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Nov 27, 17

Give Repression the Finger: Briskman and the J20

On October 28, Juli Briskman, a marketing executive with an MBA living in the Washington, D.C. area, was out riding her bike when Tump’s motorcade passed her (1). Briskman flicked off the motorcade (2). A photographer, who was part of the press group following the motorcade, captured the moment. The image was then shared tens of thousands of times on social media, including by Briskman herself (3). Briskman subsequently voluntarily informed the HR department at her employer Akima LLC, a government technology and construction contractor, about the photo and her social media posts (4). She was then forced to resign for violating the company’s code-of-conduct policy, which bars “obscene” social media content (5). For this, Briskman has been hailed as an inspirational “she-ro” throughout liberal media and personal networks (6).

Much could be and has been written about the gesture being symbolic but ultimately meaningless, the misguided valorization of Briskman, the stupidity of snitching on yourself to your boss, and the undue control employers have over the activity of their employees outside of work. But of larger and more immediate concern is how material support for people who experience repression for their political dissent is distributed.

Material Support

Briskman has received tremendous attention and support that will insulate her from genuine hardship. In addition to over 12,000 petition signatures demanding her re-instatement at Akima, Briskman has received “scores of job offers” and is in talks with employers such as “, a Virginia congressman, an Arizona assistant attorney general and two bicycle organizations” (7,8,9). Yet despite the likelihood that she will be employed in a well-paying job again in no time, a GoFundMe campaign created by a friend of Briskman’s has raised over $130,000 from 5,756 people.


This is clearly more money than Briskman’s family could possibly need to sustain themselves during a brief period of unemployment. The funds from this campaign allowed people to demonstrate their agreement with Briskman’s actions, but will not be used to meaningfully defend political resistance.

Defend J20 Resistance

Meanwhile others who also protested Trump in Washington, D.C., just earlier this year on Inauguration Day, are facing much more serious hardship and repression for their political dissent and are in need of material support. The nearly 200 J20 defendants are facing up to 60 years in prison for attending the Inauguration protest. J20 defendants have also lost jobs – and incurred significant legal and travel expenses out-of-pocket already. Defendants will also need to be in DC for their trials (which could last weeks), during which time they will not be able to work and will need to pay for housing, food, and transportation. Funds are also crucial for ensuring a strong legal defense that helps keep J20 defendants out of prison and prevent the establishment of a legal precedent that will seriously dampen future protest activities. People all over the country have been very hard at work hosting fundraiser events and rallies, creating artwork, and spreading the word to raise money. Yet the national J20 Legal Defense fundraiser currently stands at only $37,325 – 15% to its goal and a mere $193 per defendant.

If Briskman and her supporters are genuinely committed to supporting protestors who experience repression and defending peoples’ right to protest, they should put their money where their mouth is and provide material support to the J20 defendants. Briskman could easily contribute a substantial portion of the funds she has received to the J20 defendants and still have more than enough left over to sustain her family through this brief period of unemployment. This action of material solidarity would also raise the profile of the J20 case. People who have donated to Briskman’s campaign could provide a matching donation to J20 defendants. Call on Briskman and her supporters to contribute funds to J20 defendants on Twitter @julibriskman. (Comments on her GoFundMe campaign page are being moderated and have not been approved thus far.)

As J20 trials begin, we must defend political resistance. Solidarity is our best defense! #DefendJ20

  2. Ibid
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