MANCHESTER CENTER >> On July 21 a group protested outside of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, against the presidential nominee Donald Trump. One individual is attempting to bring the same movement to Vermont.
Kathleen James, longtime journalist and Manchester resident, felt the need to take action about the current election. She wished to join Stand Together Against Trump (STAT) last month on the day he was deemed the nominee, but she couldn't make it. Instead, she gathered 80 people on the Manchester Town Green on July 31 to share thoughts on opposing the candidate's message.
"I'd say the greatest success of the day is reminding people we're not powerless and there's a lot we can do to change the course of events – on a local scale and nationally – and I would encourage people to take that message away," James said.
State Rep. Steve Barry, D-Bennington-4, offered up ways folks can get involved in the election. Smith College senior Alyssa Johnson-Kurts spoke about her experiences in democracy and bringing youth together to take action in guiding policies of the government. The event was organized by James, her partner and Margot Page.
James said the Ohio STAT helped her start up the event after she said she couldn't attend the convention protest. The organization provided yellow shirts, designs and stickers branded with 'STAT.' James took advantage of social media, the local newspaper and word of mouth to promote the event.
Participants were given a sheet of a "12 Things You Can Do" list with an illustration of Trump who has his mouth wide open in the direction of people in yellow standing together, arms linked, under a STAT banner. Some things listed include explaining to friends and family how dangerous Trump is for the country, encouraging supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, register voters, join phone banks, visibly show support for Clinton with signs, use social media to spread awareness and contribute money to candidates, to name a few.
"We must vote. More than that, we need to do much, much more. That is why our tactics need to be different. Getting involved in the next three months is essential," Barry said. "Please pledge with me today, to work as hard as you can. We have a list of things to do."
A majority of the crowd were of an older population. Two Manchester Police Officers were in attendance to ensure safety.
Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe explained that since ordinances recently changed, the town green is designated for free speech events upon acquiring a permit. Previously, alike events were held at the recreational park, he said.
One attendee, Mary Cardel, said she has strong feelings toward Trump's values. In November, she said she plans to vote for Clinton, and knows the rest of the state will too, but noted that, she's "not worried about Vermont, [but] about the other states."
"I'm terrified if Trump gets into office," she said. "I don't think he can form an actual sentence. He's irrational. I don't believe he's that intelligent. I wish I had seen more people turn out."
Bennington County Republican Party Chair Carol DuPont thinks otherwise.
"I do think Trump will take the state of Vermont. I think he's the best man to lead the country at this time," she said. "I truly think he's the lesser of two evils. And, I do think this country needs a change."
She reflected on her experience working in Washington, D.C., and how "It's an all boys world. The same people want to stay in there all the time."
DuPont didn't attend Sunday's STAT event, but said, "I think it's good if it made [the protesters] feel good."
She believes the press has spun Trump's words since the primaries and that not all news networks are telling entire stories. To help the public, DuPont encourages people to "read as much as they can, listen to as much as they can and pick the right station to listen to."
"Right now the country needs a break. Certainly Vermont needs a break," she added.
The 'Vermonters for Peace' banner that hung at the pavilion at the town green during the event once belonged to a Bennington organization that protested the war in Iraq, James said.
"I think Donald Trump's message runs counter to what many Vermonters hold dear and I would be very surprised [if he gets elected] and I'll do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen in November," she said.
Another protest is planned for the fall, but the date is to be determined. Find Stand Together Against Trump (Manchester VT) on Facebook for more information.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.