Politics

A huddled mass of 200 or more wrapped in scarves and winter hats gathered at the steps of Louisville Metro Hall Thursday evening to demand President Donald Trump uphold the independence of Robert Mueller’s investigation into 2016 election interference.

The steps served as a makeshift amphitheater. The crowd gathered promptly at 6 p.m., in a tidy semicircle around a single microphone where speakers delivered their message in call and response: “Protect Mueller.”

“What are we going to do? We’re going to call, we’re going to write and we may be back out here again shortly,” said Betsy Foster over the microphone.

Activist group MoveOn has planned protests for more than a year in the event that the independence of Mueller’s investigation is threatened. Wednesday’s removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions was listed as one of the triggers that led to more than 900 near-simultaneous protests across the country, according to MoveOn.org.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

More than 200 protesters gather to protest the removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and demand President Trump maintain independence of Mueller Probe at Louisville Metro Hall on Nov. 8th, 2018.

President Trump replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, Session’s former chief of staff and a vocal critic of the Mueller investigation.

Whitaker now has final decision-making authority over the Mueller investigation – a fact that concerned demonstrators.

“Matt Whitaker has said many times that believes this investigation is wrong,” said Foster. “He’s talked about the fact it shouldn’t happen, and he is planning to make, we believe, that he is planning to make sure this investigation doesn’t continue.”

Foster said she was heartened by Democrats reclaiming the House of Representatives, but that they need support. She called on protesters to demand members protect the special counsel’s office, demand a modern day Watergate committee and demand bipartisan hearings on abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

Amid the twilight, the bundled faces of grandmothers, office workers, bus riders, and at least one baby listened intently to each speaker. Four counter-protesters gathered near the back, tossing the occasional heckle and waiving three percenter and Gadsen flags.

Signs peaked over the crowd reading “Protect Mueller” and “No one is above the law.” One pair of signs was refashioned from Outback Steakhouse cardboard boxes, another wielded with a post made from a wrapping paper core.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

More than 200 protesters gather to protest the removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and demand President Trump maintain independence of Mueller Probe at Louisville Metro Hall on Nov. 8th, 2018.

Sharon Flynn said she’s been extremely upset about issues surrounding gun control and “fascist dialogue is the only way I know how to describe it.”

“I know that there are many of us who are concerned and who are fired up and really willing to work,” Flynn said. “We want to protect Mueller’s investigation because it’s so important and nobody is above the law.”

In a final act, Foster asked demonstrators to take out their phones, turn on their flashlights and raise them over their heads.

“Let’s put some light on our Democracy, because we aren’t going to let it die in the dark,” she said.

The crowd dispersed into the city streets nearly as quickly as it appeared, and before 7 p.m. the steps of Metro Hall fell quiet.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.