WASHINGTON – Hundreds of demonstrators – wrapped in winter scarves and puffy jackets to protect against the morning cold – gathered Wednesday in the shadow of the Capitol to show lawmakers they have constituents across the country who support the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump.
The rally began as a contentious and historic debate kicked off inside the House of Representatives. Some rallygoers lamented not being able to listen to lawmakers as they debated the articles of impeachment. But many more said they felt it was important to bring their message directly to Congress’ doorstep.
In the biggest show of support since a House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct began in late September, liberal advocacy groups coordinated more than 600 events across the country Tuesday evening, where voters vowed to demand action from elected leaders. Organizers said the nationwide protests – which took place from Hawaii to Maine – demonstrate how widespread support for impeachment is.
Images from the previous night’s demonstrations were printed on poster board and held aloft by protesters in Washington as they cheered for gatherings the evening before in cities such as Lexington, Kentucky, and Portland, Maine, where demonstrators stood in the snow.
“It helps send a message to the traitors in the Senate,” said Bob Smither, 65, who recently moved to Washington from Kentucky. “Do your jobs.”
No lawmakers spoke at the Capitol demonstration, where more than a dozen activists addressed the crowd.
“We saw hundreds of thousands of people out last night in the freezing cold, in snowstorms – also in sunny Florida,” said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, a lead organizer of the demonstrations. “We demand a fair trial for the United States of America . . . because no one, not even the president, is above the law.”
Protesters called for action from the Republican-controlled Senate, which so far has declined to call witnesses at next month’s impeachment trial.
Brandishing signs that said, “impeach now” and “country over party,” the crowd joined in a chant: “Nobody is above the law.”
Moments later, a bald eagle soared overhead. The crowd cheered as demonstrators spotted the bird gliding past.
“I believe in omens,” said Reggie Hubbard, a rally organizer and MoveOn’s congressional liaison and D.C. strategist. “So, if a bald eagle flies over you when you’re supporting the Constitution, I’m into that.”
The country’s guiding legal document was a major theme of the event.
Speakers spoke to the founders’ reasons for including impeachment in the law of the land, and participants pointed to the document as the reason they stood in near-freezing temperatures Wednesday.
“I’m really more pro-Constitution than I am pro-impeachment, but because of that I do believe that President Trump has violated the Constitution and obstructed Congress trying to do its job,” said Adilah Wutoh-Baylor, 52, a Maryland middle school teacher who attended the rally with her 14-year-old son, KesUranNu. “The U.S. Constitution is the greatest single artifact in the history of all of mankind.”
The House, which for days has been inching closer to impeaching Trump, debated Wednesday over whether Trump’s dealings with Ukraine violated his oath of office. By Tuesday, Democrats had enough votes to adopt the articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
House Democrats allege that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military support, sought by Ukraine to defend against Russian aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate possible 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Wednesday’s vote will lead to a trial in the Republican-led Senate, where the push to remove the president is expected to fall short.
“Patriotism means doing the hard stuff,” said Diallo Brooks, senior director of outreach and public engagement for liberal advocacy group People for the American Way. “We are asking our Congress to do the hard stuff. We don’t want to impeach a president . . . but when a president thinks that he is above the law, we have to correct him.”
A handful of Trump supporters also turned out Wednesday at the Capitol. One group gathered on the edge of the pro-impeachment crowd and waved a large red, white and blue flag with the president’s name emblazoned in big block letters.
On the northeast corner of Delaware and Constitution avenues NE, a man in a fuzzy red suit held a sign that declared: “Santa says save money. Impeach the impeachers. Vote them out.”
“I think if [Ukraine] gets our tax dollars – or any country – we ought to make sure it’s going to people trying to do the right thing, like investigate Biden and his son,” said Tom McCain, 68, peering over his white beard and half-moon spectacles. McCain said he did not know the pro-impeachment rally was scheduled Wednesday but came to Washington from his home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore because of the House vote.
Yards away, another Santa Claus held court as people stopped to admire his “Naughty List” printed on poster board and a scooter he had transformed into a tiny sleigh.
On the list were Trump; Vice President Mike Pence; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“I’m the nice Santa Claus; he’s the naughty Santa Claus,” said Daniel Bernier, 41, gesturing in the direction of his Republican rival. “I feel like sometimes in D.C., you just have to shock people out of their stupor, and when people see the red suit, they light up. Then they read my sign – some people give me a thumbs up or they want a picture, some disagree and then they flip me off. But hey, that’s America.”