More than 100 gather in Bel Air to support Mueller investigation

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Abingdon resident Tanya Binou took part in her first political protest Thursday evening, joining more than 100 people who lined both sides of Churchville Road near U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ district office in Bel Air.

People gathered to show their support for the continuation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I feel good, I feel like I’ve done something,” Binou said after the protest, which started at 5 p.m. and wound down about an hour later.

The Bel Air protest was one of many in the Baltimore area and around the nation organized following the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions last Wednesday and President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who had been chief of staff under Sessions, will take over from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the supervisor of the Mueller probe.

Sessions had recused himself as supervisor of the investigation, leaving Rosenstein in charge. Sessions submitted his resignation at Trump’s request last Wednesday, the day after national midterm elections in which Democrats took the House of Representatives back from the Republicans. The GOP, however, solidified its majority in the Senate.

Multiple U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have reported Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Russians allegedly interfered in support of Trump, who defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s appointment of Whitaker, who has criticized the Mueller investigation during media appearances, was “crossing a red line set to protect the investigation,” according to the website of national progressive organization MoveOn.org.

MoveOn called for people across the country to gather in protest at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“Our goal with these actions is to create an opportunity for anyone outraged by Trump’s abuse of power to engage immediately in voicing their concern,” according to the website. “Together, we will communicate unmistakably that this is not okay and that this act to undermine democracy is not going to be allowed to become a new normal.”

Binou, the Abingdon resident, said she had been moved to attend her local protest out of continued frustration with Trump’s controversial actions as a candidate for president and as the chief executive, such as his close relationships with autocratic leaders in Russia and Saudi Arabia, branding the media “enemies of the people” and making false statements on multiple issues.

Binou said she is “sick and tired of lies.”

“People internationally are laughing at us,” she said. “I’m just tired of everything.”

Protesters on both sides of Churchville Road chanted, waved American and Maryland flags and held signs with slogans such as “Protect the Mueller/Russia investigation,” “This week ANDY HARRIS remained SILENT while President Trump FIRED the Attorney General,” and “No one is above the law,” echoing MoveOn’s protest theme of “nobody is above the law.”

People chanted slogans such as “Congress, investigate, do your job,” “Whitaker must recuse himself” and “Democracy is under attack — what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

The protest was during the evening rush hour, and a number of drivers honked their horns in support as they passed.

A passenger in another vehicle shouted “MAGA” — the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — but he was drowned out by cheers from the crowd.

Carol Kiple, a staffer in Harris’ district office, watched the protest briefly. She said the Republican congressman was not there.

“We respect their right to do this,” Kiple said of the protest. “They’re welcome, they seem like honest folk.”

Parkville resident Diane Delaney, who works with people with disabilities in Harford County, attended the protest with an individual in her care. She said he wanted to participate and she attended to support him.

“He wants to help protect Mueller and the investigation,” Delaney said of the individual.

She agrees with the sentiments of the gathering and wore a protest sign.

“The accused person does not have the right to choose the prosecutors,” Delaney said of Trump.

DeLane Lewis, founder of the Together We Will-Harford County/Upper Chesapeake community action group, led the crowd in many chants and thanked people for attending.

“This is an awesome display of our democracy in action,” Lewis said.

Many Together We Will members were part of the crowd. Member Aravinda Pillalamarri, of Bel Air, worked through MoveOn to coordinate the Bel Air protest, according to Lewis.

“It was a quick turnaround,” TWW member Susan Deeney, of Havre de Grace, said. “People learned about this mid-morning; people changed plans and made signs and got here.”

Allison Galbraith, of Abingdon, was among the protesters. She had been a Democratic candidate for the First District seat held by Harris, but was defeated in the June primary.

Harris won re-election Tuesday with 60.4 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results posted on the Maryland State Board of Elections website — absentee ballots were counted Thursday, and canvasses of provisional and absentee ballots continued this week. Harris has a commanding lead over Democratic nominee Jesse Colvin and Libertarian nominee Jenica Martin.

Galbraith, 35, grew up in Bel Air and said that “if you ever told me there would have been 100 people protesting outside a congressman’s office on a Thursday night, I would not have believed you.”

“It just goes to show that ordinary citizens are waking up and realizing how important it is to be engaged in our political process,” she said.

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