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Fearing end of Russia election probe, Long Islanders protest Sessions' ouster

Perry Gershon, who lost his bid to unseat

Perry Gershon, who lost his bid to unseat Rep. Lee Zeldin, joins protesters outside the congressman's Patchogue office on Thursday, where they rallied to support Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Credit: James Carbone

Angry Long Islanders joined other New Yorkers on Thursday in protesting President Trump's ouster of  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a move they fear will lead Trump to try to quash the investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 election.

Toting signs and chanting calls such as "Trump is not above the law," several hundred Long Islanders held rallies to show support for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the election.

"People are watching and [Trump] should not be stopping the Mueller investigation," said Kathryn Nocerino, of Shirley, as she joined the crowd gathered outside the district office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in Patchogue.

"I'm sorry we're here again," she added, noting that groups had protested there several times this year against Trump policies. "But if we didn't have a president like this, we wouldn't be here."

Crowds gathered shoulder-to-shoulder on both sides of Oak Street, and several police officers stood by metal barricades in front of the building, the lights from their police cars flashing.

People expressed outrage that Trump had forced out Sessions, who had recused himself from the investigation due to his Russian contacts during the campaign, and replaced him with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who has criticized the probe.

Louis Giudice, 70, of Port Jefferson Station, drew a parallel between this firing  with when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. 

"This is Nixon 2.0," Giudice said. "It's up to us to protect the Mueller investigation. . . . I'm really worried about our democracy."

Protesters said the group MoveOn had been planning rallies for months, with people signing up across social media. They were waiting, people said, for Trump to step over a "red line" in moving against the Mueller probe. More than 900 rallies were reportedly held in cities nationwide.

Although saving the Mueller investigation was the unifying cause, numerous people said they were protesting a host of actions by Trump.

"I don't like a president who's racist and wants to obstruct justice," said Thomas Muench, 80, of Lake Grove.

Organizers came equipped with megaphones and a stack of signs to hand out.

Mara Gerstein, founder of the group Show Up Long Island, led the crowd in call-and-response chants.

"Who is not above the law?" she called out with full lung power.

"Trump is not above the law," responded the crowd.

Lowering the megaphone, Gerstein talked about why she participated.

"I think we need the truth about Russian interference," Gerstein said. "That isn't a partisan issue. That's an American issue."

In Huntington, a similar protest drew a crowd to the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue. As the rush hour traffic passed by — some drivers honking in support, others showing opposition — the crowd called out chants.

One chant: "Let Mueller investigate. This is not a fascist state."

Organizer Dr. Eve Krief said that, despite being tired from helping out on several Democratic campaigns this week, she was proud to participate.

"History will not look kindly upon us if we do not protect this investigation," she said. "We want to really pressure Congress — both sides of the aisle — to protect justice."

By 6:30 p.m., the crowd had all but dispersed, save for two young men standing with signs at the intersection, engaged in a conversation about truth.

Geoffrey Sorensen, 31, of Huntington, said he had never been to a protest. 

"I've just been so moved by this attack on the truth, the attack on facts, the attack on democracy," he said. 

Paul Templeton, 25, of Northport, added, "I don't think Congress is doing its job of checking Trump's oversteps. The Mueller investigation was one of the last places to hold Trump accountable."

Another crowd gathered in Manhattan on Thursday evening. More than 1,000 people marched near 46th Street, with people chanting, “Hands off Mueller.”

The demonstrators, spanning at least four blocks, urged Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, as had Sessions.

Mercedes Maldonado, 56, an attorney from Westchester County, said she was concerned Mueller would have his legs cut from underneath him.

“We believe his [Trump’s] firing of Sessions crosses a red line,” Maldonado said.

Pamela Berlin, 65, a theater director from the Upper West Side, said Sessions’ firing was “appalling.”

“Congress needs to see this happening," Berlin said. "I hope they have a moment of conscience.” 

With AMNewYork

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