Hundreds rallied at the steps of the Manatee County Courthouse on Tuesday as part of a nationwide show of support for impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office.
The rally was organized around the slogan: “Nobody is Above the Law.”
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on two articles of impeachment; they accuse the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Liv Coleman, former Democratic candidate for Florida state house, spoke over megaphone to the crowd and called Trump’s actions “a political conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of international intrigue.”
Coleman encouraged Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Bradenton, to use the remedy provided in the Constitution and vote in favor of the articles of impeachment.
“We are here because we are brave enough in this beautiful community of Bradenton and greater Manatee County to say no one — not even the president — is above the law,” Coleman said.
She also called on senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to hold a fair trial in the U.S. Senate and to remove this president from office.
Jill Ahern, a Bradenton resident, organized the event after progressive political group MoveOn sent out a call to action. More than 600 similar rallies were planned around the country.
Ahern, a registered Democrat, said that she has voted her entire adult life — but attending and organizing political events is something new.
“Three years ago I went to the first Women’s March with my kids,” Ahern said. “I was horrified at what was happening in this country. Now we’re here to hold him responsible.”
Ahern said that more than 350 people RSVP’d to the event; more than 200 showed up on Tuesday.
Like Ahern, Bradenton resident Carol Alt, 82, said that she is afraid for future generations if President Trump is not impeached.
“I’m really concerned about my grandchildren and the future of the Earth,” Alt said. “He’s got to go.”
Bradenton resident Robert Phillipoff said he was angry at Trump’s “crookedness” and use of the office of president to enrich himself.
Rep. Buchanan, whose Bradenton office is located at the courthouse, is expected to vote against the articles.
“The partisan impeachment of President Trump sets a dangerous precedent for our country and is exactly why people are so fed up with Washington,” Buchanan said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “There is a reason why public support for impeachment has dropped following the public hearings. Never before in modern history has a president been impeached without bipartisan support.”
Activists with local progressive groups held several protests throughout the year demanding that Buchanan hold a public town hall and address the findings of the Mueller Report.
Buchanan held a town hall in September; when asked about his stance on impeachment, he deferred the decision to Nancy Pelosi and cited Trump’s economic accomplishments. Buchanan soon took a more firm stance against the impeachment inquiry.
“The election is a year away — let the voters decide,” he said in a social media post on Oct. 31.
State Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, who is running against Rep. Buchanan for his seat in Congress in 2020, has expressed support for the congressional investigation into President Trump’s actions.
At previous anti-Trump rallies organized by local progressive groups, supporters of the president have shown up with signs and slogans of their own to stage counter protests.
On Tuesday, they were almost entirely absent. A lone Trump supporter stood on an opposite corner of Manatee Avenue from the rally with a “Trump 2020” sign.
The Palmetto woman asked not to be named, but shared her views on the impeachment efforts.
“It’s going to be a sad day for our country,” she said. “We’re going to be without guns. Our taxes are going to go up. Insurance companies are going to go out of business. He’s done more for this country than any other president.”
Across the street, the impeachment supporters lined both sides of Manatee Avenue, waving signs and joining in group chants.
The protest wrapped up around 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Tracy Pratt, chair of the Manatee County Democratic Party, said she still sees hope for a less divided country, explaining something that she believes both sides have in common.
“The people who don’t support Trump are also patriots,” Pratt said. “They too love America. Everyone who has a strong opinion is voicing it because they care. And everyone should be thinking about creating a more peaceful and compassionate world.”