'Far worse' than Nixon: Springfield protesters rally against President Donald Trump amid fears about Russia probe

SPRINGFIELD — Several dozen people gathered in front of the federal court on State Street in Springfield Thursday night, one political rally among many across Massachusetts and the country designed to protest recent actions by the Trump administration. 

President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with Matthew Whitaker has led critics to believe Trump plans to subvert the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It is likely that Trump will place Whitaker, a critic of the probe, at its head. If Whitaker does not recuse himself from the investigation, as Sessions did, then critics fear the neutrality of the probe will be lost.  

As a result, activists with organizations like Indivisible, the Women’s March and MoveOn.org organized the “Nobody is Above the Law” rallies across the country, including over 40 towns and cities in Massachusetts.

In Springfield, demonstrators held American flags and handwritten signs that said things like “Trump: How Fascism Starts” and “In Law We Trust” and made clear they felt the president was not acting in good faith. 

Some passing drivers apparently agreed with these sentiments, with several honking their horns and one man even rolling down his window to shout “[Expletive] Donald Trump” as he drove by. 

“We have a president who appears to think he is above the law,” said one of the protesters, Edward Brown, of Westfield. “It appears that he’s preparing to end the investigation into the Russian interference in the election.”

A resident of the Pioneer Valley for decades, Brown said he feels Trump is a “far worse” president than Richard Nixon, both for his policy decisions and his personality. He also said he believes Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. “There’s a lot of fire and it’s making enough smoke,” he said.

Steve Harvester, also of Westfield, was one of the primary local organizers for the rally, and is a volunteer with MoveOn.org. Harvester said he has been concerned about the direction of the country ever since Trump took office.

He said a “Mueller Protection Rapid Response” team was assembled by organizers months ago in anticipation of the president trying to obstruct or derail the Russia investigation, led by special counsel Robert Mueller. That network of activists  was “activated” after news of Sessions’ firing, Harvester said.

“We’ve been ready to go since last spring,” he said of the network. “We’re the minutemen.”

Another protester, sporting a sign that said “Lock Him Up” with an image of Trump’s hair beneath it, said she also thought the president had colluded with Russia.

“I’m out here because I don’t think our president should put himself above our law,” said Abby Satcher, of Springfield. Satcher said she had been inspired to come out to protest because she felt Trump was “trying to interfere with the investigations on his administration by Robert Mueller.”

“As an American that’s offensive to me,” she said. “I think it should be offensive to all Americans — that he’s trying to put himself above the laws that he expects us all to live under.”  

“I’m offended he was ever put into the office,” Satcher said.

Jay Deacon, called Trump a “psychopath” and said he doesn’t believe the president has a sense of “right and wrong.”   

Harvester, who said he has been politically active since he campaigned for George McGovern in 1972, said activism against Trump will continue in the future.

“The network will not dissolve as of tonight,” he said. “I expect we’ll be here in the future to express our outrage.”