One year after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Yale and New Haven have seen a surge in community activism for progressive causes in the face of widespread concern over Trump’s policies.
Last year, 86 percent of New Haven voters cast their ballots for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73. In a survey conducted by the News in October 2016, 80.87 percent of 2,054 students who completed a survey said they supported Clinton in the election. Since those students were disappointed on election night, activist organizations on and off campus have noted a change in the landscape of political involvement in the community, with increased support for a number of local activist groups at rallies and through donations.
“After the first travel ban, there was a big upswell in support for IRIS and across the country too for refugees and Muslims,” said Kelly Hebrank, a development specialist at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services. “When the election first happened, there was a sense of fear of what might come because of his comments on the campaign trail.”
Last February, IRIS’s annual “Run for Refugees” road race, the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, sold out. The attendance from previous years more than doubled, according to Hebrank. The race took place only a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration and right after the travel ban was announced. After the race, more than 2,000 people took part in “March to the Green” with local politicians.
Funds from the federal government have decreased for the organization because funding is tied to the number of refugees an agency resettles in a year. IRIS received less funding this year since refugees were “put on hold” for part of the year because of the travel ban. The group has resettled 311 people so far in 2017, down from the 2016 total of 530. Before 2016, the highest number of refugees the agency resettled in a year was 240, according to Hebrank.
“We’ve gotten fewer federal funds than we expected because we thought we’d have another year like last year, but it’s because they’re given out on a per-capita basis,” Hebrank said.
Jesus Morales Sanchez, an organizer with Unidad Latina en Acción, a grassroots social justice and immigrant rights organization in New Haven, said Trump’s election has greatly affected the organization’s actions and membership.
After the election, he said that ULA called a meeting and tried to establish a “healing space.” Within a week, ULA organized its first postelection rally.
Sanchez stressed that the rally and the group’s mission were not focused on Trump or refuting the legitimacy of his victory.
“We should not do it about him, it should be about us, it should be about community, it should be about families,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the number of people that come to ULA meetings, both members of the immigrant community and other New Haven residents, has increased “dramatically” since the election.
After the election, ULA focused on educating members of the immigrant community. ULA members distributed “know your rights” flyers and put on workshops and information sessions. Sanchez said the organization has also helped build support for sanctuary cities in Connecticut.
ULA members and members of the broader New Haven community have organized several demonstrations protesting actions by the Trump administration. On Feb. 4, ULA helped organize an anti-Trump, pro-immigrant demonstration in which protestors blocked a highway ramp near Interstate 95 northbound at Exit 47. Sanchez said that on May 1, over 1,000 people marched from the New Haven Green to Fair Haven in a “May Day Strike” with a message of unity. The strike was part of a series of national strikes on International Workers Day to show that immigrants are numerous and influential in the workforce nationwide.
Yalies and New Haven residents also have been involved in other protests around the state and country.
New Haven residents and Yalies went to Bradley and John F. Kennedy airports to protest when the first travel ban was instituted. On Jan. 21, students and residents participated in Women’s Marches in Hartford, New Haven and Washington D.C.
“We continue to be inspired by the wave of grassroots organizing happening locally with thousands of new activists taking lead in their communities,” Kafi Rouse, the vice president of Public Relations and Marketing of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said in statement.
Rouse said Planned Parenthood of Southern New England has seen a “tremendous interest” in volunteering, gaining 200 new volunteers in the last year. In addition, the organization has seen an outpouring of donations, with nearly 10,000 people making their first donation within the last year.
The election has not dramatically altered New Haven’s already liberal politics. Democrats still control the mayor’s office and the Board of Alders.
Joshua Wharton, the chairman of the Republican Town Committee in New Haven, said that although Republicans may have concerns about specific policies set forth by the Trump administration, he is glad that Trump’s leadership has “brought some change in Washington.”
Yale students told the News that Trump’s election has inspired them to become more involved in politics.
Lakshmi Amin ’21, an Ohio native, said she felt completely “helpless” following the election. However, she said, she realized she could use her strengths to encourage others to question the Trump administration.
“I began to consider how I could make accessible art that represents struggles for equality, in order to educate children and young people about major issues facing marginalized communities that are exacerbated by the current administration’s rhetoric,” Amin said.
Milan Vivanco ’21, a member of the Yale College Democrats, said the “complacency” he saw last fall changed with the election of Trump.
“I really hope that last election shocks this country back to reality,” he said. “The drive I’ve seen in people’s eyes every day has only grown more determined and fervent since.”
In a statement, the Dems wrote that Trump’s election has “invigorated” their members. Since the election, members of the Dems have worked this semester on legislative campaigns in Virginia, New Jersey and New York, as well as municipal races in New Britain and Derby.
The Yale College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump was elected on Nov. 8, 2016.
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