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Exclusive: How true ‘grassroots’ activists (temporarily) bested Bloomberg

Eric Reed, an award-winning Texas activist, was at the heart of the Facebook "Everytown" operation.
Dave Workman

When anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced 48 hours ago the launch of his $50 million “grassroots” gun control campaign, it took genuine grassroots gun rights activists only a few hours to create a major embarrassment for the ex-mayor’s new “Everytown for Gun Safety” (EGS) by grabbing the name, registering it on hundreds of Facebook pages, and creating a tsunami-sized backlash against this new anti-gun effort.

The man in the middle of all of this is Eric Reed, a Texas activist and founder of Gun Rights Across America (GRAA). He spoke last year at the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference in Houston and was awarded as the Grass Roots Activist of the Year by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Reed quickly acknowledged he had help, primarily from Heather Marchese-Coleman, founder of “1 Million Moms Against Gun Control,” (1MMAGC). She told Examiner in a telephone interview, “As soon as Bloomberg came out with that, we all jumped at the bit.”

Timing could not have been better for this online bit of guerrilla warfare, considering that tomorrow, April 19, marks the 239th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the day when American independence from government gun grabbers was born. Today, muskets have been replaced by keyboards, but the Minutemen of 1775 might be impressed with how their modern counterparts lined up against Bloomberg, media darling Shannon Watts from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and the press.

By Friday morning, more than 200 EGS Facebook pages were listed on social media, including one called “Everytown Loves the NRA.” All feature gun safety tips and pro-gun messaging. These pages now have tens of thousands of followers and momentum continues to build.

Reed told this column that when the story broke, one member of his GRAA network quickly discovered the lack of a Facebook presence of Bloomberg’s group. That individual contacted Reed to explain what amounted to a "loophole" in Bloomberg's media blast, and his reaction was immediate: “Go for it!”

The domain name was purchased and Reed and Coleman went to work. Within hours, they had coordinated the effort to create state-level off-shoots. Coleman said she personally controls 150 of those Facebook pages, but stressed that she is but one of several people who were involved in pulling this off. Many individuals launched their own Facebook pages, entirely on their own, Reed noted.

There was a strong motivation behind this all-volunteer, grassroots effort, Coleman explained. “They did everything that they could just to stick it to Bloomberg,” she said of her activist colleagues. “We’re tired of having it stuck to us, we’re sick of it.”

The shoe is definitely now on the other foot. Coleman, who says her challenges to Watts for a meeting at some neutral shooting range have been ignored, epitomizes the image of a female firearms activist. At 32, she is a mother and bluntly insists that Watts does not speak for her.

Coleman is originally from Pennsylvania and previously lived in Maryland. She left the Old Line State last year because of the new gun laws that were imposed in reaction to the Sandy Hook attack in Connecticut.

Like the EGS movement, the “1 Million Moms” group has members in all 50 states, all grassroots and typically all fired up to refute any impression that Watts and her organization speak for all mothers across the country. They have a website and Facebook page all their own, and they are involved in firearms training for women.

How did this happen? Obviously, as Reed explained, when Bloomberg decided to launch the “Everytown” control effort with a slick video and supportive media coverage, the use of social media had been overlooked.

What could have been a $50 million anti-gun bombardment has become an embarrassment, if not a boondoggle. Reed told Examiner that the reaction over the past two days has been stunning.

“I didn’t think it was going to start getting this viral.” he said. “We all know that Bloomberg’s agenda is a joke. It has nothing to do with stopping violence. It has to do with disarming people. That to me makes him an enemy of the constitution so I decided to do everything I could to foil his agenda.”

Reed and Coleman have never actually met, but the past two days has demonstrated that teamwork on–line doesn’t require a handshake. It just needs a common goal, and the activist network ignited by this effort is the kind of thing that yesterday’s Minutemen proved could deliver a nasty lesson to those who think power is reserved for those who can buy it.


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