MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nationwide protests broke out this week against President Trump’s appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker after he fired Jeff Sessions Wednesday.
Saturday afternoon, Memphians braved the cold downtown to make their voices heard.
The frigid 39-degree chill wasn’t enough to stop about 250 people from showing up at the Civic Center Plaza to protest in support of protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I think the democracy is under assault,” said protester Bob Schoumacher. “Many presidents have been investigated and didn’t like it, but to actually try to obstruct that investigation is beyond the pale.”
Others showed up to proclaim their disapproval of the president’s immigration policies and rhetoric.
“This country has always been accepting of people from all over, and it needs to stay that way,” said demonstrator Vanessa Hays.
The crowd chanted, “Hell nah, no one is above the law!” and “When democracy is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Whitaker, who was Sessions’ chief of staff, has repeatedly criticized the Mueller probe.
“Appointing an incompetent, unqualified hack job to shut down the Mueller investigation is way too far,” Schoumacher said. “That has to be stopped.”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) along with several Mid-South activist groups, like Indivisible Memphis which organized the rally, and the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, spoke to the cheering crowd.
“Marches and demonstrations and just simple protests are an effective way to change policy,” Rep. Cohen said. “I think you’re gonna see some Republicans changing policies in the last two years because they saw that unless you are in a deep, deep red state, that Trump did not help you at the ballot.”
Steven Mulroy has been a law professor at the University of Memphis for nearly two decades.
“There’s a real danger here that the Mueller investigation, actual oversight about what happened with the 2016 investigation, collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice, we are in jeopardy of losing the ability to get the truth on that, and that is absolutely essential to our democracy,” he said. “The rule of law is important. And if the Mueller investigation is obstructed in any way, then the rule of law suffers and dies.”
Activists are demanding Whitaker recuse himself and that Congress investigate obstruction of justice allegations against the president when it reconvenes in January.
Many prominent Democrats are also calling on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.