In Pittsfield, Great Barrington, protesters rally to tell Trump: You're 'not above the law'
Hundreds of men and women from the Berkshires and surrounding counties joined millions across the world Thursday to tell President Donald Trump that he is "not above the law."
The protests, which took place in Pittsfield and Great Barrington, were organized in response to Trump installing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, taking oversight of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged Russian meddling during the 2016 election from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The move is seen by some as an effort by Trump to protect himself and others in his inner circle from criminal prosecution.
In Pittsfield, more than 200 protesters lined Park Square, many of them carrying signs and lanterns, where hundreds of American flags were driven into the dirt in honor of local veterans.
"I'm really happy all of these flags are out here," said Tim Mahon of Williamstown. "All of these people didn't get killed and maimed fighting for our country so someone could become king."
The nationwide effort to organize protests to call for the protection of the Mueller investigation began about a year ago, with the national advocacy group MoveOn reaching out to local groups across the country to form rapid-response teams. The local groups then awaited notice from MoveOn that it was time to protest.
In Berkshire County, Greylock Together, Indivisible Pittsfield and the Berkshire Democratic Brigades were involved in the preparation.
"We were all tired, because people who are active in the community have been busy with the elections," said Megan Whilden, who attended the Pittsfield rally.
But despite what felt like a long week, the stakes were too high not to take action, she said.
Fiona Lally of New Lebanon, N.Y., held a rectangular box that read "Unwelcome Matt," a play on the acting attorney general's first name.
"It says he's both unwelcome in the role that he's in and that we would welcome him to leave," she said.
Lally said that while the New Lebanon community has an active advocacy scene, she travels to Pittsfield and Chatham or Kinderhook, N.Y., for larger protests.
On Thursday, her sister attended the New York City protest and her husband attended one in Waltham.
"It's good to feel like we can all speak together on this," she said.
Marie Doench of Pittsfield held a sign that donned a photo of the Constitution and read "Nobody is above the law." It is clear in the Constitution that the Founding Fathers intended a clear separation of powers, she said.
"Now, we have a president who either doesn't know or care," she said. "This is a reminder that we know and we care."
Paul Boulais of Pittsfield feels that the nation is at a turning point in its history.
"This is fight or die. Everything we've been working towards for so long is under fire," he said. "This is not pretend. This is not practice. It's as critical of a moment as we've ever had in American history."
Lee Harrison of Williamstown echoed that message.
"I'm old enough to remember the first Saturday night massacre," he said, referring to the Watergate scandal. "Nixon at least had respect for the office of the president. The current president doesn't. He's ready to burn the house down."
Harrison, who has been active in politics since the George McGovern campaign, said he is happy to see the work of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, but hopes to see Republicans in the Senate "step up."
In Great Barrington, about 100 bundled-up protesters stood in front of Town Hall, holding signs at the edge of Main Street where car horns were going full tilt on the drive-by.
They said that the resignation of Jeff Sessions, and Trump's installation of Whitaker, was a step too far.
"They've crossed the line," said Nic Osborn of Salisbury, Conn., who wore a hat with bear ears and held a sign that read "Democracy and Truth."
"It's an obstruction of justice," Osborn added. "[Whitaker's] opinions say that he can't be an unbiased person in this. The system of checks and balances is at stake."
Leonard Polletta of Lakeville, Conn. and New York City, chimed in. It might be time to get tough on Trump, he said.
"If it's an article of impeachment, then that's what it will be," he said.
Claudia Gold of Great Barrington said the country has to maintain a "grip on democracy," and that what has happened is a "slippery slope in a dangerous direction."
Out came the bullhorn, first held by Robert Forman of Otis.
"Trump has begun to dismantle the Mueller investigation," Forman said, and suggested a fierce campaign to lean hard on lawmakers. "We can be the courage of our Congress."
Bobby Houston of Great Barrington said Trump "broke the law after being rebuked by voters" upon losses in the House.
And Houston suggested that this lawlessness is consistent with a topsy-turvy political climate.
"Truth is false, up is down, black is white," Houston said.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.