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Mass. Democrat faces heat for raising funds for N.C. GOP office that was firebombed

Melted campaign signs were seen at the Orange County, N.C., Republican headquarters Sunday.
Melted campaign signs were seen at the Orange County, N.C., Republican headquarters Sunday.Jonathan Drew/Associated Press

Things are undoubtedly tense between Democrats and Republicans as the race to secure the White House continues to heat up in the final weeks before the presidential election.

But after a Republican party office was firebombed this weekend in North Carolina, scorching campaign signs and charring the inside of the building, a Brookline Democrat decided to put down the pitchfork in the name of democracy, and extend his hand to the opposition.

In less than 40 minutes after going public on the fund-raising website GoFundMe.com, David Weinberger raised more than $13,000 from people across the country that he says will go toward helping to reopen, or find a new location for, the damaged Republican party headquarters in Orange County, N.C.

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The fund-raiser was an idea “kicked around” by a few friends, said Weinberger, after a tweet from Zeynep Tufekci suggested something should be done, partisan differences notwithstanding.

“The idea was that our democratic processes are more important than any particular party. If you lose that process to violence, intimidation, or threats, than you’ve lost democracy,” said Weinberger, a senior researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Technology at Harvard University.

The firebombing, which included graffiti on a nearby building that referred to Republicans as “Nazis,” and warned them to flee town, is under investigation. No one was injured in the fire.

“This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community’s safety via fire, and its hateful message undermines decency, respect, and integrity in civic participation,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said in a statement.

The headquarters is located in Hillsborough, which is part of Orange County.

Democrat Hillary Clinton condemned the vandalism and firebombing. On Twitter Sunday night, the candidate called the act “horrific and unacceptable.”

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“Very grateful that everyone is safe,” Clinton said in her tweet.

Republican hopeful Donald Trump responded to the incident with anger, however, calling the suspects “animals” and directly tying the fire to Democrats.

“Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning,” he said on Twitter.

The online fund-raiser has been met by both applause and skepticism. Some have come out — as is evidenced by how quickly the goal was reached — in full support of the effort. Others, however, have blasted Weinberger and organizers for supporting Republicans in a state that passed a bill mandating that people use only the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

“So many charities to give to, and you give to the org trying to defeat them,” one person wrote on Twitter, in reaction to the fund-raiser.

A second person said, “I will tweet this until I’m blue in the face: DONATE TO [Trans Lifeline]. NOT THE NC GOP.”

Weinberger said he understands there will be backlash.

“On the Internet, you get every reaction, and I completely understand the hesitation to donate any money to a political party that stands for beliefs that I find anathema,” he said. “But that’s also, in its own peculiar way, the reason why this statement, I think, is even more powerful. This is an expression of commitment to democracy, even when we are thoroughly opposed to what our political opponents believe.”

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Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.