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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Backlash to Trump’s Election Spurs Volunteerism, Giving

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 5:19 PM

Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP. - LAURIE STAVRAND
  • Laurie Stavrand
  • Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP.
Local organizations that support civil rights, refugees and access to abortion
say that since Donald Trump was elected president, they’ve received an outpouring of support.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program holds volunteer orientations twice a month. More than 100 people showed up at Wednesday night’s event, community partnership coordinator Laurie Stavrand said.

“We’re just getting a lot of positive energy coming our way, which is great because it’s good when people take action,” she said Thursday. “It helps them, and it helps everybody else.”

The group, which is run by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, helps settle New Americans in the Green Mountain State. Running on a tight budget, it traditionally relies on volunteers, as well as donations of household items and cash.

All of the above have poured in. A volunteer orientation traditionally draws anywhere from six to 20 people, according to Stavrand. Wednesday’s showing was “unprecedented,” as is the rest of the support, she said.

“This is the time of year people send in donations, but we’re receiving many more emails, more phone calls and more envelopes than we normally would,” Stavrand said.

The crowd didn’t talk politics but Stavrand said most people agreed that the election prompted them to get involved.

“What people expressed was that they wanted to be a welcoming presence for people, to extend their hands and to welcome new arrivals,” she said. “They thought that people might not feel welcomed and that’s not how they see their community, that’s now how they see themselves — so they wanted to take action.”
click to enlarge The ACLU’s website
  • The ACLU’s website
Trump has expressed support for building a wall along the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the country.

A Syrian immigrant who attended the volunteer orientation was deeply moved by the positive energy in the room, Stavrand said.

“He said he couldn’t express how meaningful it was to him to be there last night because it’s been very difficult for him and his family,” she said. “So to see the support and warmth of so many people was very helpful. It was a turning point for him.”

Trump has also targeted abortion access. He’s vowed to nominate only pro-life Supreme Court justices, and said new laws may force women to travel to other states for abortions.

In response, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has seen an “incredible” outpouring of support, a spokeswoman said. Some 500 to 600 donations have been made in honor of vice president Mike Pence, an abortion foe, while 62 people have filed applications to volunteer or intern with the organization.

“We have received donations from both established and new donors, dozens of volunteer applications, and calls asking how to help,” said Amy Lafayette, the group’s director of marketing and communications. “We are so grateful to our community for continuing to stand with Planned Parenthood.”

Vermont’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has seen a similar surge.

“As they always do, people have called for information on ‘know your rights,’” executive director James Lyall said. “There’s been an uptick in that, but also in people volunteering, from attorneys to web developers. People from all walks of life have been calling and asking how they can lend a hand. It’s fairly unprecedented, both nationally and here in Vermont.”
James Duff Lyall - COURTESY OF VERMONT ACLU
  • Courtesy of Vermont ACLU
  • James Duff Lyall

The ACLU’s national website, which posted a picture of Trump alongside the words “see you in court,” went down temporarily because of all the traffic, Lyall said. And in the week since the election, the national group has raised some $7 million.

“I think the fact that so many people are turning to the ACLU reflects the fact that people recognize the campaign promises of the president-elect, if they were enacted, could pose really grave threats to individuals, communities throughout the country and the country itself,” Lyall said.

“People also know the ACLU, for nearly 100 years, has been a very powerful check on governmental abuses of all kinds and has worked as a guardian of the nation’s principles,” he said. “We’ve fought for those principles and have won, even in our darkest periods. And we’re prepared to rise and fight again, especially with all the support we’re getting.”


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Sasha Goldstein

Sasha Goldstein

Bio:
Sasha Goldstein is Seven Days' deputy news editor.

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