TIME North Carolina

Democrats Raise $13,000 for Firebombed GOP Office in North Carolina

GOP Office Damaged
Jonathan Drew—AP Melted campaign signs are seen at the Orange County Republican Headquarters in Hillsborough, NC., on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016.

"I'm not Republican but we are all American"

A Democrat-run GoFundMe page has raised more than $13,000 to help the GOP office in North Carolina that was firebombed, and it all began with a single tweet.

Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, took to Twitter Sunday night after the bombing to channel her outrage and propose something constructive: she suggested Hillary Clinton’s campaign lend the Republicans some office space.

Tufekci’s idea snowballed from there. Dan Gillmor from Arizona State University’s journalism school noticed her tweet and sent it David Weinberger at Harvard. Weinberger thought it was “a really interesting and right-spirited idea,” he told TIME. So he emailed Tufekci and soon a message thread was going between them and some other Democratic friends: Jeff Jarvis from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Joe Trippi, Democratic consultant and Fox News contributor, and Clay Shirky from New York University also came on board. They spent a few hours kicking around ideas and brainstorming (“We should have used Slack,” Weinberger joked), and by the end of the email chain they had set up a GoFundMe page hoping to raise $10,000 to help the office rebuild.

“As Democrats, we are starting this campaign to enable the Orange County, North Carolina Republican office to re-open as soon as possible,” the page read. “This is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs. So, let’s all pitch in, no matter what your party affiliation, in and get that office open again quickly.”

Forty minutes later, they had met their $10,000 goal, and by the time they shut down the fundraiser, it had taken in $13,107 from more than 500 donations.

The group behind the effort tweeted their praise and their thanks. “There is a hunger for civility in our politics,” Trippi tweeted. “A blow for civilization and peace,” wrote Jarvis. “It’s possible to help the RNC recover from an unfair attempt to damage them, then try to beat them fairly. Both things are worth protecting,” said Shirky.

“I think that the enthusiasm with which this proposal was met is evidence that people recognize the growing threat to our basic democratic processes,” says Weinberger, who ran the page. “This election season seems to be normalizing political violence. Not firebombing, that sort of political violence is still shocking, as it should be. But bullying, name calling, intimidating, threatening lawsuits, threatening the legitimacy of the election process itself, all of these prevent democracy from functioning as it should.”

Weinberger and officials in North Carolina are now trying to figure out the best way to transfer the funds. Earl McKee, chair of the Orange County Commissioners, told TIME he’s working with the board of elections and the county attorney to figure out how to dispense the funds without running afoul of election and campaign finance law, which is strict about the reporting and usage of funds for political purposes. “It is currently in stasis,” McKee said of the money. “It is simply sitting there waiting for the decision as to how it can be used… The party officials on the local level were very appreciative of the effort. I think they, like I and like Mr. Weinberger, are concerned that whatever is done adheres strictly to protocol and law.”

While the money gets sorted out, the comments on the GoFundMe page provide a window into members of the electorate who are willing to come together and support each other despite the divisive election season. “Sorry about the fire,” one donor who gave $75 to the cause commented. “I’m not Republican but we are all American.”

“May we be spared Trump,” wrote another who gave $10, “but not this way.”

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