‘A di­rect threat to our democ­racy’

Across Fair­field County, the state and na­tion, groups call on Congress to rein in Trump

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Bor­suk

Call­ing the “rule of law” at stake, nearly 300 peo­ple gath­ered at Greenwich Town Hall on Thurs­day evening to de­mand that Congress pro­tect spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. About 200 peo­ple at­tended a sim­i­lar rally at the Dan­bury Li­brary.

“When the pres­i­dent con­trols or takes steps to end a law­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tion, par­tic­u­larly when that in­ves­ti­ga­tion is into his own be­hav­ior, that is a di­rect threat to our democ­racy,” said Joanna Swom­ley, co-founder of Indivisible Greenwich.

“We need our Congress, which is the only body with the con­sti­tu­tional power and obli­ga­tion to reign the pres­i­dent in, to do so. Our pres­ence here tonight and the pres­ence of our fel­low Amer­i­cans across the coun­try sends a mes­sage to our rep­re­sen­ta­tives that we want them to act now,” she said.

The protest in Greenwich — one of hun­dreds held across the coun­try — was put into ac­tion af­ter Trump asked for and re­ceived the res­ig­na­tion of At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions on Wed­nes­day, the day af­ter the midterm elec­tions. Trump had re­peat­edly crit­i­cized Ses­sions for re­cus­ing him­self from over­see­ing Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump and Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Nine hun­dred groups took part in

protests na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing 14 in Con­necti­cut, led by Indivisible, Move On and other ac­tivist groups, said Swom­ley.

“We should take heart that so many of us are here stand­ing to­day,” Indivisible Greenwich co-founder Ner­lyn Pier­son said. “Not just in Greenwich but in the en­tire state and in the en­tire coun­try, fight­ing to pro­tect our coun­try and our democ­racy. Let this show of sol­i­dar­ity strengthen our re­solve and en­er­gize us for what is to come in the days and weeks ahead.”

This was not the first protest in town for Indivisible, which was formed in 2016 af­ter Trump’s vic­tory. The group has demon­strated at Town Hall against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, and held a “teach-in” on Greenwich Av­enue last year to protest ef­forts to over­turn the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The group be­came a ma­jor player in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions last year, driv­ing un­prece­dented per­for­mances by Democrats in lo­cal of­fices. That trend con­tin­ued Tues­day when Greenwich elected its first rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the state House in a cen­tury, and its first Demo­crat to the state Se­nate since 1930.

Both houses picked up Demo­cratic seats as Ned La­mont, a Demo­crat from Greenwich, was elected gover­nor.

The gains by Democrats were ap­plauded by sev­eral speak­ers at the rally, in­clud­ing U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., also a Greenwich res­i­dent, ad­dressed mem­bers of the Repub­li­can Party.

“You have to lis­ten to the peo­ple of Con­necti­cut and see what hap­pened Tues­day night,” Himes said. “I know it is hard to break with your pres­i­dent, but look at what hap­pened on Tues­day night. You can dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­selves and show your thought­ful in­de­pen­dence if you are a proud Repub­li­can — but stand with all of us on the es­sen­tial topic of pre­serv­ing the foun­da­tional democ­racy that al­lows us to have the par­ti­san ar­gu­ment that makes this coun­try strong.”

Swom­ley told the crowd the sub­ject at hand went be­yond par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

“This is not a Demo­crat is­sue and it is not a Repub­li­can is­sue,” she said to loud ap­plause. “This is an Amer­i­can is­sue. This is an is­sue about the rule of law, the constitution and of our very democ­racy.”

Other ci­ties and towns in the state that hosted protests in­cluded Dan­bury, Nor­walk, New Haven and Fair­field.

In Nor­walk, close to 200 pro­tes­tors were about to dis­perse from the Nor­walk Green when a small group of counter pro­tes­tors ap­peared across the street, on East Av­enue.

The coun­ter­protest group wielded an Amer­i­can flag and a traf­fic cone, which mem­bers used as a bull­horn to chant “Lock her up” and other mes­sages. A large group of those ral­ly­ing on the Green crossed the road, in­ter­rupt­ing traf­fic. The two camps stood feet apart as the coun­ter­protesters — four men — made sex­ist and racist com­ments to­ward the group ral­ly­ing to pro­tect Mueller. Po­lice units were called to the Green, and both sides shouted pro­fan­i­ties at one an­other as of­fi­cers looked on.

Around 5:45 p.m., the demon­stra­tion broke up with­out any vi­o­lence.

Nor­walk Mayor Harry W. Rilling asked po­lice to speak with or­ga­niz­ers of the protest as well as with mem­bers of the coun­ter­protest.

“We’re ask­ing them to just dis­perse so there will be no prob­lems,” said Rilling, the city’s for­mer po­lice chief. “But from what I can gather, it’s been peace­ful on both sides.”

Ear­lier, Rilling ad­dressed the protest on the Green, stat­ing his con­cern over the de­par­ture of Ses­sions.

“Vo­cal op­po­si­tion is very, very im­por­tant,” Rilling said. “Groups like this, not only here, but across the state, are crit­i­cally im­por­tant.”

Signs in the crowd at the Greenwich rally said “Pro­tect Democ­racy” and “No One Is Above The Law.” Greenwich res­i­dent Beth Fin­ger was one of the many hold­ing a sign — and earn­ing ap­prov­ing honks from pass­ing ve­hi­cles on Field Point Road. She said it was un­clear whether the elec­tions na­tion­ally, in which Democrats took back con­trol of the U.S. House but Repub­li­cans gained in the Se­nate, showed sup­port for pro­tect­ing Mueller.

“I hope so but I’m not 100 per­cent sure,” Fin­ger said. “The pres­i­dent is the pres­i­dent and I think he’s got some­thing up his sleeve to in­ter­fere with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I’m con­cerned and that’s why I’m here tonight.”

Greenwich res­i­dent Jack­lin Ross said she wanted more peo­ple to get in­volved and speak out.

“For the most part, I think there is sup­port but I think some peo­ple have given up,” Ross said. “They don’t want any­thing to do with it. They think both par­ties are crooks. I don’t agree, and I’ve tried to change their minds but they’re so fed up they don’t want to deal with it.”

“This is not a Demo­crat is­sue and it is not a Repub­li­can is­sue. This is an Amer­i­can is­sue.” Joanna Swamley, co-founder of Indivisible Greenwich

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Mary Do­herty, left, and Mar­i­ana Coelho, right, both of South­bury, rally in front of the Dan­bury Li­brary on Main Street on Thurs­dayto de­mand Congress pro­tect spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Re­tir­ing U.S. Rep. El­iz­a­beth Esty, D-Conn., ad­dresses the crowd in front of the Dan­bury Li­brary on Thurs­day.

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Au­rora Sax­agne, 5, of Dan­bury, with her par­ents, Beth and Justin, and sis­ter, Cece, join a rally at the Dan­bury Li­brary on Thurs­day which was held to call for the pro­tec­tion for spe­cial coun­cil Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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