. Tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter so we can amplify you at the national level. 

Once it’s up, get the clip with a short description about where you were and what you asked out to local reporters and TV stations, and send it to your Indivisible organizer and press@indivisible.org so we can get out to our own national media contacts. If you aren’t sure who you should get it to locally, email us so we can give you some advice on the best local press contacts and their contact information — we’re happy to help you build your local media list.

Debrief and Brainstorm Other Ways to Use the Footage

Once you’ve completed the birddogging, debrief with your group. How did it go? What would you have done differently? Is there another local opportunity to try again? Then, decide on additional tactics (letters to the editor! Op-eds! A targeted media event!) that you want to try to make the most of what you got on video.

Tried and True Tactics: Protests at District Offices 

This is an excellent opportunity to show your MAGA, anti-choice extremist MoC exactly what you think about the recent SCOTUS decision, and generate some press.   Protesting outside of district offices seems simple, but it can have an enormous impact- especially over recess when your MoC is home in their district. 

Plan and Prep your Protest

Pull your group together to start planning

Jump on the zoom or conference line and start talking logistics.  Pick a day and time between 9-5 (since that’s when the offices are open) when as many of the members of your group can participate as possible—for example, at the beginning of the day or during lunch hour.  

Register your event on the Indivisible map

Once you have your event set, register it on the Indivisible map (including SCOTUS as the event issue focus). That way we can measure Indivisible’s reach and help push out your event and help recruit attendees. Pro-tip: Is your event only for established group members and volunteers? Mark it as “private” when you register.  

Delegate and determine roles

Any event is a great opportunity to develop leadership within your group and empower folks to take on new responsibilities. Depending on the scale of your event, you may want to create teams or just have one point person for specific duties. At the very least, you will need three people: one to sign in attendees (so you can continue building your group), one to prep speakers, and one person to be point for press.

Brainstorm and recruit speakers

Most effective events have 2-3 speakers with each speaker talking for 3-5 minutes. The theme for this event is abortion rights and MAGA extremism so brainstorm and recruit speakers who can speak to that theme. Is there a developing activist with a personal story about abortion rights? Is there an ally from a local reproductive justice organization that you can invite? Make a plan to invite and confirm your speakers.

Build a Recruitment Plan and start recruiting

We have a handy guide all about recruiting, and a worksheet to help you build a plan. Start by re-engaging members who have dropped off over the last few years, and build out to new folks who are enraged over the Supreme Court decision. 

Prepare any props or setup needs

At the very least, you need a megaphone and a few signs (we made these) with your demands. If it’s available to you, it is also helpful to have a podium, press packets, water (it’s almost July!), and orange traffic cones to block off traffic. Indivisible is offering reimbursements up to $200 per event to help cover costs.

Invite the Media

Reach out to your local media contacts and invite them to the protest. This is a huge media story so we know that local news stations will be looking for events to cover. You are making their job easier. Need help building a local media list? Reach out to press@indivisilbe.org. Otherwise, we have you covered with everything you need (template emails, media advisories and press releases) in our general media guide. 

Sample Protest Agenda

We know protests can be hectic, so here is a sample agenda for the day to make sure that your event goes off without a hitch.

Before the protest

30 minutes before the event: Gather the people who have key roles (MC, speakers, etc.). Bring snacks and water, assemble any art pieces that need assembly, test any technology, ready any individual accessibility accommodations that have been requested, and make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend.

Huddle with the speakers and run through their talking points. Make sure they are specifically calling out your MoC’s MAGA, anti-choice extremism, and that they know the order they will be speaking. 

15 minutes before the event: Sign in attendees. Huddle with all your activists (and new faces!) to remind them of the importance of these protests. Explain the plan of action and get into position.

Immediately before the event: The media liaison greets local press and gives reporters a press packet with a press release.

During the event

Kick-off the event: The MC starts some chants , and welcomes the crowd. 

Speakers: Each speaker talks for 3-5 minutes about the attacks to our reproductive rights and the dangers of MAGA extremism.. Some topics of conversation: the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, a federal ban on abortions and contraception, and the need to expand the Supreme Court.

Close: The MC closes the event by thanking everyone for coming, clearly reiterating our asks, and finishing out strong with some chants.

Ongoing: The Social Media Coordinator should record, live-tweet and/or Facebook-live the entire experience. You can tweet excerpts from speeches, pictures of the crowd, or gifs that perfectly express your emotions.

  • Make sure that you are recording and taking photos horizontally, not vertically. It really helps the video get shared and makes it usable for press.
  • Be sure to tag your MoC
  • Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam Twitter.
  • Post photos of the action to your social media accounts!

After the Event

Immediately after the event: Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to your organizer or suppportteam@indivisible.org.

The night of the event: Email your attendees to thank them for a great action. Immediate follow up is important for recruitment and group longevity! Invite all attendees and activists to a debrief meeting. 

Tried and True Tactics: Town Halls

By now, Indivisibles are experts at attending town halls and asking just the right questions (here is our in-depth guide). Here are some quick refreshers to make sure that you are totally prepared to make the most of our town hall experience. 

  • Find your MoC’s town hall. Did you know that Indivisible keeps a list of all the upcoming town halls? Yup, it's called Town Hall Project and you can find it here. You can also find out about town halls by subscribing to your MoC’s newsletter and following them on twitter. 
  • Assign roles! At the absolute minimum, you need one person to ask a question and one person to record the town hall. If you have more members available, assign multiple question-askers to increase your chances of being called on, two recorders (just in case), and other folks to hold signs and cheer/boo when appropriate. 
  • Arrive early and spread out. Question-askers and recorders up front, protestors spread out throughout the venue. 
  • If you are a question-asker, dress innocuously. At a MAGA MoC’s town hall, you are less likely to be called on if you are wearing a protest shirt (or even an Indivisible shirt). The most important thing is asking the hard question and getting their answer on tape so set yourself up for success. 
  • You will most likely get only one chance to ask a question so make it count. Make sure your question-askers are prepared with your hardest hitting question first, and then back-ups if another member gets a chance at the mic. We’ve included some sample questions below. 
  • Find the press. When the event is over, reporters will be looking for reactions from constituents. Make a beeline for the TV cameras and folks with notebooks and get your opinion on the record. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in the policy. You are an expert in your own experience and your reaction to your MAGA MoC’s town hall.
  • Get the video of your question/the town hall up on social media and out to the press. Just like you’d want to get your birddogging interaction in front of as many people as possible, the same is true with any good town hall exchange. Once you’ve got a video of your MoC’s answer or deflection, get it up on social media as soon as possible. Explain where you were, what you asked, and what the MoC’s response was. Tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter so we can amplify you at the national level. Once it’s up, get the clip with a short description about where you were and what you asked out to local reporters and TV stations, and send it to your Indivisible organizer and press@indivisible.org so we can get out to our own national media contacts. If you aren’t sure who you should get it to locally, email us so we can give you some advice on the best local press contacts and their contact information — we’re happy to help you build your local media list.

Sample Birddogging & Town Hall Questions

Abortion bans

  • Do you support outlawing abortion for victimes of rape and incest?
  • Should women be forced to carry their rapist’s child? What do you think about the laws from Missouri and other states that would mandate that?
  • Do you oppose abortion even in instances where the life of the pregnant person is at risk?
  • Do you support preventing pregnant people experiencing ectopic pregnancies from receiving life-saving medical care?
  • Do you believe that suicide risk counts as “threatening the life of the mother”?
  • Do you think it should be standard procedure for pregnant people who suffer a miscarriage to be investigated for possible self-induced abortion?
  • Do you believe pregnant people should be criminally prosecuted for self-induced abortions?
  • If Republicans retake Congress, would you support a nationwide ban on abortion?

Contraception

  • Do you agree with [candidate x] that Plan B should be banned?
  • What do you think about the calls from Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters (AZ) to ban condoms?
  • Justice Thomas indicated that this decision calls into question the rights to contraception, marriage equality, and privacy in the bedroom — will you oppose efforts to infringe on those rights?
  • Do you think people who use hormonal birth control for non-contraceptive reasons should lose access to those medications?