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A grassroots progressive group takes off in Haywood

A progressive tour de force has emerged across the mountains since the election of President Donald Trump.

An activist grassroots group called Progressive Nation WNC has amassed more than 100 members in Haywood County who meet weekly to focus their collective anger into action and engagement, mirroring similar pop-up movements all over the country.

“We started as a support group more than anything else,” said Chelsea White, one of the founders of Progressive Nation WNC.

In the days following last fall’s election, a group of volunteers who pounded the pavement for Hillary Clinton’s campaign gathered in a Waynesville living room to process the fate now awaiting America.

“We cried, we had some wine and said ‘What are we going to do?’” recounted Amber Kevlin, 33, a mom and nursing student in Haywood County. “Sitting by and doing nothing was not an option for any of us.”

They soon found they weren’t alone.

“We heard from a lot of people who felt like ‘I have to do something and I am going to go crazy if I don’t have someone to share these feelings with or to feel productive,’” said Natasha Bright, 40.

The movement started organically — outside and apart from the regular party structure — but already stands to invigorate and energize the traditional Democratic Party.

More than a dozen members of the new progressive group now have seats on the Haywood County Democratic Party executive committee. The progressive activists aren’t being shy about their reasons for getting involved in the local party. They hope to move it in a more progressive direction, but they’ve been embraced by the traditional Democrats as welcome allies — including the unanimous passage of a resolution at the party’s annual convention in March pledging that the local party will work collaboratively with Progressive Nation WNC.

“They have revitalized the Democratic Party,” said Haywood Democratic Chair Myrna Campbell. “I feel good about their involvement.”

Two events organized by Progressive Nation WNC this week are:

• A panel style Healthcare Information Forum will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.

• A town hall discussion and rally at the courthouse in Waynesville at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23, to protest Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville. Hundreds from across the region are expected to attend.

— By Becky Johnson

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