Turning the tables on a Trump fundraiser

October 11, 2017

Robert Wilson reports on a political fundraiser for the people of Puerto Rico that was prompted when Trump rolled into town to raise money for Republicans.

ON OCTOBER 7, activists greeted Donald Trump's fundraising trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, with protest--and a fundraiser of their own for more deserving recipients.

Trump was in town to raise money for the Republican National Committee. The visit came on the heels of his sickening trip to Puerto Rico, in which he blamed Puerto Ricans for throwing his budget out of whack, tossed paper towels into a crowd of desperate citizens and told a family who had lost their home during Hurricane Maria to "have a good time."

The trip displayed how little Trump cares about the island's deep environmental, economic and humanitarian crises.

Trump's fundraiser in Greensboro showed where his priorities truly are: with the rich and powerful. The event cost participants $2,700-a-plate and was held at the home of disgraced former North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

For much of the Greensboro community, Trump's visit was unexpected. It wasn't until four days prior to the fundraiser that local news station WRAL reported that it would be happening.

Residents mobilize against Trump during his visit to Greensboro, North Carolina
Residents mobilize against Trump during his visit to Greensboro, North Carolina (Anthony Crider | flickr)

Liberal groups such as Indivisible immediately put out calls for a "welcoming committee" to picket the roads leading to Wos' home, while other activists organized around the idea of doing what Trump did not: standing in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico.

THE SATURDAY of Trump's fundraiser, members of local radical organizations, including the Piedmont chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, Silver Valley Redneck Revolt, the Winston-Salem and Greensboro branches of the International Socialist Organization, Winston-Salem United Against Hate, the Sanctuary City Coalition of Winston-Salem, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro campus group Defund Racism, and other activists came together for the "Say No to Trump: Pop-Up Fundraiser for Puerto Rico."

"Despite its hardships, Greensboro is a city of pro-active, bottom-up community building and activism," organizer and anti-poverty activist Gwen Frisbie-Fulton of Greensboro told local news outlet Yes Weekly. She added:

Rooted in a strong civil rights tradition, home of two [historically Black colleges and universities], countless community-led initiatives, and informed by strong workers' movements, residents of Greensboro are coming together to hold a very different type of fundraising dinner--one that helps people, not governments; lives not politics; Puerto Rico, not Washington.

Local artists donated their work for a silent auction; activists and musicians brought radical books, posters and records for a raffle; and community members donated pies, sandwiches and other dishes for a potluck-style meal for the 200 people who came out for the fundraiser.

Cakalak Thunder, a Greensboro-based activist band, played music to entertain, while others played lawn games, including a game of cornhole with the goal being to throw rolls of paper towels into Trump's mouth.

By the end of the evening, it was pouring rain, but people huddled together under tents to listen to the raffle and auction winners. One attendee whose family lives in Puerto Rico gave a tearful speech outlining the situation on the island. "Learn the history," she said, "Puerto Rico is poor because of the United States."

Proceeds from the fundraiser, totaling around $1,700, will be going to Casa Taller Cangrejera, AgitArte's community and cultural space in Santurce, Puerto Rico--which has been providing communal meals and on the ground support for activists aiding the relief and anti-austerity efforts.

"So many people are just so frustrated," attendee Kathy Clark told the Greensboro News and Record. "I just thought this was a more positive and productive way to do something since he won't."

Trump's presence in just about every place he goes brings people out into the streets to protest his racist, bigoted attacks on working and vulnerable populations. Events like the pop-up fundraiser in Greensboro offer a different perspective on how dissent against Trump can be channeled into both creative and proactive activity.

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