Protest held in Amherst against forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions

‘I think President Trump is extremely sensitive to public opinion’

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

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As the sun set on Thursday, Pioneer Valley residents gathered at the Amherst Common to protest President Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The protest was hosted by Leverett resident Pat Fiero in conjunction with MoveOn, an organization that helps citizens across the country push for political change through co-organizing petitions and protests.

Sessions was forced to resign by President Trump on Nov. 7. As Attorney General, Sessions recused himself of overseeing the investigation into President Trump and the potential Russian influence in the 2016 election, which is being led by Robert S. Mueller III. Sessions was replaced by Matthew G. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General.

The protest began with Fiero reading a speech provided by MoveOn to a circle of protesters. The speech illustrated the issues protesters had with President Trump’s actions and emphasized the demands of the gathering.

“The Mueller investigation must continue without delay, and interference of the department of justice must allow Special Counsel Mueller to continue this investigation,” Fiero said, pausing for the crowd to echo her every few words.

Following the speech, one protester led the group in song, which included “This Little Light of Mine.” In between songs, people broke out into chants, shouting “This is what democracy looks like,” “Protect Mueller,” “No one is above the law” and “Whitaker must recuse.”

The protest concluded with participants lining up along the sidewalk on South Pleasant Street, holding a variety of signs, including “45 you are not above the law” and “Accountability now.”

To Fiero, protests like the one held in Amherst can greatly influence the course of the Trump administration.

“I think President Trump is extremely sensitive to public opinion,” Fiero said. “When he sees that there are a bunch of people out in the street, he often backs off; he often reverses himself when he sees that there is a big pushback, so I think [protests] are very successful, very important to keep doing.”

In order to ensure events run smoothly, MoveOn sends hosts like Fiero guides on how to run protests effectively and to ensure the action is both safe and legal.

To sign up to take part in the protest, individuals could RSVP on the MoveOn website. According to Fiero, 400 people had signed up for the event, with about a fourth of that total showing up.

Fiero, who has been taking part in MoveOn rallies for about 10 years, explained that the organization had been anticipating President Trump to try to hinder the Mueller investigation and had been planning subsequent protests for the last few months.

“[MoveOn] asked us months ago for people to sign up to host an event when the time came if Trump ever moved against Mueller,” Fiero said, “and I think they decided this was enough of a move against him that they should get moving.”

Ginny Morrison, a Northampton resident who attended the protest, believes similar kinds of protests may not institute change directly, but they are necessary steps in limiting abuses of executive power.

“I think what [this protest] does is it doesn’t let slide what is unconscionable and unacceptable,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if the protests directly create the change, but if you don’t challenge these actions, then it goes further and further into executive power taking over.”

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.