No time for victory laps: Activists return to Morristown, demanding Mueller protection

Activists pose on Morristown Green before inflatable chicken representing President Trump, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Activists pose on Morristown Green before inflatable chicken representing President Trump, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go!,” hundreds of activists paraded around the Morristown Green during Thursday’s evening rush hour to demand protection for the Mueller investigation.

So much for a post-election victory lap.

Demonstrator on the Morristown Green, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Demonstrator on the Morristown Green, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“Nobody wants to be here tonight. Everyone wants a couple of days off, to see their families again, cook a nice meal, even clean out their closets…but we are not too tired to stand up for justice,” said Elizabeth Juviler, political director for NJ 11th for Change.

The grassroots organization played a key role in Tuesday’s election of Democrat Mikie Sherrill to Congress, by mobilizing opposition to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) and galvanizing support for Sherrill against GOP opponent Jay Webber.

But before the champagne could go flat, the President sacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him with a loyalist, Matthew Whitaker. It’s widely anticipated that Whitaker will move to quash special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Activist at Morristown rally to protect the Mueller investigation, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Activist at Morristown rally to protect the Mueller investigation, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The activist group MoveOn.org prepared months ago for Thursday’s “Nobody Is Above the Law Rally,” and fired off alerts to organizations around the country when news broke of Sessions’ firing, said Lisa Bhimani of NJ 11th for Change.

“It was a ‘Break Glass in Case of Emergency’ moment,” she said, asserting that 900 rallies were scheduled nationally.

About 400 people participated in Morristown, estimated Police Chief Pete Demnitz, who characterized the demonstration as orderly.

Toting signs proclaiming “Protect Mueller,” “You Can’t Fire the Truth” and “I Can’t Believe I’m Protesting the Firing of Jeff Sessions,” activists posed for photos before an inflatable, golden-domed chicken.

Sarah Foye of Montville at 'Nobody Is Above the Law' rally in Morristown, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sarah Foye of Montville at ‘Nobody Is Above the Law’ rally in Morristown, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I’m really scared about the actions this president is taking, and about his restricting the press and undermining the truth,” said Montville resident Sarah Foye, wearing a red-white-and-blue hat and brandishing a sign: “Americans Deserve the Truth.”

“Now that the midterm (election) is behind us, he’s going full-monster,” Foye said of Trump. “He needs checks and balances. I want to know what Mueller finds.”

The President on Wednesday vowed to fight back if the new Democratic majority in the House attempts to investigate his finances or political dealings–even it means “government comes to a halt.”

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Although NJ 11th for Change achieved its objective by ousting Frelinghuysen, “it’s important to show we’re not going anywhere,” said the nonprofit’s executive director, Saily Avelenda

“This is about preserving democracy and democratic institutions. (Trump) is pushing us toward a constitutional crisis. It’s devastating to watch. He’s moving us from a democracy to a regime. I’m Cuban. I know all about this,” said the West Caldwell resident.

At least one observer on the Green saw things differently.

“The economy is booming, my 401K is so good I might actually be able to move back to New Jersey,” said Steve Veibl, a Trump fan visiting from Melbourne, FL, where he said he owns a printing business. “You people are torturing yourselves up here. This is a horrible lifestyle.”

Police estimated 400 people rallied on the Green against President Trump, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Police estimated 400 people rallied on the Green against President Trump, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘THE FUEL IN MY FIRE’

One might forgive Avelenda for gloating after this week’s election handed Frelinghuysen’s seat to a Democrat for the first time in decades. She says the Congressman cost her a job.

Cartoon version of Rodney Frelinghuysen stands in for Congressman at citizens town hall in Boonton, Feb. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cartoon version of Rodney Frelinghuysen stands in for Congressman at citizens town hall in Boonton, Feb. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Long regarded as a moderate voice in Washington, the genteel Frelinghuysen followed the GOP’s lurch to the right, and declined to publicly defend his pro-Trump votes. He opted to retire rather than face the first election challenge in his 24-year Congressional career.

NJ 11th for Change and allied groups kept up the drumbeat through most of Frelinghuysen’s final term, marching outside his Morristown office every Friday, in bitter cold and blistering heat, demanding a town hall meeting.

When Frelinghuysen ignored the activists, they staged their own town hall. A cardboard cutout stood in for the 71-year-old lawmaker, wealthy scion of a New Jersey political dynasty.

Politics got personal for Avelenda, a daughter of Cuban exiles with a University of Pennsylvania law degree, when Frelinghuysen outed her last year to her employer as an activist “ringleader.” 

'THANK YOU, RODNEY': Saily Avelenda of NJ 11th for Change at rally for Robert Mueller in Morristown, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘THANK YOU, RODNEY’: Saily Avelenda of NJ 11th for Change at rally for Robert Mueller in Morristown, Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Under pressure, the mother of two resigned as a bank senior vice president and legal counsel. Finding a new job has proven difficult, she said.

But gloating is not her style.

As anti-Trump signs swirled behind her in the gathering darkness on the Green, Avelenda thought for a moment when asked what she would like to say now to her lame-duck Congressman.

“Thank you,” she answered, “for being the fuel in my fire. Enjoy your retirement. You gave me a lot to fight against.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. How wonderful that Morristown is forced to host hate chants and parade bias tantrum rhetoric locally from individuals who are simply threatened by policy and regulation. The community should agree on the basic requirement to follow the law. This is America. There are laws. They apply to all. if you have no license, DO NOT drive. The law applies to you not your excuses. If you have no citizenship, don’t lie, don’t falsify documents, simply follow the process and costs and honor all those who have done things the proper way. Don’t booze and urinate outside. These are local issues. Leave DC issues at dC level or run for local office. The heritage of the country here in the US was established by generations of sacrifice and work. The laws mean something. There are other countries to live in for all of us. If you dislike the English language there are many countries that offer many other languages. I don’t understand all this conduct and anger for having honor and respect for a country. If you don’t like it go back home to your home country and act this way there. Really it’s so heinous. Politics and religious attitude should not be hosted by the town it really is very polarizing and disrespectful.

  2. There was more collusion by Democrats with Russia than there was with Trump(0).
    Disgusting that media cheerleads this sham instesd of being watchdogs.
    Take your heads out of your bubbles.

  3. Protesters carrying signs “Protect Mueller” – I ask you – Have you read about this guy’s past? He is the ultimate Political Operative. He has been given free rein to ride the range looking for bad guys wherever they my roam – whether connected to Trump or not. All he has come up with after almost 18 months is a couple of “Gotchya” convictions or plea deals from Trump associates and acquaintances for things having little or nothing to do with his original mission.
    I understand that you probably hate Trump and feel it’s OK to “knock him off” by whatever means necessary but I caution you – the same can be used against those you love in the future. Remember Harry Reid doing away with the filibuster? It came back around with a ferocious bite and he didn’t stick around to feel it.
    I do look forward to the release of the much vaunted “Mueller Report” that’s been held till after the elections because it’s time for Mueller to either bring up formal charges against Trump or pack his bags and go home. I don’t believe he will do that however because to do so would be admitting defeat and the criticism from the left would burn hotter than the sun. He will most likely bring charges or recommend charges be brought so that he can hand it off to others, retire and write his book for big bucks. Cynical? Damn right I’m cynical.

  4. Can someone explain why are people protesting something that is legal? Is it because they are anticipating something “bad” to happen? In my opinion we should protest when groups or people do something “bad” or illegal. I say let’s protest the activity of harmful groups like militant Antifa and white supremacists and those who represent the extreme Left and Right political organizations.

  5. Rachel Maddow mentioned Morristown’s protest last night on MSMBC! Similar protests took place across the nation. We can’t be silent about this. Mueller must continue to do his job!

  6. TRE45ON Rooster,
    Not a chicken but a Rooster…Standing for Treason…Known as the TRE45ON.
    The Rooster Crows everyday about himself…just like 45 (trump) very small hands.

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