Politicians dread the sting of #OkHive, the fervent on-line followers of Kamala Harris

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When Rep. Ro Khanna started pressing Vice President Kamala Harris to make use of her procedural energy to push a national minimum wage hike a number of weeks in the past, he discovered himself focused by a swarm of on-line Harris supporters.

“I see progressives are on message with the Blame the Black woman boogeywoman strategy,” an account known as @blackwomenviews tweeted at Khanna, the Fremont Democrat.

“Your misogyny is showing,” wrote one other, who added a GIF of a lady disdainfully tilting her head.

Khanna had aroused the wrath of the OkHive, Harris’ intensive, loose-knit and fiercely loyal fanbase, which celebrates and defends the vp with equal fervor. Members of OkHive, a riff on Beyoncé’s loyal fanbase often called the Beyhive, typically use the hashtag #OkHive of their social media posts, and lots of mark their allegiance of their Twitter profiles with yellow hearts and bee emojis.

They share movies of Harris stepping off Air Force Two, make offline friendships, and put on socks and hoodies bearing her identify and likeness. They set up digital “cooking Sunday” events and provide assist to different hive members.

But it’s not all sweetness. Almost any politician, activist or reporter who has questioned Harris has felt the group’s sting.

A Kamala Harris motion determine sits on the bookshelf of OkHive member DeNiro Jones.

(Jeffrey McWhorter / For The Times)

“They’re vicious,” stated Briahna Joy Gray, press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders throughout the 2020 main, who tangled with the group greater than as soon as.

“I am not interested in talking about that subject at all,” stated David Sirota, another former Sanders advisor and frequent OkHive goal.

The OkHive is the kind of fashionable political military that politicians more and more depend on for each assist and protection.

“We anticipated the misogyny and racism that she would experience,” stated Eric Chavous, an lawyer in New York and one of many first to make use of the hashtag #OkHive in 2017, when Harris was a senator and considered as a possible presidential candidate. “We wanted to make sure there are people out there fighting for her.”

The free nature of the group — together with Harris’ lack of sharp ideology — has left the community with out the strictly outlined worldview that identifies teams which have shaped round Sens. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont unbiased, or Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat. OkHive members communicate in favor of racial and gender equality and LGBTQ inclusion and towards what they see as an excessively class-based view held by progressives.

But they don’t seem to be typically advocating for a set of coverage briefs. They have a tendency to advertise pragmatic liberalism, taking cues from President Biden and Harris about how far Democrats can push laws and government motion whereas constrained by a carefully divided Congress. Their greatest unifying trigger is their perception that they should push again towards Harris’ critics.

“We’re truth tellers,” stated Chantay Berry, a 34-year-old graduate scholar at Brooklyn College. “We present actual facts. In the hood, you call them receipts.”

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Whatever they’re, the group, which has no chief or official membership checklist, is more likely to stay an essential supply of on-line activism for Harris if she runs for president once more.

Though OkHive members say they’ve flourished with out route from Harris, she has embraced them, thanking them no less than as soon as on Twitter. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, has at instances reached out to members in on-line feedback and telephone calls. And when Harris endorsed Biden in March of 2020, the 2 of them made a video by which she defined the OkHive to him, saying, “They’re pretty awesome.” The video ended with Biden asking the OkHive for its assist. “If I have her team behind me,” Biden stated, trying straight into the digital camera, “I know there’s no stopping us.”

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The #OkHive hashtag first started popping up on-line in 2017, although there may be some dispute over its origins. That 12 months, MSNBC’s Joy Reid hosted a panel with Jason Johnson, then with the Root, and Zerlina Maxwell, one other progressive host, by which they mentioned potential 2020 presidential candidates, together with Harris.

Johnson stated Harris had “her own Beyhive,” an underestimated group that could possibly be counted on to “protect her and love her to death,” an equal, of kinds, to the zealous Sanders supporters often called Bernie Bros.

Reid later tweeted that, after the section, she and different panelists additional mentioned Harris’ fervid group of followers and “decided it’s called the K-Hive.”

It was then that Chavous, who tweets as @flywithkamala, started utilizing the hashtag and linking to Reid’s put up. He had voted for Sanders within the 2016 main however since then had learn articles evaluating Harris and President Obama, and he started to imagine she could possibly be president.

“We were encouraging her because we wanted that representation,” he stated.

During Harris’ failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination and her profitable quest to change into Biden’s operating mate, the group grew to become more and more lively in producing movies, writing essays and usually pushing again towards critics of Harris’ document as a prosecutor and her shift away from supporting Sanders’ “Medicare for all” invoice. Later, as hypothesis started about whether or not she would attempt to overshadow Biden if she grew to become his operating mate, they aggressively rose to her protection once more.

Closeup of "Kamala" hoodie.

DeNiro Jones wears his favourite Kamala Harris hoodie.

(Jeffrey McWhorter / For The Times)

“I wanted them to know I will stomp a hole in you if you come for Kamala, if you come for Black women,” Reecie Colbert, one of many extra distinguished members, stated in an August podcast about OkHive with Bakari Sellers (Colbert declined an interview request for this story however stated in an e-mail she was talking for herself, not the group). “Kamala needed somebody … who would gut anybody who came for her, because there were 20 people, hundreds of people as a matter of fact, trying to gut her at every step.’’

Berry, the Brooklyn College graduate student, began making and posting videos in Harris’ defense.

Berry said she was excited about the potential for a Black female president.

But she has also felt increasing frustration with progressives online, whom she sees as more interested in picking apart ideas than getting things done. She ties them to the same forces that have brought gentrification to parts of her native New York, recasting what it means to be progressive.

“The right is going to be just crazy and nuts,” she stated. But progressives, in the event that they had been actually progressive, “would not disrespect the first Madam Vice President.”

She estimates that she spends 30% of her day parsing social media feeds, trending subjects and information alerts — writing papers towards her grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration in between. She wears Harris buttons and T-shirts and makes certain to look at all of her tv appearances.

Like others within the OkHive, she complains concerning the toxicity of the net world, whilst she performs in it. Asked whether or not she has thought-about leaving it, she says she has powerful pores and skin.

“I’m from Harlem. And so like I’m no punk,” she stated. “So you guys are doing this online because I know, in person, you will never approach me.”

Berry, who has about 7,500 followers, not too long ago tweeted a listing of progressive leaders who had been essential of Harris, saying they “may go through some things pretty soon.”

Closeup of Marianne Williamson against a backdrop that says "CNN."

Author, author and 2020 candidate for president Marianne Williamson speaks a Democratic main debate in 2019.

(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

Marianne Williamson, a former Democratic presidential candidate and certainly one of 11 names on the checklist, noticed the tweet and responded.

“@KamalaHarris, could you please ask KHive to stand back and stand by?” Williamson tweeted to her 2.eight million followers.

Berry denied she was making a menace, although it regarded that method to many individuals who noticed it. Williamson declined to remark. A Harris official who wouldn’t comply with be quoted by identify stated, “We do not condone harassment of any kind.”

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Ashley Bryant, a Democratic strategist who makes a speciality of digital advertising, stated on-line factions had been more likely to play a good greater position for Democrats within the coming elections, as a method of organizing for the get together and figuring out who succeeds Biden because the standard-bearer. But she known as them a combined blessing, saying she believes that cussed loyalty to Sanders from a few of his most fervent supporters helped Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“You don’t want voters not even being willing to open their eyes to another candidate just because they’re aligned to one that may not get the nomination,” stated Bryant, who serves as an advisor to Higher Heights, a political group that helps Black girls in politics, together with Harris.

Many OkHive activists view Sanders’ supporters — pretty or not — as a largely white male set of activists who view the nation’s issues by way of the lens of sophistication, on the expense of race and gender.

A pile of newspapers and magazines with articles about Kamala Harris.

Harris supporter DeNiro Jones exhibits a set of magazines and newspapers that function the politician.

(Jeffrey McWhorter / For The Times)

“They don’t address the racial inequities,” stated DeNiro Jones, a 30-year-old who lives in Dallas and works for an insurance coverage firm. “Everything is always centered around Medicare for all. It misses the point.”

OkHive members are particularly delicate to criticism from the left about Harris’ document as prosecutor and lawyer basic of California. Though Harris has at instances campaigned as each a “progressive prosecutor” and California’s “Top Cop,” they resent the latter identify and have posted movies defending her position towards critiques of her prosecutorial document.

“I can’t speak for everyone but if you check out the video pinned to my profile it goes into detail about the erasure and racism that Kamala Harris has been subjected to by the so called ‘progressive’ left,” stated Kenny Walden. The 27-year-old retail employee in North Carolina, who tweets as @2RawTooReal, responded by direct message to questions for this text.

Walden spoke of his frustration with “the constant attacks on her appearance and of all things her laughter,” and the questioning of her “blackness.”

“So if the Khive seems to be hostile, or toxic we have every reason to be after dealing with the constant misogyny & blatant racism,” he added.

He stated many OkHive supporters, lots of whom are girls and other people of shade, noticed themselves in Harris as a result of they, too, had been topic to unfair assaults within the office.

Ro Khanna speaks into a microphone.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) speaks as members of the House of Representatives debate articles of impeachment towards Donald Trump on the Capitol in 2019.

(House Television / Associated Press)

Rep. Khanna, a distinguished Sanders supporter who was swarmed by the OkHive after pushing Harris on the minimal wage, stated he had a great relationship with Harris, taking delight of their shared Indian American heritage, however “I’m going to speak out for my values and convictions, and that’s what a member of Congress is supposed to do.”

He stated he engaged on-line with good-faith critics and criticized his personal aspect after they crossed the road.

“The broader question is, how do we create a social media space that doesn’t reward sensationalism and attack?” stated Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley.

Gray, the previous Sanders advisor and podcast host, calls Harris’ on-line followers “politically irrelevant” and says she and others have been the topic of assaults merely for citing Harris’ document, together with her prior assist for Sanders’ Medicare for all invoice and her proposal final 12 months to chop Americans checks of $2,000 a month all through the pandemic. The invoice Biden signed into regulation final month gave one-time checks of $1,400 to most Americans.

“The KHive doesn’t have an ideological agenda,” Gray stated. “It’s a fan club where they really, really like Kamala Harris, and they view any political disagreement with her as an attack on her personhood.”

Members deny that characterization. But fandom is definitely a part of the tradition. Chavous, for instance, says he retains any disagreements he could have with Harris’ document out of his feed.

A man holds T-shirts with Kamala Harris logos.

DeNiro Jones, with a few of his Kamala Harris gear, stated that, by way of his assist of Harris, he discovered a gaggle who supplied him private assist.

(Jeffrey McWhorter / For The Times)

And Jones says he by no means leaves the home with out some ingredient of Harris apparel — a T-shirt, a hoodie or socks. He retains a number of copies of vogue magazines together with her on the quilt and has a poster of her on his wall, and he even had the personalised license plate “KLA1AMA” on his automotive when he lived in Arizona.

He estimates that 90% of his greater than 100,000 tweets have been about Harris.

And the OkHive has paid him again for that loyalty. When he suffered despair within the fall and couldn’t work, he stated, fellow OkHivers paid his lease, his automotive funds, his insurance coverage and his cellphone invoice.

“They made sure I have food, they made sure I had clothes,” he added. “And these are people I’ve never met before.”





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