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DIY protesters keep fight against Trump fresh

Nicholas Riccardi Associated Press

Greenwood Village, Colo. — Stationing herself outside a bank building and holding a sign in the unforgiving midday sun, Katie Farnan was multitasking, as usual. She’s a mother of two young children and works for a nonprofit firm but also has a third job: Chair of the town hall committee of the activist group Indivisible Front Range Resistance.

And at noon on this spring Friday, she was the very face of a protest movement run by amateurs that has provided the greatest challenge to President Donald Trump: A distracted mother dispensing fruit snacks to her sons, ages 1 and 3, while hoping to intercept a Republican senator attending a private meeting with bank employees.

“He sticks in my craw,” Farnan said of Sen. Cory Gardner, who hasn’t held a public town hall this year despite activists’ pressure campaign. “It’s my responsibility to try to get town halls with him and if I can’t get town halls with him, I feel like —” She stopped, cut off by 3-year-old Leo’s cries of “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

A few months into Trump’s presidency, resistance to it is much like Farnan —exhausted, sometimes exasperated, but determined. The initial electric jolt of the record-setting women’s marches against Trump across the country and the spontaneous outpouring of protesters to airports the night Trump announced his initial travel ban on certain immigrants have given way to a long slog of activist trench warfare.

Though there’s still plenty of protest aimed at the president, attendance has tapered off, and the self-described resistance has expanded its targets to members of Congress. In doing so, it’s following both the tea party playbook and the recommendations of a pair of former Democratic congressional staffers whose Indivisible Guide has become a sort of bible to rookie activists.

The decentralized approach has been effective. Enormous pressure from constituents at town halls preceded the Republican-controlled House’s decision to abandon a first bill to revise President Barack Obama’s health care law. (A revised bill has since cleared the House.) Videos of angry voters shouting down congressional Republicans have gone viral. Donations to longshot Democratic candidates running for open congressional seats in Republican districts have skyrocketed.

Encouraged, activists are looking for fresh tactics and ways to maintain the energy. In February, Farnan’s group held a town hall without Gardner, where constituents fired off questions to a cardboard cutout of the senator. It paid for a plane to fly over the Colorado Rockies’ April home opener trailing a banner calling on Gardner to hold a town hall. And Farnan tried to squeeze more out of the bank demonstration by taking cell phone video of demonstrators offering questions they’d ask Gardner at a town hall, for a social media campaign.

In Colorado, the benefits of a decentralized resistance were clear. An Indivisible group in Republican Rep. Mike Coffman’s district helped pack his first town hall of the year with hostile questioners.