Several Brandeis students, faculty and staff were among the nearly 150 protestors who gathered in protest of President Donald Trump’s ouster of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the corner of Moody St. and Main St. in Waltham on Thursday night.
Trump replaced Sessions with Interim Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday, sparking outcry from critics who say that the move was an attempt to disrupt the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether or not anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections.
“This move to force Sessions to resign was clearly an act to defend himself from the Mueller investigation,” said Isaiah Freedman ’20, a Brandeis student in attendance at the protest.
Protestors chanted “Trump is not above the law,” waved American flags and held signs with slogans such as “Resist Trump Protect Democracy.”
The protest was planned in conjunction with protests occurring nationwide, according to Emily Saperia, a member of the Waltham community who organized the event. She told The Brandeis Hoot in a phone interview that the event was planned with MoveOn.org, an organization which describes itself as “a force for social justice and political progress,” according to its website.
According to Saperia, MoveOn.org announced months before this week’s protests that if one of several scenarios took place that might interfere with the Mueller investigation they would announce a nationwide protest. The site, which allows members to register events in their local area, showed hundreds of protests spread throughout the country.
“The core message is that it is important to us as a group to protect the Mueller investigation and what is at issue here is Matthew Whitaker has made statements in the past indicating that he is not someone who necessarily feels strongly about protecting the Mueller investigation,” Saperia told The Hoot.
Last year Whitaker published an op-ed on CNN.com in which he stated that if Mueller began to investigate the Trump family’s finances he would be crossing a “red line.” He has also once commented that the appointment of Mueller “smells a little fishy,” according to a radio segment uncovered by CNN.
Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from the Russia investigation, according to a report in The Washington Post which relied on anonymous sources described as “close” to Whitaker. Trump publicly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation in the months leading up to his firing.
The removal of Sessions came one day after the midterm elections resulted in Democrats winning a majority in the House of Representatives, where they could begin impeachment proceedings when they assume their seats in January.
“The fact that Donald Trump decided to kick out Jeff Sessions the moment he realized that he’s going to have to deal with a Democratic House, to me, is a clear sign that he is guilty and trying everything to cover his tracks,” said Professor Sabine von Mering (ENVS, GRALL, WMGS), who attended the protest. “Democracy depends on the separation of powers, that’s why we have a president and a Congress, otherwise we wouldn’t need both,” she said.
In tweets and public statements, Trump has called the Russia investigation a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”
Brandeis student Tucker Ahlers ’20 told The Hoot that he attended the protest because “It’s a privilege to attend a higher institution of learning, and it’s our duty as students to take that experience and shape society in the way we feel it should be shaped.”
Other students and protestors framed the ouster of Sessions as a danger to democracy. “There are many people who feel that democracy is currently under threat,” said Josh Hanau ’20, “It feels as though everything that Trump does is strictly to cover his own tracks.”
Sarah Hartman, a Brandeis librarian who chose to attend the event, told The Hoot, “I have no idea what we can really do at this point but at least we can not be silent.”