By Berber Jin
On Thursday evening, hundreds of Bay Area residents marched through downtown Palo Alto in protest of President Donald Trump’s recent dismissal of now-former attorney general Jeff Sessions.
The protest — which moved from the office of Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA 18) to King Plaza — was organized by left-wing advocacy group MoveOn and “Nobody Is Above the Law,” a national network created to defend the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Protests were also held in hundreds of other cities across America in opposition to the Wednesday firing.
Many speculate that Sessions’ dismissal resulted from his refusal to interfere with the Russia investigation on behalf of Trump. Sessions recused himself from the Mueller probe in March 2017 following criticism over his having had contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
His temporary successor, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, is now expected to take charge of the Russia investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. However, critics have argued that Whitaker’s loyalty to Trump could spur him to take steps to undermine the investigation, such as by restricting Mueller’s funding or refusing to publish the final report on the investigation results.
“Donald Trump has installed a crony to oversee the special counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation, crossing a red line set to protect the investigation,” wrote Nobody is Above the Law in a statement on the group’s website. “The Nobody is Above the Law network demands that Whitaker immediately commit not to assume supervision of the investigation.”
Protestors, who gathered around Eshoo’s office and held signs reading “Narcissism does not put you above the law” and “Protect Mueller,” echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m shocked that it’s even a question that [Trump] has the power to do this and appoint someone in Jeff Sessions’ place,” said protestor Vinita Shivakumar, a first-year medical student at Stanford. “I feel like it’s an important point to protest because this is conflict of interest.”
“It’s amazing to me that we’re all acting like it’s a real appointment, even though it is completely unconstitutional for him to appoint … someone who is reporting directly to him and without a Senate confirmation,” agreed fellow protester Kaitlin Corbin, another first-year medical student.
Though protestors expressed anger toward the firing, the mood was still generally upbeat. Chants, led by a local The Raging Grannies activist group, focused on the dual questions of Russian collusion and the ethics of Sessions’ removal.
“Now [Trump’s] gotten rid of Sessions, OMG, OMG!,” yelled the crowd around Eshoo’s office. “Can we say collusion, colluded with the Russians? Yes indeed, yes indeed.”
One protestor paraded an inflated balloon of a baby Trump, while another held up a sign that read, “Hey, you’re not an emperor, you tiny-fingered weasel.”
Protesters began marching towards King Plaza around 5:15 p.m. The group, which consisted overwhelmingly of older protestors, stood in stark contrast to the young Silicon Valley employees finishing work around the same time.
“This [protest] actually looks pretty legit,” one remarked on his way home.
Once all the protesters had arrived at King Plaza, organizers held an open mic. Various speakers urged protesters to not only oppose obstruction of the Mueller investigation but to also support liberal causes more generally.
One speaker encouraged marchers to financially support Stacey Abrams, whose gubernatorial race against Brian Kemp remains undecided. Others criticized Trump’s recent decision to deny asylum to illegal immigrants and called for a renewed push for gun control in light of the shooting in Thousands Oaks, California earlier that morning.
Some veteran organizers drew upon prior experience opposing the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency in their contemporary shows of resistance against the Trump presidency.
“I can’t believe I’m still protesting this crap,” remarked one such organizer.
Katelyn Bianchini, a marketing designer and recent college graduate who spoke during the open mic, offered one explanation for low millennial turnout at the protest.
“It’s hard for generations today to relate to [veteran organizers] because we didn’t live through Watergate, we didn’t live through the Vietnam War,” Bianchini told The Daily. “We only lived through 9/11, and that was a time when the country seemed to come together. So this is a very new era for young people and I think more and more people are starting to become aware.”
Earlier in the day, Eshoo released a statement of support for the protest. Eshoo is a cosponsor of HR 5476, the “Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act,” which would protect Mueller’s independence while conducting the Russia investigation.
Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) will go to the Senate floor next week to try and advance similar legislation.
Contact Berber Jin at fjin16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.