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Vincent Owner Forms Community Organization To Fight 'Republican Agenda'

By Josh McGhee | May 17, 2017 11:53am | Updated on May 23, 2017 11:28am
 Christophe Bakunas speaks at Monday's meeting. Michael Bransford listens in the background.
Christophe Bakunas speaks at Monday's meeting. Michael Bransford listens in the background.
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Courtesy of Sam Baker

ANDERSONVILLE — After President Donald Trump's travel ban, Michael Bransford and his business collaborator Christophe Bakunas felt compelled to get involved politically and began forming a community organization to fight back.

As the owner of Vincent restaurant at 1475 W. Blamoral Ave., Bransford could see how national policy affected his neighbors in Andersonville, Uptown, Rogers Park and Edgewater, which have large populations of immigrants and refugees, he said.

"It was a reaction to the current administration's agenda ... We could see the direct impact on our neighbors," he said. "We decided we wanted to do something, not stand around and do nothing."

Bakunas, a well known winemaker and spirits supplier, partnered with Bransford to host community meetings on Mondays when the restaurant was closed. First, they started with simply writing letters, but as time went on and rhetoric got harsher people wanted to do more, Bransford said.

"We wanted more action then just writing letters. Canvassing, demonstrating ... We want to do as much as we can to help our neighbors," said Bransford, adding by the fourth meeting, they began to form a larger agenda.

The group named itself Andersonville Coming Together, or ACT 2018, and now has about 70 members, he said.

The community organization is "concerned with affecting political change at the local level as well as organizing for the 2018 election," according to its website.

"We are from all walks of life and encourage vibrant participation in politics to resist hate, partisanship, bigotry, sexism, and unprincipled discrimination. We will fight for democracy in America and stand up for core principles that represent the best of humanity," according to its website.

The group meets every third Monday of the month and is humble about what it knows and doesn't know.

The meetings have ranged from civics lessons, policy wonks explaining the Illinois budget woes to a meal and conversation with a Syrian refugee whose social programs have lost funding, he said.

Even "as educated people, we didn't know about the budget or how certain parts of the government work," Bransford said.

ACT 2018's next meeting will be at 7 p.m. June 19, he said.