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New Activist Coalition Forms at Naples MLK Day Parade

Activist organizations rallied at the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in downtown Naples Monday to protest president-elect Donald Trump's proposed healthcare replacement.

The group calls itself the Southwest Florida Resistance Coalition, and though it's less than two weeks old, it already represents nearly a dozen local social and environmental justice organizations.
Suzanne Cherney is one of the group’s founders, who said taking a stand at the parade was a two-part mission. The first was to link the ties between Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and the Obamacare repeal.

“We have lots of people marching in the Martin Luther King Day Parade including with quotes from Dr. King who felt very strongly that inequality in access to healthcare was, as he put it, one of the most inhumane forms of inequality,” Cherney said.

Credit Rachel Iacovone

The coalition’s second goal was to gain visibility for why the group formed.

“We realized that there was a lot of discontent around, among Southwest Floridians about what was happening politically,” Cherney said. “Some people were very upset for ethical reasons. Other people were extremely disturbed that climate change was not being taken seriously, and many, many of us are upset at the kind of intolerant messages that are filtering through to minorities of any kind — racial, ethnic, religious.”

It was from this realization that Cherney and her friend, Cynthia Odierna, said they formed the coalition to bring groups such as Showing Up for Racial Justice and Occupy Naples together.

“As far as we're concerned, our message is no longer partisan,” Odierna said. “We won't mention any politicians' names, and we want to welcome anybody who feels that they have buyer's remorse from the way they voted.”

Brandon Cooper said he was at the parade to represent the local NAACP.

“A lot of people are all fighting for the same things, you know?” he said. “They just want equality. They just want things to be affordable. They want a good life for their family, and I think everyone deserves a chance to be heard out.”

Cooper, who is the founder of the Black Law Students Association chapter at Ave Maria University, signed up for the coalition while there.

“I may not agree with everything the coalition says, and they may not agree with everything I say,” Cooper said. “But, I think the collaborative spirit of what they're trying to do and trying to bring people together for some common interests, I think there's a lot of good work that can be done.”

Credit Rachel Iacovone

Some people in the crowd disagreed with the group's signs with messages like "Donald Trump, don't defund Planned Parenthood."

One woman in the crowd cheered “Go Trump!” as the group passed while some verbally noted their disapproval of Planned Parenthood. But, the majority along the parade route greeted the coalition with cheers.