Suburban activists join national protest supporting Mueller probe
Activists gathered on short notice Thursday across the suburbs and the nation to protest the forced resignation of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and decry the effects they fear his ouster could have on the investigation into Russian election meddling.
About 400 convened Thursday along the Riverwalk in Naperville to rally in support of the continuation of the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In Arlington Heights, some 200 turned out, and in Elgin, there were roughly 50.
Actions also were planned in Aurora, Barrington, Deer Park, Libertyville and West Chicago as part of a national effort of more than 900 organized through the progressive mobilization website moveon.org.
"We are here today because we believe in the rule of law, and we have a president that does not," Naperville protest organizer Bob Landolti said. "We the people are the ultimate power in our democracy, and Donald Trump can't take that away from us."
Protesters said they fear what will happen to Mueller's probe into Russian actions before the 2016 election, which also is looking into whether any of Trump's associates were involved with Russian efforts and whether Trump himself impeded these investigations.
Suburban activists, like many Democratic leaders, called for newly appointed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to step away from overseeing Mueller's investigation because he previously made statements against it.
"Whitaker is in no position to oversee this investigation and must immediately recuse himself," Landolti said.
Some protesters said they fear Trump is close to causing a constitutional crisis.
"We don't have a king or a junta or a dictator, do we?" said Arlington Heights rally organizer Jerry Freda. "We have laws."
The other side not expressed by protesters is the stance of Trump and some of his supporters. The president has called Mueller's investigation a "witch-hunt" and criticized Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing Mueller's probe. The president claimed on Twitter that the investigation into obstruction of justice was "an illegal scam" and declared in a July 29 Twitter post and elsewhere, "There is no collusion!"
Still, protesters locally and nationwide gathered to oppose his decision to require Sessions' resignation. In Naperville, their hastily sketched signs proclaimed messages like "Let Mueller do his job," "Defend the constitution," "Let justice be served," and "Nobody is above the law." Their chants said "Hey hey, ho ho, Whitaker has got to go," or "This is what democracy looks like."
Elgin protest organizer Kim Gilmore praised the others for showing up two days after the election, even if they felt exhausted. She said she called on people to contact legislators and form a public outcry about Sessions' resignation that will have to be addressed.
Voters already sent a message Tuesday, especially in the suburbs, where they defeated two longtime Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren, Naperville protester Dawn Mashayekhi said.
"Sometimes the voters need to do more than vote," she said. "This is protesting, and you've got to hope it makes a difference."
• Daily Herald staff writers Elena Ferrarin and Christopher Placek contributed to this report.