Andrew Bondi, Dani Stringer and Lacey Brunmeier of Fort Collins for Progress had known each other for only 36 hours prior to the start of the Peace and Solidarity rally on Nov. 12 that drew a crowd of over 1,300 people.
Fort Collins for Progress, formerly Rams Against Trump, has hosted numerous rallies and marches since the election of President Donald Trump. Bondi, Stringer and Brunmeier took over the group after the person who initially created Rams Against Trump left the organization of the first event up to them. Rallies and marches have been reactions to the federal government and to the local policies.
Stringer, the Marketing and Public Relations Chair of Fort Collins for Progress, said the name change reflects the values of the organization.
“The reason it’s ‘Fort Collins for Progress’ and not ‘Fort Collins Against Trump’ is because we really want to be positive and not focus on Trump himself, but focus on the community at large who may be negatively impacted by this administration,” Stringer said. “If we focus on those people instead of of focusing on the person I think that’s a much more positive approach and more effective in the long run.”
Before the Peace and Solidarity rally Stringer said the group did not expect the organization to gain momentum like it has.
“We hadn’t really thought about this being anything,” Stringer said. “But we had so many people at the (peace and solidarity) rally wanting to get our information and wanting to give us their information that we realized that this has to be something – that it needs to become something.”
The organization currently has nine people as chair members and normally has 30 regular volunteers at their events. According to Brunmeier the Planned Parenthood rally had around 200 volunteers.
Bondi, the Membership Services and Outreach Chair, said Fort Collins for Progress has allowed members of the community to become more politically engaged with their local and state governments, such as encouraging members of the community to voice their opinions about the Northern Integrated Supply Project at the city council meeting on Feb. 21.
“(Fort Collins for Progress) gives us the ability to react to everything instead of what just comes out of the Oval Office,” Bondi said. “We’re also dealing with the things that are coming out of the Senate and Congress and all the way down here.”
Bondi said the group encourages community activism because he was not politically engaged until recently.
“I’ve been here for nine years and I’ve never gotten active until recently because I never felt like there was a place that I could plug in to get connected and get a good idea of what’s happening,” Bondi said.
Brunmeier, the Events Coordination Chair of Fort Collins for Progress, said she has developed a strong relationship with city officials, which helps the organization hold rallies and marches.
“I’ve really gotten connected with the city officials and (have) been able to teach other organizations (how to organize a rally),” Brunmeier said.
The organization recently helped Fort Collins Girl Gang host the Planned Parenthood rally.
Brunmeier said Fort Collins for Progress has received praise from the Fort Collins Police Department for organizing peaceful rallies which has improved the relationship between the two groups.
“(The Fort Collins Police Department has) said, ‘We know you can put on a good event and so we’re trusting you’ which has really been important to us,” Brunmeier said.
Bondi and Stringer said that the support of the community, as well as Brunmeier’s relationship with city officials and the Fort Collins Police Department, has allowed the organization to host events, like the immigration march, on short notice.
Fort Collins for Progress expected a couple hundred people to attend the immigration march but over two thousand people attended.
“The police didn’t think that it was going to be what it turned out to be,” Bondi said. “There were two officers on duty at the beginning and they ended up calling in for backup because 45 minutes before the event there were already 150 people there.”
Bondi said Fort Collins police have advised the group to pull permits and communicate with police more so that the organization can continue hosting rallies.
According to Brunmeier it takes about 20 business days for city officials to pull permits, but Fort Collins for Progress has never given the city that much time. Brunmeier said city officials have approved the organization’s request to host rallies since they have developed the plans for events.
Stringer said Brunmeier’s relationship with the police and city officials has allowed Fort Collins for Progress to host their own events and help other organizations.
“(With the Planned Parenthood rally) … if Lacey didn’t have the relationship she has with them they probably would have pulled the permit because it was at risk of becoming over capacity,” Stringer said. “But they told her personally, ‘because it’s you, and we trust you, we’re allowing it to go forward.'”
Fort Collins for Progress hopes to continue to keep the community politically engaged by hosting more events. Their upcoming events include general meetings for residents to meet candidates in the upcoming city council and mayoral races.
“It’s good to be able to come together and put events together to incorporate issues that people don’t necessarily know how to plug into,” Brunmeier said. “We’ve become that hub of who to come to when they want to know how to take action.”
Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.