Dozens of protesters gathered in the Commons on Thursday evening in response to President Donald Trump “violating the independence of the [Russia] investigation,” according to the event description. The demonstration mirrored protests in over 1,000 U.S. cities, which converged on Thursday at 5 p.m. to call for the protection of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump-Russia ties.
Signs reading “Protect Mueller” and “You Can’t Fire the Truth” were accompanied by American flags. Attendees ranged from parents with their children to college students and retirees.
“We’re trying to send a signal to Washington that people across the country are very concerned and, if necessary, we’ll go to Washington to press our point,” said John Dennis of Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now.
According to former Tompkins County Legislator Carol Chock, “people signed up over a year ago, around the first time Donald Trump made noises about trying to stifle the Mueller investigation. We made pledges online that if he did so, we would show up.”
The demonstration, and others around the country, was organized by a group of activist organizations under the banner “Nobody is Above the Law,” which has had “rapid response” protests planned since the beginning of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“We have rallies like this going on all around the country. The country has to stand up, across the continent, to get the point home to Congress that they don’t have to be intimidated by a bully President,” said Charles Geisler while holding up a sign that read “Don’t Squelch Mueller.”
Many attendees saw the rally as a small part of a larger movement, with proposals to call Congress or to organize hunger strikes.
“It’s a real slippery slope to authoritarianism and we’re right in the middle of it, and no one seems to care,” said Sylvan Donenfeld ’20. “Everyone’s looking for this one big thing that Trump’s gonna do, but there’s not gonna be one big thing, so we just need to be out all the time.”
Others, like Sheila Out, an Ithaca resident, simply found comfort in the rally.
“I’m just here to be with other people who are so concerned about what’s happening,” she said, holding a small homemade sign. “It’s helpful to feel like I’m not alone in this.”
Unlike larger rallies in New York City or Washington D.C., the rally did not involve much chanting. Instead, the rally took the form of an open mic, with individuals coming forward to tell their stories while the crowd acted as a microphone, echoing their words.
“My father made me learn to type,” said Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and activist, who told the story of her upbringing as an adoptee. “What he taught me was to type, very fast, this phrase: ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.’ And we did it very fast. A thousand times. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Andres Loret de Mola ’21 also stepped forward to talk about his experience as a birthright citizen and the child of immigrants, with an American flag draped over his shoulders.
“I’m here because this is it,” he said. “I think it’s been way too long; I’ve sat on my ass way too long. Trump moving against the independence of the special counsel is where I draw the line.”
After reading the poem “First They Came …” by Martin Niemöller, with the crowd resonating each line, he continued, “I was born here but my parents are from Mexico, I know there a lot of you in this country who would rather see me go back, but I’m here to tell all of you that I love this country and I’m not gonna back.”
Other speakers included Mother Megan Castellan from St. John’s Episcopal Church and Rabbi Brian Walt from Congregation Tikkun v’Or, with messages about faith and justice.
“Only people like us are going to change the status quo,” Chock said. “It will take all of us stepping up, speaking out, taking small actions, building together to make a whole larger effort to make sure that justice prevails in this country.”
The crowd sang “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger before dispersing.