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Meet the women who are taking a stand in Trump country

June 2, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT
Buckhannon, West Virginia, calls itself “the most Trumpian place in America.” But since Donald Trump won November’s election, a growing number of women have been taking a stand against the president and his policies. Hari Sreenivasan talks with the NewsHour’s Liz Flock about how the election has continued to sow division in this deeply conservative town.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: how last year’s election results shook up one West Virginia town and how the reverberations continue to sow division.

Hari Sreenivasan has more on that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Buckhannon is a town with a population of less than 6,000. It’s a deeply conservative place with a long history tied to coal. Its mayor calls it the most Trumpian place in America.

But Buckhannon is also where a growing group of women are finding their voice through protest and where speaking up has angered some people, including the men in their lives.

Our Elizabeth Flock has published a deep look at these divisions and the women on the front lines.

It sounds like a tough climate to protest Trump.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Absolutely.

I think it’s very isolating for a lot of the women in the town. They are just about 70 women in a town of 6,000, and most of the town doesn’t agree with them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And so how does the town respond when they see these women picketing policies of the Trump administration?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Not well. They have gotten a lot of pushback from the town, from everyone from the local fraternity brothers at the nearby college, to their husbands, to their neighbors, to people at the high school.

Some of their kids have been made fun of for the women protesting. Other women go home at night and their husbands get after them for appearing on the front page with a protest sign. So, for them, I think it’s a constant struggle to keep protesting, in light of the reaction that they are getting.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As you point out, a lot of these women were not engaged in this way before this election.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Absolutely not.

Most of them told me the only political participation they had up until this point was voting. Most of them had never held a protest sign. This was very new to them.

I think what is interesting is, this wasn’t an organized thing. A lot of these women just decided individually that after the election they wanted to do something, they wanted to go out and protest. They went to the county — in front of the county Courthouse and held a sign, and they found that there were other women there doing the same thing.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And, as you point out, their protests are met with counterprotests. What is that like?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Well, the most striking example was after the announcement of the proposed travel ban, when the women did a march at the county courthouse, and a number of trucks showed up in counterprotest, mostly men, members of the local fraternity from the nearby college and other locals, and basically spewed smoke at the women as they were marching.

They were enveloped in a huge cloud of black smoke, dropped firecrackers. It was a scary scene in which a lot of the women tried not to run or scream and give the men the reaction that they wanted.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What are the actions that these women are taking that they hope have long-term consequences?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: So, obviously showing up in the streets with posters and sort of telling the town of Buckhannon that we are here and not everyone agrees with you. They are lobbying local representatives.

One of the women held a town hall with the Republican — for the Republican senator, who didn’t show up. So, she held this town hall anyway to an empty chair.

And a lot of them are traveling to meet with other — they are part of the Indivisible group. And they’re traveling to meet other Indivisible groups, which is a liberal anti-Trump grassroots organization. And so they are sort of connecting the dots with other grassroots progressive organizations that are fighting against Trump’s policies around the country.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And speaking of around the country, is this a microcosm of something that is happening elsewhere?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: I do think this — Buckhannon is — it’s one small town where this is happening, but there are a lot of indications that there are women who are doing this across the country.

You know, 11,000 women are considering running for office for the first time, according to EMILY’s List, after Trump’s election. Obviously, the women’s march was a huge show of interest by women in participating.

And the Indivisible groups have been spreading across the country. I think there’s 6,000 of them now. And after the story came out, a lot of women from rural areas wrote and said that, this really resonated with me and this is what is going on in our town as well, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, across Appalachia, and basically said we’re also protesting. It is really hard for us here. It is really isolating, because people don’t agree with us, and we’re doing it anyway.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Plenty to follow up on.

Liz Flock, thanks for joining us.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Thank you.

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