At Silver Spring Event, Ocasio-Cortez Vows to Fight Racism

At Silver Spring Event, Ocasio-Cortez Vows to Fight Racism

House freshman was featured guest at Raskin Democratic rally

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Dan Schere

As U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spoke at a Democratic rally in Silver Spring Thursday night, she began by indirectly referring to the fact that President Donald Trump has targeted her on Twitter lately.

“It’s been kind of a crazy week hasn’t it,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman congresswoman, joined Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), whose office hosted a rally aimed at garnering support for Democrats Thursday. The rally was also aimed at supporting the Maryland congressman’s Summer Democracy fellowship  — a program for high school and college students to become involved in politics. Attendees could enter for free with a ticket, but had the option of donating to the fellowship program.

Although the rally had been planned several weeks in advance, it took place just four days after President Donald Trump tweeted that “progressive Democratic congresswomen” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” He indirectly referenced Ocasio-Cortez and three other freshman congresswomen of color. Ocasio-Cortez is an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent.

As Ocasio-Cortez continued to speak, her tone became more passionate, noting the length of time it has taken to elect more women of color to Congress. She then named the three other congresswomen targeted by the president in the tweet: Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

“[It’s taken] over 240 years for us to get Ayanna Pressley in Congress. It’s taken us 240 years to get Ilhan Omar. It’s taken 240 years to get Rashida Tlaib,” she said. “It’s taken 240 years for us to have this unique composite of Congress in this moment, and we will not go back.”

Attendance for the event was capped at 725 people which was held at the Silver Spring Civic Center. There was a waiting list to get in.

During a question-and-answer portion of the event, one of the Summer Democracy fellows asked Ocasio-Cortez how best to respond to racism. The congresswoman replied that “it’s not just about how people of color respond to it. It’s about how our white friends respond to it.” She said an attempt to meet people halfway who hold racist views can be a better approach than a harsh rebuke in some situations.

“Maybe you’re not going to move someone and have them do a 180 in the moment, but you can get them from a five to a four, or a four to a three … and take that approach,” she said.

But Ocasio-Cortez also said that sometimes speaking up strongly is imperative.

“When someone says something and it is shockingly offensive, for the person who says ‘that’s not OK’ — it’s really scary to do that. But once you do, it changes the dynamic,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez also briefly spoke Thursday night about progressive policies she has championed, such as raising the minimum wage and the Green New Deal – an attempt to solve the climate crisis while simultaneously stimulating the economy. She urged younger members of the audience to get involved in politics.

Raskin praised Ocasio-Cortez for her progressive leadership, including a trip she made to the U.S.-Mexico border to examine the conditions of immigrants in detention centers. The congresswoman, he said, is “one of the great members of Congress of the 21st century.”

“She comes in every day, and she’s got a pen and she’s got a notebook and then as people speak, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, she takes notes,” he said.

The overwhelmingly liberal crowd cheered throughout the evening, drowning out a protestor at one point with chants of “AOC.”

Lily Godwin, 17, said Ocasio-Cortez is one of the few politicians she has faith in.

“She isn’t paid for by anybody, and she calls out the corruption without fear. You can’t say that about a lot of politicians,” she said.

Leslie Milano, a Chevy Chase resident and former candidate for state delegate, said the congresswoman has appeal that extends beyond the most liberal part of the base.

“Our side, in general, wants to see passionate public servants who can articulate a clear vision on behalf of the most vulnerable and defend it. She’s brilliant at doing so,” she said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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