Hundreds gathered in Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver, joining thousands in simultaneous protests nationwide Thursday night, in response to President Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fears the administration may interfere with an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump asked Sessions for his resignation Wednesday, replacing him with Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker has been critical of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, including advocating defunding or limiting the investigation.
The “Nobody is Above the Law” protests were organized by the MoveOn progressive activist group and other local groups, which rallied thousands for an estimated 900 protests around the country.
The events were initially planned as “rapid response” protests to occur immediately after Trump made any significant moves to impede Mueller’s investigation, specifically Trump firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation since Sessions recused himself.
Protesters in Vancouver held signs referencing those “red lines,” which they say Trump crossed with Sessions’ firing.
Since Sessions resigned at Trump’s behest, the president would not need Senate approval to appoint an acting attorney general. Whitaker, unlike Sessions, has not recused himself from the investigation.
In Vancouver, one group of protesters gathered at the park while another started near the offices of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, on Officers Row, then marched downtown to join the others in the park.
Roughly 200 people, many holding signs decrying Trump and praising Mueller, joined in chants demanding Congress act to curb the administration and protect the investigation, and sang along to protest songs with speaker Ronald Eby.
“Everywhere, people are protesting tonight, because this is our land,” Eby said after leading the crowd in Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Donna Sinclair, a history adjunct professor at Washington State University Vancouver, read a speech modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The original document, she noted, was largely a list of grievances with an overstepping government.
“In recent decades, the executive branch has overstepped its bounds. In recent years, Congress has eschewed its duties, and our judiciary has been used as a pawn,” she said. “We have seen this in the placement of troops overseas without congressional approval, we have seen this in the use of executive orders to bypass a divided Congress, we have seen it in the efforts to stack the Supreme Court for political gain. We see it now in the actions of a president who has fired the attorney general and replaced him with a loyalist who has openly opposed the special counsel appointed to protect our democracy.”
To cheers, she decried the Trump administration’s attacks on the press, use of office to draw emoluments, refusal to release tax information and attacks on civic institutions, and called for Trump’s censure.
“No person is above the law, not even a president,” she said.
Organizers announced their intent to return to the park to continue protests Sunday as well.