What Trump's Election Means To Blue Voters In A Red County | KUOW News and Information

What Trump's Election Means To Blue Voters In A Red County

Jan 17, 2017
Originally published on January 19, 2017 9:25 am

In mid-November, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the nation, including Portland and Seattle, to express their unhappiness with Donald Trump's election.

Protesters gathered in the central Oregon city of Bend, too. But their numbers were much smaller.

Bend TV station KTVZ reported that a couple of hundred marchers sang and carried signs.

One of that rally's organizers was Lief Bamberg, a 20-something activist who said he moved to Bend from Portland a few years ago for the clean air and natural beauty. After the marching and chanting at the anti-Trump rally, Bamberg said he sat down with his friends to try to figure out what to do next.

The answer: Take the slogans they were chanting seriously.

"We brainstormed this idea that all of these movements, all of the progressive activists that are out there need to start working together, stop being silo-ed off in their own pet issues,” Bamberg said. “Because at this point, everything is on the table."

Bamberg and others in central Oregon formed what they're calling the "Protect Our Progress Coalition." They said they're worried the Trump administration will implement policies that threaten religious minorities, health care and the environment.

One of their first projects culminated at a mid-December meeting of the Bend City Council. The "Protect Our Progress Coalition" arranged for council members to approve a proclamation they called "Not in Our Town." Council member Nathan Boddie read from the document:

"Be it resolved that the City of Bend stands up against bigotry and hate-based violence of all kinds and declares that no one shall be discriminated against because of race, faith, ethnicity.” he said.

While Bend itself tends to be somewhat moderate politically, Deschutes County as a whole voted for Donald Trump. Thomas Wrisley dove up to Bend for the City Council meeting from LaPine, one of the county's Republican-heavy communities. The teenager identifies as part of the LGBT community. He said a resolution like this one has the potential to be more than symbolic.

"Our public officials, if they are condemning it, then there's going to be stigma, then that stigma can be utilized so that it could protect minorities," he said. "I think that's part of the reason why having this proclamation was important."

Wrisley said he's worried that ethnic minorities will feel the brunt of new Trump administration policies. He said he turned 18 in time to vote for the first time in last year's election. As you can probably guess, his preferred candidate didn't win.

"That's how democracy works,” Wrisley said. “If not everyone else agrees with what you're saying, if not everyone values the same things, then that's kind of it.”

Another candidate who didn't win was Greg Delgado, who ran as a Democrat for a state senate seat in Bend. Delgado is now turning his efforts to helping the fledgling coalition of left-leaning groups in Central Oregon.

"We all have to become leaders in this conversation now, to say we need communities that respect and reflect us as people," he said. " And so we have to take more responsibility in the leadership and development of our community."

Delgado said the coalition wants to engage business and community leaders to help people on both ends of the political spectrum develop the tools to have healthy, peaceful dialogue on issues where they may not see eye-to-eye.

Further east, Trump's election is spurring interest in a group that was formed long before anyone envisioned the real estate magnate's run for the White House. The La Grande-based Oregon Rural Action is 17 years old and works on racial, economic and environmental justice issues. The group is active in five eastern Oregon counties, all places where Trump won well over 60 percent of the vote.

"More and more people are coming to us saying 'I haven't been involved before but I want to be involved now,'" said Oregon Rural Action board member Bill Whitaker. "They just can't accept the kind of ideas and language being used by the president-elect."

Whitaker's group would love the kind of turnout enjoyed by the Protect Our Progress Coalition in Bend. A recent march against the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act drew just 22 participants to Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's LaGrande office Whitaker said. Cold weather didn't help.

The protests seem likely to continue, however. As in many cities around the country, there's a march planned for Bend later this week.

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