An estimated 800 people rallied outside U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo's Palo Alto office and at City Hall on Thursday night to protest the forced resignation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the installment of Matthew Whitaker, a close ally of President Donald Trump.
The protesters said they are against limiting the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by special counsel Robert Mueller. They view Whitaker's appointment as interim Attorney General as an attempt at obstruction of justice by the president.
About 600 people overflowed into the street at Eshoo's Emerson Street office at 5 p.m. They marched up to City Hall at 250 Hamilton Ave. where others joined them at around 6 p.m.
The demonstration was part of a national protest movement called "Nobody Is Above The Law — Mueller Protection Rapid Response" planned in 800 cities by MoveOn.org. The event in Palo Alto was organized by environmental activist Steve Eittreim, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center Executive Director Paul George and Ruth Robertson of the Raging Grannies.
Eittreim said the event was planned months ago and was meant to step up quickly if Mueller's investigation appeared to be in jeopardy.
"We thought this would be the right time in case he is fired," Eittreim said. The protesters are hoping to reach Congress and to spur people throughout the nation to take action.
George told the crowd that the country is in the throes of a Constitutional crisis. He urged people to contact Congress to pass HR 5476, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The bill would protect independent investigations and judicial review of the removal of a special counsel, and was introduced in April, but Republicans have said in the past that it isn't necessary.
Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell read a passage from a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass during the rally.
"We have three weapons: our voices, our pens -- the media -- and our vote. We must use these weapons until we are no longer headed by a bad man," she said.
Katelyn Bianchini said she is worried about the state of voting in the country, and it's important to get to the bottom of who might be behind interfering with the vote.
"It's extremely important to me that we maintain the laws and values of the country because we are in uncharted territory, and it's time to steer the ship right again. I'm worried about the integrity of our voting rights if foreign powers are rigging our elections. We are losing our collective voices. This investigation is important to uncover foul play when it comes to our election process,” she said.
Gerald Gras, who brought his Corporate America flag, said he began protesting during the Vietnam War. For a time, he had not demonstrated, but now there's a real threat to U.S. democracy. The erosion has been going on for decades, he said.
"I've been reading books about the end of democracy for the past 20 years. It's one thing when you intellectually know; it's another thing when you see it,” he said.
He doesn't know if the protests will work, or what actions to take that would be effective, but from his decades of experience, he has reached one conclusion: Action is necessary.
"It's when people give up acting, then you're in trouble," he said.
A staff member for Eshoo issued distributed a letter to the protesters about the Mueller investigation.
"With mounting civil and criminal evidence against the President and his inner circle, the likelihood of the President interfering in the Special Counsel's investigation to prevent more evidence from coming to light increases everyday."
Eshoo also called for the passage of HR 5476.
"I'm a cosponsor of this legislation and will continue to do everything I can to see that this critically important legislation becomes law so that the American people can get the full truth of Russia's interference in our national election and any crimes the President may have committed."
Palo Alto High School and Foothill College students have scheduled another rally for Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Embarcadero Road and El Camino Real near Town & Country Village Shopping Center.