Protesters gather at Capitol in support of Mueller investigation

Hundreds stood on the Capitol steps Thursday rallying against Matthew Whitaker’s appointment.

Will Coburn - The State Hornet
Demonstrators raise signs on the Capitol steps Thursday. Though the rally was officially about the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, many demonstrators supporting different causes came out.

Hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday at the California Capitol as part of a nationwide protest in response to the forced resignation of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump.

The protest was organized as acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — who was chosen to replace Sessions — is set to take over supervision of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The investigation has been looking at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

Some, like Zach Smith, a Sac State alumnus, say this compromises the integrity of the investigation because Whitaker has publicly denounced it.

Smith said that the American people deserve to know what really happened during the 2016 presidential elections.

“This is not a partisan issue, this is an American issue,” Smith said. “If you are an American, and you believe in free and fair elections, then you should be very worried about what is going on right now.”

Michael Brook, a Sac State philosophy major, attended the protest and said that it is important to participate in the political process.

“It’s important not to just focus on social media and have a strong opinion,” Brook said. “Rights are only rights as long as we exercise them. Like a muscle, they will weaken with time if they are not used.”

According to a press release from Dennessa Atiles, organizer of the Sacramento protest and member of The Resistance Sacramento/Elk Grove, both activists and protesters demand that Whitaker recuse himself. The Resistance is part of Indivisible, a national progressive organization.

“This protest is about protecting Mueller and standing up for the American people against corruption,” Atiles said.

Atiles said that more than 500 people — including some Sacramento State students — were present at the protest. Two similar events were scheduled in Roseville’s Vernon Street Town Square and outside of the Roseville FBI Building.

This protest was one of more than 900 events organized across the country by a coalition of organization, according to MoveOn Civic Action, a nonprofit organization that focuses on education and advocacy.

The evening included various speakers, including Clarissa Laguardia, leader of the Sacramento chapters of Voto Latino, a nonprofit that encourages Latinos to register to vote, and Organizing for Action, a nonprofit founded by former President Barack Obama.

As protesters gathered on the west steps of the Capitol building, they joined Laguardia in chanting the Spanish phrase “si se puede,” which translates to “yes we can.”

To close her speech, Laguardia told the crowd to, “Stay engaged, stay woke and hold them accountable.”

Attendees of the protest — which started at 5 p.m. and ended around 6:30 p.m. — held a moment of silence in honor of the 12 victims of Wednesday’s shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks.

Atiles addressed the crowd and said Mueller’s investigation must be protected in the justice department.

“The press, Special Counsel Mueller and we the people have all been attacked by this president,” Atiles said. “Make no mistake. By forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump is working to take control of the Mueller investigation.”

Representative John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) said the president’s actions were unimaginable.

“None of us would have ever imagined that the president of the United States would put in [Jeff Sessions’] place a person who has not gone through Senate confirmation, but rather a person who has spent more than two years attacking the Mueller investigation,” Garamendi said.

As opposed to holding lighters or candles, protesters were asked to hold their phones to illuminate the area as the sun set on the State Capitol.

After the speakers were finished, the microphone was left open for members of the crowd to comment. Attendee Sean O’Brien performed a song about lies.

Will Coburn contributed to this report.

RELATED: Report: Trump considering Sac State alumna to replace Sessions