Burlington residents: love will ‘Trump’ hate

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Hundreds of protesters braved near freezing temperatures Nov. 11, to attend a 7 p.m. vigil for “inclusiveness, kindness, and empathy” following the election Nov. 8.  

The vigil concluded a day of protesting in and around City Hall Park on Friday. As night fell, calls for peace, hope, and unity could not calm the angry crowd.

UVM students gathered at the park early in the day for a rally. Hundreds more people joined an anti-Trump rally held at 6 p.m. and later broke off to march around downtown.

Protesters shouted “Dump Trump,” “not my president” and “still with her.”

Burlington resident Greg Curtis was among those who stepped forward to share anger at Trump’s election and fear for the coming years.

“I’m a gay veteran,” Curtis said. “It’s taken a lot of time for the military to be open.”

Curtis was proud of the progress the military has made in protecting LGBT soldiers, he said.

“With Trump in charge, all that could change,” Curtis said.  “I don’t want to lose being able to marry whoever I love. And a scumbag like Trump ain’t going to take that away. Not if I have anything to say about it.”

After calls from speakers to “stay angry,” “channel hate and fear into activism” and “reject silence,” rally organizer Chris Vaccaro attempted to calm the angry crowd for the vigil.

“This vigil here, this is for us to harness what we’ve just created,” Vaccaro said. “To harness this peace and love in our hearts, and to intertwine it was strength, with resilience and with defiance.”

The crowd cheered, waving hand-drawn signs that read ‘Hey Pence, Does Conversion Therapy Work on Racists, Misogynists & Homophobes?’ and ‘#NotMyPresident.’”

Just before 7 p.m., Jenny Kalanges, a September graduate of UVM’s MBA program, set up a microphone and passed around candles for the vigil.

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Champlain professor Kerry Noonan stepped forward to lead the crowd in singing activist Holly Near’s “Singing for Our Lives.”

We are a peaceful, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are gay and straight together
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a land of many colors
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are an anti-nuclear people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are young and old together
and we are singing, singing for our lives.

The attendees quieted. Protesters lowered their signs to the ground. Kalanges came forward first, asking the crowd to pause.

“This is not a gathering of acceptance, but rather a symbol of our commitment to remain strong in truth, in peace, and in love,” she said. “Our hearts are heavy. We may be feeling fearful, tired or defeated. Our story is not one of hopelessness… Just in case no one has told you today, I love you, and I’m thankful for you.”

Andrew Pumley, who works in Champlain’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, came forward to speak after what he said was “a shit show of a week at school.”

“We’re all probably here because we have such a wide range of emotions: from sadness and fear, to anger, disgust and everything in between,” Plumley said. “For me, this gathering here tonight is about being completely honest with those emotions.”

He has spent the past few days processing how he, as a young, black man, can prepare for the coming years, Plumley said.

“The pain of knowing that our country is unfortunately, in some ways, what we feared all along is … something we’re all going to have to wrestle with,” he said. “The emotions that we feel now are there because they are real, and they are there because they are valid.”

The dozen speakers that followed Plumley expressed their disgust, sadness and fear for the coming months. Few spoke of peace, unity or hope.

South Burlington resident Becca Camp-Allen said they were scared for the coming years. It’s already been difficult to be a queer, homeless person in Burlington, Camp-Allen said. Now, they fear a new wave of persecution.

Lena Ginawi and Kiran Waqar, both 16, are also on guard for a new wave of xenophobia.

The girls, both students at South Burlington High School, performed an original poem about post-9/11 Islamophobia called “Wake Up, America.” Ginawi and Waqar are members of the local poetry group Muslim Girls Making Change.

At 8 p.m., Kalanges addressed the crowd again to dismiss the vigil.

“Go in peace,” Kalanges said. “Go in peace.”