Thousands march in L.A. for impeachment of President Trump; his supporters hold their own rally

Several thousand protesters marched through downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, waving signs and chanting, “Down, down, down with Trump — up, up, up with the people” as they urged Congress to impeach the president.

The peaceful demonstration was one of dozens of events held across the country Sunday, aimed at voicing displeasure with Trump and his White House.

The Los Angeles march began at Pershing Square. John Meranda, 56, of Long Beach brandished a sign showing Trump's face on the body of a baby, with the word “impeach” spelled out in wooden blocks.

“Every day when I wake up, something is more terrible than it was yesterday,” Meranda said.

In the last week, he said, he’s been unsettled by Republican proposals to cut billions of dollars from the Medicaid program; some of his friends, he said, “are kept alive by it.”

His friend Angela Greene of San Pedro held a hot pink sign that read, “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”

Further north on Broadway, Allen Levinson, 55, of Redondo Beach and two friends hoisted a plastic frame supporting a wide banner that read “Illegitimate Corrupt Puppet.”

“It cuts to the heart of his personal insecurities and fears,” said Levinson, describing Trump as an “aspiring despot.” And, he said wryly, “we wanted something G-rated.”

At a rally before the impeachment march, three to four dozen Trump supporters gathered on the sidewalk outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in an area roped off by yellow police tape. Many had American flags hoisted over their shoulders or tied around their necks.

Matthew Woods, a 55-year-old street musician from West Hills, dismissed the investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign or the president’s associates conspired with Russia during or after the election.

“It’s all been disproven,” Woods said. “He has a right to terminate this inquiry.… I think it’s magnanimous of him to let them go on with it.”

In February, White House officials said the president fired national security advisor Michael Flynn because the former three-star Army general had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

A day later, Trump met with FBI Director James B. Comey and told him he hoped “you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” according to Comey.

Trump has disputed Comey’s account. The president and his aides have denied any wrongdoing.

“Why shouldn’t they have talked to Russia?” said Hollee Garcia of Cathedral City, who drove in for the pro-Trump counterprotest. “I don’t agree with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, but I respect him as a man who has a country behind him. Though does he have them under lock and key? Maybe.”

At a nearby booth, where a vendor sold Trump T-shirts, someone propped up a sign that read, “Trump 2020: Better crazy than stupid.”

As the pro-impeachment marchers passed by, one anti-Trump demonstrator leaned toward the rally and screamed: “You’re a fraud! You’re a fraud!”

Similar events in favor of impeaching Trump were held in numerous cities, including Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

The impeachment march in Los Angeles ended at Fletcher Bowron Square near City Hall, where demonstrators heard anti-Trump speeches, including one from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch).

The San Fernando Valley lawmaker has put himself at odds with House Democratic leaders by drafting and circulating articles of impeachment, accusing Trump of trying to thwart the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.

"We have to act now to protect our country from abuse of power and impulsive, ignorant incompetence," Sherman said. The crowd cheered and began chanting, “Lock him up.”

In the shade of a nearby ficus tree, Edward Holzhauer, 51, of Palm Desert clutched a long foam pool noodle wrapped with pink duct tape that he had molded to look like a giant drinking straw. The attached sign read, “This is the last straw.”

Holzhauer drove in from the Coachella Valley to attend the march because the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is “hurtful,” he said. “I can’t take it anymore.”

A sticker on his shirt read “Healthcare, not warfare.”

Still, he said, Trump’s election has created one silver lining: He’s become politically active for the first time since high school, supporting local candidates for public office and attending city council meetings.

“We’re not just against what Trump is doing federally,” Holzhauer said. “We’re also learning how we can help here.”

As demonstrators left the rally, they passed a modest white tent on the lawn of City Hall, with a sign reading “Empathy Tent.”

Inside, Edwin Rutsch of Berkeley sat on an orange camping chair, mediating a discussion between a Trump supporter and an impeachment marcher. They sparred over whether Trump had ever lied or committed any impeachable offenses, their voices sometimes rising.

Rutsch repeatedly broke into the argument, urging them to “reflect back,” or summarize their debate partner’s points before launching into a counterattack. The exercise was designed to increase empathy, he said.

Neither participant seemed to like it much, and the discussion ended without any agreement.

Still, said mediator Dave Gottfried, who watched from the sidelines, that doesn’t mean the discussion wasn’t a success. All the group wanted, he said, was “just to get people to stop yelling at each other and start talking.”

Times staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.

laura.nelson@latimes.com

Follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

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UPDATES:

5:40 p.m.: This article was updated with more comments from marchgoers.

2 p.m.: This article was updated with remarks from Rep. Brad Sherman.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details about the pro-impeachment march.

12:55 p.m.: This article was updated with details about the counterprotest and that the pro-impeachment march had begun.

This article was originally published at 5 a.m.

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