NORTHAMPTON — U.S. Sen. Edward Markey wasted little time Thursday evening before taking President Trump to task on his perceived lack of constitutional acumen.
"We are going to have to put Donald Trump into a remedial constitutional law course," Markey said. "He is going to have to understand that there was a very careful separation of powers that was built into that document.
"We have this incredible moment in history, where Donald Trump believes it's not the rule of law, but the rule of Trump that should prevail in our country," Markey said.
Markey held what was billed as an "emergency" town hall meeting on the Smith College campus in Northampton before approximately 650 people in the school's Sweeny Concert Hall.
Hundreds of prospective attendees lined up more than an hour before the doors were scheduled to open and hundreds more who couldn't be accommodated in the building attended a simulcast of the meeting at the city's nearby First Churches of Northampton building.
Much of the evening was spent discussing immigration and the effects of the administration's executive orders restricting travel from specific countries, but Markey, D-Mass, also covered topics ranging from health care, to nuclear proliferation and technology.
In contrast to recent town halls held by Republicans in front of their respective constituents, boos and anger were almost exclusively directed toward the President and members of his administration when mentioned by name.
Susan Wismer, of Pittsfield raised concerns about the presence of former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon on the National Security Council.
"I am very concerned about our democracy lasting. I was born in a free country, I'd like to die in a free country," she said.
"I'm very concerned about freedom of the press, freedom of speech they're even now in a subtle way going after freedom of assembly," Wismer said. "We need to push back hard against this. And, as far as I'm concerned [Steve] Bannon is more to blame than anybody else."
"I agree with you Steve Bannon is a very dangerous new element that our county is going to have to deal with," Markey said in response.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said she was interested in hearing Markey's position on immigration, which she said was a subject of great interest to her and said her constituents were also interested in the event as a whole.
She noted the warm reception Markey received at the recent Four Freedoms March he attended in Pittsfield and repeated remarks he'd made that day.
"Be it known throughout the nation that the resistance started with the Four Freedoms March here in Berkshire County."
"Those are pretty powerful words," she said.
One of the night's largest rounds of applause from the crowd came following remarks from a Somali refugee, now living and working in Springfield.
"My community is feeling the pain of these recent executive orders. I came here to this country as a refugee from Somalia, my family was vetted, extremely vetted and came here to the USA for the same reason as other refugees fleeing violence and conflict," he said.
"Families like mine have built a life here. We are workers, we are parents, we are taxpayers," he said. "Closing our doors to entire countries and separating families is not acceptable and it is immoral. It is fear-mongering, it is divisive, it is racist and it is not who we are."
"This whole issue of immigrants in our country really goes to the heart of who we are as a nation and what we really believe about ourselves and what makes us great," said Markey.
"So many of the people who are coming up to the border now are coming up from Guatemala, they're coming up from Honduras, they're coming up from El Salvador," Markey said. "They're fleeing crime, they're fleeing gangs, they're fleeing poverty and injustice and they're coming to our border. "
"And we can't pretend that in the 1970s and '80s that we didn't play a role in some of those countries with our foreign policies ... and you can't turn a blind eye to those people," he said.
"We want to catch criminals, real criminals, catch them, imprison them, kick them out of the country, but the overwhelming majority of these people are hard-working everyday people ... and many of them now are afraid to go to Mass on Sunday," he said.
Markey praised Massachusetts as a leader and innovator in technology and research.
"What do we believe here in Massachusetts?" To which the crowd shouted back, "Science!"
"We accept science as our guide in how we work. And, it's not a conflict with religion. Science is the answer to our prayers, it gives us the ... information we need to take the preventative help that we have to put into place," he said.
Markey reminded the crowd that he authored the 1996 Telecommunications Act which increased the reach of broadband access.
"Not in rural Massachusetts!" shouted a woman from the crowd.,
"And, I will work with you on that," Markey said.
Reach staff writer Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249 or @BobDunn413 on Twitter.