Brandon action one of 800 around the nation

By LEE J. KAHRS

BRANDON — A small group of residents appeared at the corner of Conant Square and Pearl Street Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s treatment of the United States Postal Service (USPS).

From left, Susan Stone, her grandson Arlo Cifone (with his dog Iris), Claire Aston in front with scarf, unknown, Christy Gahagan, and Eve Beglarian protesting recent cuts to the United States Postal Service
 Photo by Lee Kahrs

Saturday’s protest in Brandon was planned less than three hours in advance. Resident Claire Astone sent out an email at 8:10 a.m. Saturday announcing the 11 a.m. rally at the Brandon Post Office.

“Some of us had known about a rally announced for the Rutland Post Office and were planning to head down there, but hearing that something was happening at our very own post office, we changed our plans,” said protester Even Beglarian. “I posted the announcement on Facebook and tagged some of my Brandon friends, but it was mostly word of mouth. Credit goes to Claire for pulling this together and making signs for all of us: the rest of us only had to show up!”

Astone said the action was one of 800 protests organized across the nation on Saturday through Moveon.org “to save the post office from Trump and demand the resignation of Louis DeJoy!” 

Cost-cutting measures implemented at the USPS by Postmaster Louis DeJoy in recent weeks has slowed mail service significantly. In the meantime, President Trump has continually declared that the millions of absentee ballots to be mailed this fall due to the pandemic will lead to widespread voter fraud. There is no evidence to support that claim. Trump also threatened to withhold USPS funding necessary for the USPS to not only continue operating, but to handle the influx of absentee ballots for the coming election. The funding has since been approved.

Still, DeJoy was a wealthy donor to Trump’s election campaign before his appointment to the postmaster job in March. As Trump runs for re-election, many Americans are concerned that DeJoy is helping Trump sabotage November’s election. DeJoy was called to testify before Congress this week.

On Saturday, the local protesters waved to motorists passing by in front the Brandon Post Office, urging drivers to honk their horns in support. They held simple cardboard signs with messages ranging from “Honk” to “We the People means all of us” to “Vote by mail, it’s your right.”

Astone said that organizers were even working on the protests in California in the midst of wildfires and smoke.

“We’re planning how to best represent this important action on behalf of veterans, seniors and all who receive needed services such as medications through the mail,” she said. “Checks for the disabled and retired, small businesses who are negatively impacted here and across the country, and rural and indigenous folks with no other support services. We support our essential workers and we will fight for our right to for our right to safe voting by mail.”

The protestors gathered in front of the Brandon Post Office on Saturday against recent cuts to the postal system. From left, Neil Silins, Susan Stone, unknown, Christy Gahagan, Marielle Blais, unknown, Clair Astone, unknown, Samantha Stone, Arlo Cifone, and unknown. 
Photo submitted

Samantha Stone is one half of the duo behind Swan & Stone Millinery hat makers. She said she and her partner Nora Swan has always used the USPS Priority mail to ship their hats because of the free tracking and insurance offered.

“When the pandemic hit, our small hat business shifted from about 90% in-person, direct sale business to a 100% online business,” she said. “As a citizen of this country, I’m outraged at steps taken to try and cripple our postal service in obvious attempts to limit mail-in voting and manipulate the upcoming election, but as a small business owner, it’s also very personal to me.”

Stone said the employees at the Brandon Post Office have always been so helpful in mailing the tracking Swan & Stone products, especially since the pandemic began.

“Our local post office and their incredibly helpful employees are vital to our business,” she said. “They’ve become part of our business. They were there for us when we needed them, so we will fight for them now.”