Following the resignation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday, students and local community members marched on Franklin Street to protest the Trump administration’s interim replacement Matthew Whitaker.
“We’re protesting in favor of the Mueller investigation,” said Sina Shahnizadeh, a UNC student who organized the protest. “We’re against the actions that the Trump administration has taken – recusing Sessions back in March and replacing Rosenstein’s management position with Whitaker.”
The demonstrators want the Mueller Russia investigation left untouched, Shahnizadeh said. In light of acting Attorney General Whitaker’s public criticism of the Mueller probe, the demonstrators believe President Trump gave Rosenstein’s role to Whitaker in order to shut down the investigation.
“I think it’s Trump’s attempt to wrestle the presidency away from the people,” said demonstrator Marsha Roslanowick.
The protest commenced at 5 p.m. at the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, where Shahnizadeh instructed the crowd to march up Franklin Street to the Chapel Hill Courthouse. People signed up for the event on Shahnizadeh’s MoveOn.org Civic Action website titled “Nobody Is Above the Law – Mueller Protection Rapid Response.” However, the procession also included demonstrators who joined late during the march.
As the group advanced up Franklin Street, they held signs featuring slogans such as: 'Truth Matters' and 'Whitaker Must Recuse.' Their signs were accompanied by clapping and chants, which included, “Trump is not above the law,” and “Refuse and Recuse.”
“Protecting this investigation means upholding the rule of law in this country,” said Robert Hare, a UNC student at the front of the march. “If we’re in a country where some people are above the law, the law itself doesn’t really matter.”
After reaching the Chapel Hill Courthouse, demonstrators of all ages assembled around the flag pole and continued to chant until approximately 5:40 p.m. Many demonstrators blocked traffic as they attempted to cross the street to the courthouse. A Chapel Hill police officer intervened to keep them off Franklin Street.
Shahnizadeh said the protest was one of over 900 national protests that occurred Thursday. The group hopes to use its collective voice to preserve the Mueller investigation until the House of Representatives Democratic majority, established in the midterm elections, can take official measures to conclude the probe.
“It’s going to be a few months before the new Democratic members of Congress in the House are up and running, so Trump seems to be making big moves right now to try to stop Mueller and the investigation,” said Jerry Carr, a UNC graduate in the crowd. “Reality is up for grabs – that’s the way I see it.”
On their march back to the Visitors Bureau, the crowd shouted chants demanding truth and transparency from the federal government. As the political climate begins to change after the midterm elections, the demonstrators hope the Mueller probe will continue and the right people will be held accountable, said Lee Gundersheimer, a demonstrator from Carrboro.
“I just want to continue trying to put pressure on our representatives to keep things honest, to keep things ethical and decent,” Gundersheimer said.
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