Meet Terry Baraldi
By Craig Horle
Since mid-July, folks who pass the intersection of Lansdowne Avenue and Baltimore Pike early on Monday evenings have been witnessing women and men holding signs of protest against policies of the Trump Administration. Horns of passing motorists blare approval, often in unison. What is going on? Who is behind these protests?
It all started in protest against the intolerable and inhumane family separations taking place on our Mexican border. And on July 11, 2018, GrassRoots Delco was born. What follows here are some outtakes from its first, and subsequent postings.
“Now you’ve done it!” exclaimed Lansdowne activist Terry Baraldi, “Grandma’s mad! Here in Delaware County we are diverse in age, race, origin, gender, beliefs, but there’s something that unites Grassroots Delco — we are willing to stand up against this administration and in favor of human rights! We are experienced activists right in your hometown. Show up with us and stand for you and your neighbor’s rights at Lansdowne Avenue and Baltimore Pike on Monday nights at 7! Or start a protest in your town. All you need is a sign and an hour!”
Baraldi envisioned GrassRoots Delco as part of the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) movement by Democrats leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. She hoped that, after beginning in Lansdowne and spreading to Upper Darby, it would expand throughout towns in Delaware County and beyond. “We want to encourage and enable the people still on the sidelines that they can do this. That they must do this. Activism doesn’t need permits and portajohns, or buses or backpacks. It is standing, with peaceful purpose, on your own turf, along with and in sight of your own friends and neighbors, and speaking truth to power. A sign, a stand and sixty minutes. You can do this.” She appealed to the many who are alarmed and angry about the direction Trump and the GOP Congress are taking our country but are unsure how to respond — people not used to protesting, with little spare time in their lives, but who feel the need to do something, anything, to stop the horror.
“What would you do if: Someone took your child away to you don’t know where? And now THEY don’t know either; someone you love were dying because their access to healthcare was taken away? Or someone scrawled hate messages on your front door? Would you wait for someone else to form a group, rent buses and porta-potties and apply for a permit for two months from now? Or would you hope that your friends and neighbors would stand by and support your fight for justice RIGHT NOW? Big NATIONAL events get the news coverage, but the actual NATION starts at your doorstep and mine. All day, every day. The NATION passes through YOUR TOWN all day, every day. It needs to see you and to recognize itself in you. Everyday folk. Showing up. THAT is what this is about. Taking it to the street you call home. Once a week, a sign, a stand and sixty minutes. Then you get to go home. Not everyone can.”
What impact did Baraldi expect, first on her GrassRoots Delco page and then from the weekly corner protests? What were her ultimate goals? To begin with, she was determined that the GrassRoots Delco page was not to be used for political discussions or arguments but rather “for encouraging local activism and sharing ideas and experiences.” She feared she would be the only one posting on the page but hoped to hear from “others who want to share their ideas and experiences with very local grass roots efforts.” But over the weeks that followed, GOTV ideas poured in . . . so GrassRoots Delco targeted college students, and their parents, to make certain they understood voting registration rules in different states, the benefit of absentee balloting for certainty that their vote would be counted. “APPLY FOR ONE NOW! RIGHT NOW” and by visiting votespa.com. She even momscolded: “If you don’t bother to take this little bit of time to do the right thing NOW, you can plan on spending the next 20 years paying off your own damn student loans!”
Now, with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, GrassRoots Delco sent emails to Senators Collins, Murkowski, Heitkamp, Graham, Flake, Corker, and “rogue” Dem Joe Manchin with a clear, concise message: “Your vote affects every American woman, not just your constituents… Do not send us backwards. Be at least that brave. VOTE NO.”
Still, the most significant feature of GrassRoots Delco is the corner protest. What began as a call for justice and reunification for border families has morphed into something more. Baraldi expanded and clarified other issues that might be more compelling for the corner protests, without losing sight of those caged children. She explained: “As we move toward GOTV, we need to consider what issues are probably most pressing for the passing motorists. People usually vote for things that most directly affect them and their families. If you’ve paid attention to the cars passing through our intersection, I’d hazard that 75-80% are solid working class – what will make them get to the polls on Nov. 6? Health care? especially pre-existing conditions; taxes and allowed deductions; Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; union strength, public education; voting rights; social and racial justice, gender equality, fair districts and education funding… SO, WHICH ISSUE WILL YOUR FIVEWORD SIGN ADDRESS? SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT CLEAR!”
From Baraldi’s perspective, corner protests, no matter how large or small, serve a particular function: “The original intent of this movement was to be a visible voice of and to the people, the ones that drive by us, and the ones that live next door. My purpose is in inserting a message into the minds of the people passing by. Even if they forget seeing me five minutes later, the message is still in there. Our tactic will continue to be to get the attention of, and make our 10-second pitch to those same commuters every week — healthcare, living wage, unions. Ten seconds may not seem like much, but week after week, the message gets imprinted and hopefully heeded. I hope you ‘roadside warriors’ know that you ARE making a difference.”
Has GrassRoots Delco succeeded in reaching her goal with the protests? Yes and no. “I’m feeling a bit discouraged that this idea of very local activism isn’t catching fire, but I’m not giving up. I would love to hear from anyone who has some ideas on how to fan the grassroots fire. Reach out to someone still on the passive sidelines. Or just show up at their door with an extra sign. I had hoped for the street corner idea to take hold in other Delco municipalities — for additional psychic impact delivered on the commuter’s way home. Then maybe that evening, and even the next day, they would talk about the signs on all the corners, and the honking. And the weekly reminder to VOTE! Because this is a mid-term election, we need to get that message embedded. Instead of calling your congressman today, call a friend who you think may finally be ready to take this very small step into activism. Use guilt if you have to! Can anyone think of those children and not be ashamed for sitting on the couch?”
On the other hand, protestors have appeared every Monday evening, including Labor Day, and the horns from passing motorists signaling approval have continued. Moreover, a new development is the national twitter movement #StandOnEveryCorner. GrassRootsDELCO promptly signed on!
“When we started our GrassRoots page we thought we were a lone voice in the wilderness. NOT SO! We are NOT ALONE. There are people just like us – just like YOU – in the nation that starts at our own doorstep! The nation that drives through our own town every day. We need to talk to THAT NATION! We need to stop calling on our politicians to change. WE NEED TO CHANGE POLITICIANS!”
Terry herself is new to activism, starting shortly after the 2016 election as a Tuesdays with Toomey rabble rouser. And she lives and dies with the highs and lows as they come. But even at the lowest point, she is encouraged by a recent conversation with 5th Congressional District Democratic candidate Mary Gay Scanlon, who confided: “Tuesdays with Toomey was one of the things that made her decision to run… because after a year and more we were still standing. And activist groups on busy corners are doing the work of energizing the people. Mary Gay renewed my flagging energies in this fight. PERSIST!”
Is it working? You’re damn right it is. The protests will continue through November 5th, reminding everyone that they can take action against those policies by voting on November 6th.
Thank you Terry Baraldi and GrassRoots Delco. In turn, Terry thanks Catherine Coll, her IT guru, for building GrassRootsDELCO and carrying her through the unfamiliar world of social media.