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Civil Rights

Crowdfunding for Civility

— October 24, 2016

It’s been a particularly vicious election season, and it’s not over yet. Dangerous rhetoric, including Trump goading his supporters to violence, has produced an environment of rancor that seems designed to bring out the worst in people. Yet among each day’s new stories of political grandstanding and admissions of sexual assault, two stories of people doing the right thing in response to the wrongs have emerged. Most people still seem to be decent at heart, and crowdfunding for civility may be the way they show that not everyone has gone to the dark side.

Over the weekend of 15-16 October, someone vandalized the Orange County Republican Party headquarters in Hillsborough, North Carolina, setting fire to the interior with an improvised incendiary device and scrawling graffiti on the side of the building that read, “Nazi Republicans Leave Town Or Else.” (On the same night, the Orange County Democratic Party headquarters in Carrboro, North Carolina was also vandalized. Someone wrote “Death to Capitalism” on their building.) GOP candidate Donald Trump wasn’t subtle in his declaration that “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning.”

A Tweet from the North Carolina GOP shows damage.

While it is still unknown who was behind the vandalism, some other ‘animals’ got together to help the North Carolina GOP rebuild. Democrat supporter David Weinberger of Brookline, Massachusetts, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 towards repairing the damage. Within 40 minute of the first donation, he raised over $13,000 from 552 contributors. While not all the donors were necessarily his fellow Democrats, many did leave messages on the site condemning the attack. Crowdfunding for civility meant putting their money where their beliefs are, and not letting violence and destruction substitute for the democratic process.

Meanwhile, over in Mississippi, several signs that commemorate Emmett Till’s murder have been stolen or vandalized. Emmett Till was a boy of 14 who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly having whistled at a white woman. One sign that commemorates where Till’s mangled body was found in the Tallahatchie River has been repeatedly riddled with gunshots. A photo posted to Facebook by Kevin Wilson Jr. inspired not only comments about how the gunshots could have been completely innocent target practice, you know, like people do to signs everywhere, and how people should stop making this into a racial issue, but also a campaign where the public could donate funds to replace the oft-vandalized sign. (Apparently some signs attract more target practice than others. No word yet from Trump or his surrogates on whether or not these shooters are “animals.”)

The sign marking where Till's body was pulled from the river was marked by bullet holes. Photo by Kevin Wilson Jr.
The sign marking where Till’s body was pulled from the river was marked by bullet holes. Photo by Kevin Wilson Jr.

The Emmett Till campaign has raised $18,000 and at the time of this writing still has over two months to go. Crowdfunding for civility means, in this case, that the money will go towards the production of a smartphone app that will guide visitors to various sites important to the Emmett Till story, such as the courthouse where his murderers were found not guilty by an all-white jury, although two of them later confessed to the crime. Replacing all of the stolen or vandalized signs would be a constant drain on the limited resources of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, so by taking away these frequent targets of vandalism they are investing in a better way to help people keep Till’s memory alive while depriving the (alleged!) haters of a way to keep harming Till in effigy.

No matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, there will be pain and suffering from people either disappointed or empowered by the result. But we have not lost all of our better angels. Hopefully there are enough good people left to shine as moral beacons through the night, speaking out for justice and crowdfunding for civility.


Orange County GOP Office Firebombed, Democratic HQ Spray-Painted
What is firebombing? Here’s what happened at the GOP headquarters in North Carolina.
Donations to Help Rebuild NC GOP Firebombed Office in Limbo
A Democrat-led crowdfunding campaign raised $13,000 to rebuild the bombed GOP office in North Carolina
Fund-raiser to replace bullet-riddled Emmett Till memorial sign reaches $15G goal
Now more than ever, they’re not giving up on Emmett Till memorials
Emmett Till Interpretive Center

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