Don't Panic: In Advance of Trump Inauguration, Burlington Activists Perform Hysteria | Live Culture

Don't Panic: In Advance of Trump Inauguration, Burlington Activists Perform Hysteria

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Lindsay London - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Lindsay London
Saturday afternoon in Burlington, Winooski resident Lindsay London shouted through a megaphone at the top of Church Street: "'Hysteria' comes from the Latin word for 'wandering uterus'!"

London was met with cheers, jeers, moans and wails from a group of approximately 20 people, assembled for a "Public Panic Attack" in response to the impending inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump. "Because sometimes the only reasonable response is to PANIC!!!!!!" declared the group's Facebook event.

"Panicker" with sign - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • "Panicker" with sign
Located at the intersections of activism, guerrilla theater and performance art, the "panic attack" was organized by loose collectives Feminists Against Trump and the All Affected Coalition. It provoked smiles and laughter — as well as some sincere confusion — from marketplace strollers, some of whom stopped to watch and capture the excitement with their cellphones. Many in the performance group donned vintage aprons and dishwashing gloves, emulating the stereotypical 1950s housewife.

Panickers passed the megaphone among themselves, taking turns identifying various Trump cabinet appointees as reasons to panic. At periodic intervals, Tina Escaja, a University of Vermont professor and director of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, theatrically announced the days, hours and minutes remaining until Trump's inauguration .

When the group completed its script at the top of Church Street, they ran, shouted and flailed two blocks south to repeat the performance.
Tina Escaja announces the inauguration countdown - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Tina Escaja announces the inauguration countdown
"The reason I plug into this type of action," said Burlington social worker Kate Van Wagner, "is to queer up protests and get creative." After the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush, Van Wagner participated in the Burlington-based performance protest group Queer Liberation Army.  She credits former QLA member and Middlebury College professor Laurie Essig for resurrecting, through Feminists Against Trump and the All Affected Coalition, "outlandish ways of reminding everyone — including ourselves — that this is not normal."
Members of Feminists Against Trump and the All Affected Coalition - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Members of Feminists Against Trump and the All Affected Coalition
Van Wagner made sure to point out that organizers' intention was not to belittle anxiety disorders but to "[situate] panic within the historical context of feminism."

And it wasn't all campy hysteria. The panic performances closed with the megaphoned question, "What can we do besides panic?"

"Resist!" came the response, along with a smattering of other suggestions: Donate to the ACLU! Donate to Planned Parenthood! Run for office!




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