Last night, a mix of Rutgers students and New Brunswick locals protested President Donald J. Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to attorney general, and what it means for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
“We’re all here because we understand no one is above the law,” said Ron Rivers, organizer of the event, to a crowd of more than 100 protesters outside New Brunswick City Hall. Rivers is the founder and executive director of OurSociety, a “free platform for local and state elections,” which sponsored of the event.
Rivers, a North Brunswick native, said protesters took issue with Whitaker’s appointment over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and how his support for the president will compromise the integrity of the investigation.
The demonstration joins thousands of protesters across the nation who mobilized rapid response rallies yesterday to make clear that they would not stand for this.
Many of these protests were organized through Nobody is Above the Law — an online platform dedicated to firing rapid response teams in the case that the investigation is ever challenged, according to its site. The group’s page stated, “We hope these protests are never needed. But it’s better to be ready for something that never happens than to be blindsided.”
These protests were to be set in motion if Trump:
- Fired Mueller
- Pardoned witnesses
- Prevented the investigation from being conducted freely, such as replacing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
- Or if findings were released showing significant wrongdoing by the president
Rivers signed up for the service in April of last year, and at approximately 6:30 p.m. last night, he received a call informing him that it was time. He immediately started contacting volunteers, locating the necessary equipment and informing police officials.
“Because it was a rapid response rally we couldn’t get a permit, so the idea is we just had to get here and get the right people to help us out,” he said.
The protest brought out multiple speakers from different parts of the New Brunswick community, including Neeharika Thuravil, co-president of the Rutgers student group RU Progressive and a School of Arts and Sciences junior, and New Brunswick Today editor Charlie Kratovil.
Thuravil said OurSociety and her group have partnered before for voter drives, which is how she got involved and called on to speak at this protest.
Trump’s appointment of the attorney general position is unconstitutional, she said, as it does not take into account approval from the Senate, and that an appointee directly from the president will have a political bias.
“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” protesters chanted. “What do we want? Impeach Trump. When do we want it? Now.”
Protesters also made four main demands:
- That the Mueller investigation continues
- That whoever is now in charge as the new attorney general recuses themselves from the investigation
- That Congress passes laws to protect Mueller
- That all criminals are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law
Rivers said that yesterday afternoon he expected upward of 400 people to turn out, and although he was happy so many people came, it would not have mattered if only a few of them showed up.
“If we had five or 10 people, it would’ve been a success, because it’s a show of community solidarity and, if nothing else, raising our spirits,” he said.
Thuravil said she hopes protests like these will raise awareness for all issues, not just the ones people are directly affected by.
She said she has had friends tell her that they have no idea what is happening with the Mueller investigation. She hopes rallies like these make it easier for people to see the significance of what some might otherwise consider a niche issue.
“I want people to realize that there is more to political action than just attending an annual march for women or the environment or for science,” Thuravil said. “Politics isn't something you can pick at for the parts you like — every little thing, especially with our current administration, demands attention.”