In the weeks after the Nov. 8 election, when Donald Trump secured a surprise victory to become president of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union received so much money in online donations — more than $15 million — that an official with the 100-year-old organization called the flood “unprecedented in our history.”
That was before Trump had even sworn the oath of office.
Eleven days ago he did just that, then spent his first week as president signing executive orders and making good on some of his campaign promises, spurring massive protests across the country and the world — about women’s rights, the environment and what Trump calls his “extreme vetting” of travelers to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
Amid the swift and intense backlash, the ACLU seems once again to be benefiting directly.
This weekend alone, the civil liberties group received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people, a spokesman told The Washington Post early Monday morning, a total that supersedes its annual online donations by six times.
In an interview with CNN, the ACLU had a one-word reaction: “Wow.”
Before the donations had soared to $24 million, Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, told Yahoo News he was blown away by the influx.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Romero told Yahoo News. “People are fired up and want to be engaged. What we’ve seen is an unprecedented public reaction to the challenges of the Trump administration.”
The money flowed in from the pockets of people who had never donated before, CNN reported, but it also came from big names in Hollywood, who spent the weekend tweeting that they would match donations up to tens of thousands of dollars and who were called upon at the Screen Actors Guild Awards to give to the ACLU.
“I would like to make a plea for everyone, if they can, any money they have to spare please donate to the ACLU,” actress Sarah Paulson, who was honored for her role in “The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” said to applause during her acceptance speech. “To protect the rights and liberties of people across this country, it’s a vital organization that relies entirely on our support.”
It was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU Friday night that prompted a New York federal judge 24 hours later to halt the deportations of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries who had been detained at U.S. airports following a Trump executive order that targeted them.
Ride-sharing company Lyft announced a $1 million donation, to be paid out over the next four years, to the ACLU.
“This weekend, Trump closed the country’s borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin,” Lyft wrote in an email to customers. “Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”
Among the celebrities and high-rollers pledging to match the donations of ordinary Americans was “Modern Family” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, pop star and music producer Sia, entrepreneur Tony Fadell, venture capitalist and “Shark Tank” investor Chris Sacca, and Worldreader‘s president and co-founder, David Risher, as well as Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, and other Silicon Valley names.
On Twitter, donors were using the hashtag #ACLUmatch to find the deep pockets willing to double their modest gifts.
Romero told Yahoo News that as of early Sunday evening the ACLU’s membership had more than doubled since the November presidential election, spiking from 400,000 to over a million.
It will be organizations like his, focused on defending civil liberties, that will be at the forefront of the pushback against Trump’s agenda, Romero said.
“With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the Democrats in disarray and lacking any spine,” Romero told Yahoo News, “the two pincers (opposing Trump) have to be litigation and citizen action.”
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