South Philly mom aims to harness protest energy for change

South Philly mom aims to harness protest energy for change
Sam Newhouse

Sometimes you don’t go looking for a cause, but a cause comes along and finds you.

That’s sort of what happened to Heather Shearn, 33, a mom of two from Passyunk, who after Donald Trump’s election, organized a “Love Trumps Hate” rally to take place this Saturday.

Her intention was to foster a positive and safe space for people who felt marginalized by Trump’s rhetoric, she said. She expecting a crowd of 100 to 150 to gather to march from City Hall to the National Constitution Center.

Within hours, hundreds of people responded to her social-media invitation. As of Thursday, about 2,000 people said they plan to attend.

“It just went viral,” Shearn said.

Now, instead of listing herself as the sole organizer, she and some friends have created a group, People United USA. They rebranded the march “The People United in Love —Defend Our Civil Rights.” And instead of just displaying anger, Shearn said, she hopes the rally will be a positive, educational and family-friendly experience.

“Yes, we are protesting the Trump administration, but it’s also to bring the people together and educate them on how we can create effective change,” Shearn explained, saying she wants to focus on contacting legislators and organizing to oppose “the Trump administration, all of the rhetoric of bigotry and hate of his campaign, and the people he is bringing in that will support that.”

Shearn has a background as a special event planner, and is a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which she joined after the Charleston church shooting last year. But she has never been involved in politics or community organizing before.

Now she wants to harness the anger that’s been expressed in nightly protests in Philly and nationwide into something positive.

“Anger will fuel the change. It’s not like these issue arose all of a sudden because Donald Trump was elected,” she said. “We’ve evolved from when the Constitution was first written,” she said.

The event specifically asks for no displays of violence or flag-burning, and for attendees to be respectful toward police who will provide an escort.

The focus will be on organizing to defend civil rights and protecting minorities during the next four years, the things that some people are most afraid a Trump presidency will jeopardize, she said.

“It’s time that the people come together from all walks of life show this is not OK,” Shearn said. “This is not what our country is about.”

The People United in Love will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Broad and JFK before marching to the National Constitution Center.