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Tom Hanks mixes laughs, gravity for ACLU online fundraiser

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/1/2017 By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2015 file photo, actor Alec Baldwin attends a special screening of his film "Still Alice" in New York. Baldwin and Sterling K. Brown are giving a taste of what's to come in an online celebrity fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. In a clip released ahead of the Friday, March 31, 2017, live-streamed event from New York City, "Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU," they and other stars touted the group’s achievements. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2015 file photo, actor Alec Baldwin attends a special screening of his film "Still Alice" in New York. Baldwin and Sterling K. Brown are giving a taste of what's to come in an online celebrity fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. In a clip released ahead of the Friday, March 31, 2017, live-streamed event from New York City, "Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU," they and other stars touted the group’s achievements. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and other stars joined in an online fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union, urging the public to help protect bedrock rights they warned are in jeopardy.

Hanks said actions such as President Donald Trump's attempted travel ban represent a "brand of tragedy" and not the America the actor learned about as a youngster.

The fundraiser, live-streamed Friday from New York City, included studio and videotaped appearances by Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Steve Buscemi, Tituss Burgess and Sterling K. Brown. Norah Jones, Usher and The Roots were among the musical performers.

A pledge tally wasn't immediately available as the four-hour event concluded.

Laughs were mixed with gravity throughout. Hanks, who conducted a lesson on the U.S. Constitution, also chatted with two ACLU lawyers he teasingly nicknamed for action stars Bruce Willis and Sandra Bullock.

Some celebrities made their pleas for donations personal.

"I'm an immigrant," said author and TV host Padma Lakshmi. "What I always loved about this country is that anyone could come here" without regard to race or religion.

"If you're like me, you probably can't believe what's happening right now. ... We're going to stand for rights, we're going to stand for freedom," she said.

Seth Meyers and Chelsea Clinton separately tackled the issue of voting rights, with the former first daughter saying that some state laws are making it harder to cast ballots.

Meyers took a lighter approach.

"Voting lines should not be as long as the Porta Potty lines at Coachella. That's in the Constitution," he said.

File-This Feb. 11, 2017, shows Sterling K. Brown accepting the award for outstanding actor in a drama series for "This Is Us" at the 48th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. Alec Baldwin and Brown are giving a taste of what's to come in an online celebrity fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. In a clip released ahead of the Friday, March 31, 2017, live-streamed event from New York City, "Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU," they and other stars touted the group’s achievements.(Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press File-This Feb. 11, 2017, shows Sterling K. Brown accepting the award for outstanding actor in a drama series for "This Is Us" at the 48th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. Alec Baldwin and Brown are giving a taste of what's to come in an online celebrity fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. In a clip released ahead of the Friday, March 31, 2017, live-streamed event from New York City, "Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU," they and other stars touted the group’s achievements.(Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

In a clip released ahead of "Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU," participants recounted successful ACLU efforts in support of school desegregation, marriage equality and abortion rights.

Some mentioned Trump's actions as the impetus for their show of support. He and his administration's policies have drawn sharp opposition from many in the entertainment industry

"Travel bans. Executive orders. Unintelligible tweets at 2 a.m.," said Baldwin, who has repeatedly satirized Trump on "Saturday Night Live."

"The ACLU is on it," said Holly Hunter.

"The ACLU has had your back for almost 100 years," said Oscar-winning "Moonlight" star Mahershala Ali.

"Make it rain," said "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, urging viewers to donate.

The event was carried live on the Facebook pages of Stand for Rights 2017, Funny or Die and The Huffington Post.

Friend of a Friend Productions produced the fundraiser in conjunction with Huffington, Funny or Die and Maggie Vision.

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

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