The Harlem area in New York City played host to the very first #WalkAway town hall meeting on Wednesday.
If you’re not familiar with the campaign, openly gay and New York-based hairstylist Brandon Straka originated #WalkAway in May 2018. A lifetime of voting for Democrats left the 42-year-old Straka more and more uneasy about his political affiliation. This led him to undertake intensive research over several months which resulted in him “walking away” from the Democratic Party.
Straka then uploaded a video to social media on May 26, 2018, that detailed his #WalkAway experience and called for others to join him. Straka says the campaign has since snowballed with thousands of videos and written testimonials appearing on YouTube and other social media platforms.
The “Walk Away” hashtag search string on YouTube will pull up countless videos where people explain why they, too, walked away from the Democratic Party. A lot of those testimonials come from African Americans and other minorities who say their Democratic Party affiliation was more a function of their minority status than an alignment of their political ideologies.
Given the increasing popularity of the campaign, Straka rented a large auditorium at an AMC theater in Harlem with a focus on the African American community. Straka’s team also set up a voter registration table outside the auditorium.
Reporter Frank Camp interviewed a few of the attendees but used pseudonyms here to protect their privacy.
An older African American woman named Gloria said she was “absolutely ashamed of who the Democrats are, and what they have become,” adding that they “have turned into the most aspiritual, amoral group who do not have the well-being of their constituents in mind.”
When asked if she used to vote Democrat, she replied in the affirmative but made it known that it would “not happen again.”
A 20-year-old Hispanic man named Jack said he left the Democratic Party during the last presidential election even if he wasn’t even old enough to vote at the time. He said he used to be “extremely liberal,” and even “communist at some points.”
He recalled: “I was just indoctrinated to be like, ‘Oh yeah, socialism and communism, that’s good. Don’t question what it is that you think.’ Once I started to question it during the 2016 election before I supported Trump, I was like, ‘Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, they’re not so bad when you listen to them.’ Then people said, ‘No! What are you doing? Stop thinking! Bernie or Hillary.'”
Jack went to the town hall because he was looking forward to the testimonials of other people who shared similar experiences.
The event kicked off with a 35-minute documentary-style film that wove in twenty testimonials from African Americans who had uploaded their own #WalkAway videos on YouTube. A five-person panel then introduced themselves and shared their own #WalkAway experiences as well as answered audience questions.
At the end of the meeting, Camp observed that as many as 12 African American attendees shifted their voter registration to Republican or registered as a first-time voter as Republican.
Straka said in a statement:
“Tonight’s #WalkAway Harlem town hall was an incredible start to our journey of waking up America and #WalkAway’s mission to break the chains of the Democratic Party.We went into the inner city and spoke directly with the residents of Harlem and showed them our compelling film, ‘The Great Awakening: Breaking the Chains of the Democratic Party’ in the Magic Johnson Theater, which is the story of 20 black Americans who have walked away from the Democrats.
The atmosphere in the theater was electric, and the panel discussion following was flowing with open-heartedness and love.”
“The events that led to President Clinton’s impeachment laid bare”