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One year in, progressive patriots keep rallying

Following the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., a group of self described progressives, alarmed by the election of President Donald Trump, began gathering in front of the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, holding signs and American flags.

Their purpose?

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“We are out here saying, ‘No,’ this is not what our country stands for,” said Henry Reiff, of Westminster. “The statement we’re making is we’re not accepting this as the new normal.”

Reiff is among a number of protesters — sometimes just a few, sometimes more than dozen — who have made up Westminster Patriots Resist Rally since last January. On Saturday, he was there with half a dozen others, keeping to that commitment.

“During the holiday season we were not out here very much,” he said. “Other than that, we have been out here pretty much every weekend.”

Although the group makes no secret of their disapproval of the Trump administration’s policies, beginning with the travel ban proposed on Jan. 27, 2016, or what Reiff describes as the frequent dramas and crises in the White House, he said that the goal of the rally is to promote positive values rather than to be a negative force. He is quick to point out that he is rallying for a set of values, rather than a particular political outcome.

“We have tried to be very positive and talk about what we believe in and the values that we hold rather than simply saying that we don’t like what’s going on,” Reiff said. “I do not come out here supporting the Democratic Party. I come out here supporting values that perhaps people would call progressive, but we feel are basic, inherent human values.”

One of those values is diversity, according to Luida Galinaitis, of Westminster, who was also at the rally Saturday.

“My parents were immigrants,” she said. “They escaped from WWII. They came here and the United States was very welcoming, and my bothers and sisters were very successful because of that and productive citizens. We need to keep welcoming immigrants, I believe, to keep our country strong.”

Not everyone in Carroll County would agree with that, and both Reiff and Galinaitis realize this. In a county that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, people who very much associate partisan Democratic politics with the terms Reiff uses to describe his values — word’s like “social justice.”

And yet both Reiff and Galinaitis said that the vast majority of their interactions have been positive during their time across from the library, and indeed, even while being interviewed, numerous people honked and waved as they drove by on Main Street.

When people have reacted with skepticism, or anger, Reiff said, he has tried to be civil, to find reasonable areas of compromise.

“It is important to find common ground,” he said. “I realize the progressive movement has some equal culpability in fighting back and using rhetoric and being dismissive of the other side.”

Progressives and conservatives may not agree on how much immigration should be allowed, but if they can at least agree that both sides believe in protecting the nation’s borders, that, according to Reiff, is at least is a start. He is dismayed by the way he feels progressive dissent from conservative positions is labeled as unpatriotic.

“We are patriots. We believe in this country: We would not be here if we did not love our country,” he said. “I understand there are different ways of expressing that, but this is our way of expressing it.”

Reiff plans to keep expressing his patriotism, alongside anyone who wishes to join him.

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“If you are passionate, if you believe in social justice, it’s not a once a year activity,” he said. “It can be challenging to come out every Saturday, while we’re here. But again, I think it is very important to have this presence in Carroll County.”

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