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Anti-Trump Vermonters Demonstrate At Electoral Vote In Montpelier

Peter Hirschfeld
Jorika Stockwell, of Putney, was among the nearly 200 Vermonters who went to the Statehouse Monday to urge electors to deny Donald Trump the presidency. There were similar demonstrations around the country.

Nearly 200 people showed up at the Statehouse on Monday morning as part of a last-ditch effort to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. 

There’s no evidence that members of the Electoral College are heeding calls across the country to deny Trump the presidency, but anti-Trump Vermonters are vowing to fight his administration’s policies even after his inauguration.

Audio for this story will be posted.

The temperature was still stuck at zero as people trudged up the steps of the Statehouse on Monday morning. But slick roads and bitter cold didn’t keep people away from the meeting room where Vermont’s three electors would cast their votes for president. 

All three, not surprisingly, voted for Hillary Clinton, who was the lopsided winner of the popular vote here.

But Vermonters from across the state used the occasion to urge electors in Trump strongholds to derail his path to the White House.

“As a queer, female Jewish American, I am terrified,” said Sophie Bady-Kaye, a 19-year-old Montpelier resident. 

Bady-Kay says Trump’s inauguration would threaten the hard-won victories LGBTQ people have seen in recent years. Her message to electors across the country on Monday: Lives are at stake.

"As a queer, female Jewish American, I am terrified." — Sophie Bady-Kaye, 19

“That sounds dramatic, but people who rely on state-funded health care to literally survive, kids who are dealing with gender identity issues and sexuality issues who are going to see a vice president who funds conversion therapy — literally child abuse — are going to suffer intensely,” Bady-Kaye says.

Most of the people at the Monday’s rally – though notably not all – seemed resigned to the inevitability of a Trump presidency. And they used the venue to express their worst fears. 

Jane Ogathorp, director of the Vermont Chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says that from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Energy, Trump’s cabinet appointments reflect wanton disregard for the federal agencies they’ve been chosen to oversee.

“What Trump seems to do is find the person who is going to tear that position apart, and it will destroy the fabric of our country,” Ogathorp says. "So that’s what I’m here for."

Credit Bob Kinzel / VPR
As expected, Vermont electors Martha Allen, president of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and state Rep. Tim Jerman cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine Monday morning.

David Chamberlain, a history teacher at Burke Mountain Academy, says for people opposed to Trump’s agenda, attending rallies and protests isn’t enough.  

“This is nice, and pretty, but it probably won’t be effective,” Chamberlain says. “We need to take escalating action.”

Chamberlain proposed mass worker strikes, for example, as a means of moving the dial. 

The emcee for Monday’s event was Gwendolyn Hallsmith. She’s the Vermont director of a national group called Democracy Spring, which is working on, among other issues, overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that lifted restrictions on political spending. 

"This is nice, and pretty, but it probably won't be effective. We need to take escalating action." — David Chamberlain, Burke Mountain Academy history teacher

Before the electors arrived to conduct their business, Hallsmith periodically led the group in chants. And she called for an end to an Electoral College system she says is “racist, elitist and undemocratic.”

Some people at the event said defeating Trump will require a coalition with the people who elected him.

Middlesex resident Tim Kasten says a Facebook post he wrote recently yielded a number of angry comments from Trump supporters. He says it’s important that people of his political persuasion listen to what they have to say.

“We have to also recognize that there are millions of people who are deeply enamored of Donald Trump, and we need to find a way to bridge the gap in our political feelings,” Kasten says.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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