The Accidental Organizer
Activist reflects on his role in protest
Danny Peterson | 1/16/2019, 6 a.m.
Most of us have mistakenly clicked on an unwanted option while online shopping or doing other activities on the web, usually a minor inconvenience and easily corrected. But for Jordan LeDoux, a misplaced click sent him down the path to reluctantly organizing the local chapter of a national protest in support of maintaining the integrity of a special counsel investigation into ties between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
It all started when LeDoux, a computer programmer from Portland, signed up for the political group MoveOn’s rapid response tool.
LeDoux clicked on Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland on a digital map on the MoveOn website, thinking he was marking his location should a future protest be held in the Rose City, he told the Portland Observer. But rather than marking himself as a potential participant, LeDoux inadvertently signaled he was volunteering to organize and host the event should it be needed.
He said he didn’t really realize what he had signed up until a few months later, when he got “some emails about tips for organizers, things like that,” he said.
“I looked at the thing that I created and realized that there were over 2,000 people signed up. And at that point I was like, well, I really have to do basic organizing,” LeDoux said.
Luckily “basic organizing” was part of his pedigree due to being a key figurehead in the Occupy Portland movement against economic inequality years prior.
MoveOn’s rapid response tool was designed to get triggered if certain “red lines” were crossed, which included things like Mueller being fired or his investigation being fundamentally compromised. Pre-planned, nationwide protests were designed to take place within 24 hours of the “triggering” event. Emails would immediately be sent out and MoveOn subscribers would be asked to join the demonstrations.
That “red line” was crossed in November with the appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in the wake of Jeff Sessions’ resignation under pressure from Trump. Whitaker had been publicly critical of the Mueller investigation and refused to recuse himself from the probe as Sessions did.
LeDoux received a text message from the national organization informing him the rapid response tool was triggered and he worked to get the word out to people in the Portland area on the email list, asking them to show up to demonstrate the next day.
In the months prior, he had already reached out to City Hall, including Mayor Ted Wheeler and the City Commissioners, the Portland Police Department, and several elected officials to give them a heads up about the possibility of a demonstration, LeDoux said.
He set up plans with the city for protest locations, road closures and other ways to minimize any impacts on both TriMet and traffic.
Thanks to that preparation, the protests went off without a hitch and nearly 1,000 people gathered at Tom McCall Waterfront Park the evening of Nov. 8 calling on the Trump Administration not to interfere with Mueller’s abilities to carry out his investigation.