Demonstrators crowded the Chandler Bikeway Thursday evening as part of larger, national protests calling for the protection of former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special-counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
While the protest started with a small crowd around 4 p.m., an hour later it grew to well over 200 people and occupied every street corner at the intersection of Chandler Boulevard and Hollywood Way. The group had started mobilizing into action only the day before, when Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions was ousted from his position by President Donald Trump.
Protest organizer Linda Bessin said the event actually started several months ago when activist groups like MoveOn told people to be ready to hit the streets if the president ever crossed a “red line.” Sessions’ resignation was that red line and led to a call for action.
“It’s where we feel Trump crossed a red line and triggered a real danger to the Mueller investigation,” she said. “[Forcing Sessions to resign] jeopardizes the integrity and survival of the investigation.”
In the wake of the ousting, the president appointed Sessions’ former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general. Whitaker has been a critic of Mueller’s investigation and will now supervise the special counsel, triggering fears he may quash it.
Several signs at the protest in Burbank called on Whitaker to step down, while others stated “No One Is Above the Law” and “Schiff Has Subpoena Power,” referencing Rep. Adam Schiff’s upcoming role as chair of the House Intelligence Committee since Democrats regained control of the House during the midterm election. The protest was punctuated by frequent honks of support and raised fists from passing motorists and alternating chants from the crowd of “This Is What Democracy Looks Like” and “Lock Him Up,” referring to the president.
John Schouweiler said he was all ready to go to the event when he and his wife, Ann Hamilton, got the call to action on Wednesday to protest. The Studio City couple came prepared with a balloon depicting an infantilized version of the president wearing a diaper and a sign that stated “Resign Spanky.”
“I was a little fearful that Burbank would be underrepresented in these protests, but I’m happy that it looks so meaningful with all the people here,” he said.
Tony Joseph, a 62-year-old from Glendale, was at the rally with a sign that read “Mueller Hero, Trump Crime Boss” on one side and “The Press Is Not Your Enemy! We Are” on the other. He called the president’s criticism and treatment of the press “very fascist” and said the installation of Whitaker was because Trump is “Scared to death of Robert Mueller.”
He added, “I didn’t think I would be spending my older years fighting against a quasi-dictator.”
By 6:30 p.m. the crowd thinned out to several dozen people. While not as boisterous as it was earlier in the evening, protestors continued to wave their signs in the air and even broke out into a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”