Democracy On Display In Westport

They came from all over Westport, and Redding and Roxbury. There were, by some estimates, 800 of them. But crowd estimates, as we all know now, are less important than the message the crowd sends.

They were Democrats, Republicans and independents. They were moms, dads, tweens and teens, and folks who marched in the ’60s and are now beyond that age.

The English translation of this Russian sign is: “Treason leads to impeachment.”

All 3 selectmen were there, with town officials, state legislators, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Julia Belaga. The first President Bush appointed her regional director of the EPA, an agency that President Trump wants to scrap.

Past and present town officials — Republicans and Democrats — at the march included (from left) Steve and Rosemary Halstead, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, State Representative Gail Lavielle and 3rd selectman Helen Garten.

They were there for the environment, women’s rights, immigration and education. They were there against authoritarianism, murky Russian ties and the countless whack-a-mole controversies that have sprung up ever since January 20.

Westporter Susan Terry led the crowd in a rousing, singalong “Star Spangled Banner.” Car horns honked in solidarity. (One car passed by with a counter-protest. “Make America great again!” the driver shouted.)

Suzanne Sherman Propp wore her favorite hat.

The music included upbeat songs like the Beatles’ “Here Comes the  Sun,” and protest anthems like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

And when today’s “Connecticut: One Small State, One Big Voice” march from Jesup Green to Veterans Green was over — after Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had spoken — there was one last song.

“These boots are made for walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra sang. “And one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

Are you ready?

March organizers (from left) Darcy Hicks, Lauren Soloff and Lisa Bowman show off the message of the day.

Today’s march attracted demonstrators of all ages…

… including this future voter. (Photo/Cathy Siroka)

Congressman Jim Himes gets ready to speak.

Congressman Jim Himes said that President Trump has catered to “the worst elements of extremists.” But he hasn’t succeeded, because “all over America — in unlikely states like Oklahoma and Alabama — people came together. Reasonable Republicans heard from people like you.

“People have used fear to move decent Americans behind bad instincts,” Himes added. “But this is America. We don’t do fear well. Whatever your party, stand up.

“To all the Democrats and Republicans here: You are the best of America. Thanks to you, our shared values will prevail.”

The crowd responded with a heartfelt chant: “Thank you Jim!”

Senator Dick Blumenthal (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Senator Dick Blumenthal told the crowd at Veterans Green: “This is what democracy looks like!” It’s because of crowds like this, he said, that Trump’s “cartoonishly incompetent” healthcare plan went down to defeat.

The Judiciary Committee member pledged to push an independent investigation of the president.

He noted that his father fled Germany for the US in 1935. He was 17, and spoke no English. “This country gave him a chance to succeed. He would be so ashamed now, to see the Statue of Liberty’s lamp extinguished.”

Senator Chris Murphy (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Senator Chris Murphy energized the crowd, saying: “There is no fear that can’t be cured by political activism.” And though he sometimes goes to bed fearing the movement will lose strength, he wakes up in the morning to find it bigger than ever.

He said that he, Blumenthal and Himes “are trying to raise our game to equal this moment. Democracy is inefficient, but no one has invented a better system yet.” However, he noted, “democracy is not inevitable. We have to keep fighting for it.”

Senator Murphy on Veterans Green. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

49 responses to “Democracy On Display In Westport

  1. Bonnie Bradley

    Dan, I was on Veteran’s Green at the March with you less than 2 hrs. ago & here you have an inclusive, coherent, colorful report already…. with really great photos too! Terrific job! Now those who couldn’t make the event will have the chance to share in it too. Inspiring. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Bonnie — great to see you there! You were the Roxbury contingent — glad you came down and stood up for a great cause.

  2. Bobbie Herman

    It was a wonderful, inspiring event. I am one of the “folks who marched in the ’60s and are now beyond that age.” I have marched for: Civil Rights, Peace (anti-Vietnam War), ERA, Freedom of Choice, anti-Gulf War and, on January 21, the “Pink Pussy-Hat Brigade.” I think it’s important to show what we stand for and, as long as I can walk, I will march for what I believe in. I was so pleased to see young families with little kids. I took my sons on marches when they were 5 and 9. They are still politically involved.

  3. A great day for Westport and CT!

  4. Dave Feliciano

    Yes, looks very white, well fed, the same folks who sent everyone else’s jobs overseas, pass the buck to the grandchildren, tilt at windmills, and live in McMansions. Don’t fund their teachers pensions, and glad handing and patting each other on the back, while denying the election. Too much Xanac , Valium, and DENIAL. HOW ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER to fix the problems, that we created.

    • Bobbie Herman

      “How about working together?” Why don’t you ask the Republican Congress that?

    • Dave, EVERY SINGLE SPEECH today was about the importance of working together. And the entire theme of the day was that all of us are in this together. We are all trying to ensure a better future for everyone — which means money for education, keeping the environment clean, and making sure all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. I’m sorry you weren’t there to hear so many eloquent speeches, and share in the POSITIVE passion of so many.

    • I think it’s rally sad that you feel the need to attack hundreds of people with some uninformed insults. Did it make you feel better?

    • Jeff Arciola

      Well said

  5. Jack Whittle

    Interesting choice of name for this event, but there is no doubt about democracy being alive and well in the US. This gathering and march, however, was all about championing the liberal / democrat party agenda, which took another beating during the last election. I’m pleased the organizers enjoyed a nice turnout, but the name of the event is dishonest.

  6. Michael Calise

    maybe we should test our water

  7. D. Michalowski

    Thanks for the great coverage. It was a great event!

  8. Lisa Marie Alter

    Yes, it was a very positive event… and there were many non-Democrats in attendance, including this Independent. And no Jack Whittle, “democracy is not alive and well in the U.S.” – it is very much under attack… if you’d watch something other than FoxNews, you will learn our rights are being silently stolen away by Trump’s Executive Orders… as Dick Blumenthal said, we are approaching a Constitutional Crisis.

    Thank you for your well-written story, Dan. It was a very positive event.

    • Jeff Arciola

      And Dick blumenthal is a great role model so we should listen to what he says. This is a man that lied about his service to this country. I guess that CNN and NBC and CBS forgot to tell you about that. So his first name speaks for himself.

      • Wow. Living in the past — and on a steady diet of FauxNews — you should feel comforted to know that the only real “dick” going is your DICK-Tator, the Liar-In-Chief… whose Truth-o-Meter is running at the lowest percent of any Pres. in modern history (he’s even got Nixon beat, and we know what happened there).

        Besides all this, your FB page says you live in North Carolina… which means you don’t get a vote on Sen. Blumenthal.

        (Cue the “angry white man” slinging insults of “butthurt” and “libtard”…)

      • Bobbie Herman

        At least Senator Blumenthal served, unlike Mr. Trump who got five deferments for “bone spurs,” but can’t remember which foot they were in.

      • Richard Fogel

        people do lie and exagerate. Its not about 1 lie,1 exageration. Babe Ruth struck out. Babe Ruthat times failed. People are judged by the totality of what their role in society.

    • Jack Whittle

      Lisa, I invite you to identify the speakers at today’s event that were Republicans, or list the causes that were not planks of the Democrat platform. Which is perfectly acceptable from my perspective, just call it what it was. As for your dislike of Trump’s executive orders, we felt the same way under Obama. You also might consider pointing to one of his executive orders and identifying the “right” (assuming you mean a constitutional right) that’s been taken from you.

      As for what Dick Blumenthal says at what amounted to a Democrat party rally, well I wouldn’t have expected anything else from him. I’m more of a substance guy myself.

      • Nancy Hunter

        And heaven forbid that the twain should meet…
        Man, I wish you all would grow up. It’s embarrassing.

          • Nancy Hunter

            Perhaps you could use your own thinking for once, rather than always hiding behind media outlets.
            What I read here confirms that. Embarrassing.

            • And these politicians continue to pander for our votes and We all let them. When I heard there was a march, I just figured it had to be about our state’s financial woes and the local budget… nope!!! 350? 500? That is the number of homes for sale in Westport and Fairfield. Took a nice Sunday ride down Sasco hill yesterday and saw a half a dozen houses for sale and empty mansions. One of them has been reduced by almost 3million dollars . I wonder if these rich people know something the rest us common folk don’t. Companies and residents are leaving the state in droves. That large sucking sound you hear is the value of our homes. People who have lived and worked in this town won’t retire here since it is one of the highest taxed state in the Union. Solution, add tolls? The most regressive tax possible.Hurts the lower income and provides 1 more reason not to bring business to Ct.
              Republican and Democrats , people, the common issue we have are the politicians who have no term limits who simply rob Peter to pay Paul with our hard earned tax dollars.. . These Politicians come to our towns and tell you how bad the Liberals are and how they want abortion clinics on every street corner or how the conservatives look like Nazis.. They come to our town,pit each of us against one another then move their side show to the next town… all paid for by our tax dollars

              How did it come to this?

      • Bobbie Herman

        Incidentally, it is “Democratic Party,” not “Democrat.” Don’t flaunt your ignorance.

      • Jack Whittle: getting back to you… in response to your “invitation”

        1. A Republican who spoke at the event was, in fact, Westport’s very own James Marpe – you can confirm it with him – I’m sure he’ll be happy to fill you in on the finer points of his address.

        2. The “planks” that were discussed were items that should concern any rational American – or human being for that matter – in 2017: clean air and water, climate change, the possibility of Russia’s meddling in our election, rational gun legislation, education, immigration, health care, women’s reproductive rights (and since you’re a “substance guy,” I assume you enjoy sex – or at least you did at one time 😳 – so by association that should also concern you, Jack – and every other “Tom, Dick & Harry” here), among other topics. If that you are interested in the platforms, please feel free to attend next time… all were welcome.

        3. Additionally – I correct myself – in lieu of “EO’s,” what I take issue with are Trump’s extensive un-American, unPresidential, and vile actions, which I diametrically oppose. For the record: I believe Trump is completely unfit for the office, and possibly mentally ill. You have every right to disagree with me. I don’t care if you do… it will not change my position.

        4. Do not ask me to verify any of these – – I will not go through gymnastics to “defend” them, as Google is an infinite source of information… esp if one is willing to accept information from mainstream media / aka reliable news sources. They were assembled by someone I know, and who I esteem to be a reliable and intelligent source of fact gathering.

        As Spicey likes to says “These are the facts, plain and simple !”
        Bottom line: the Trump “administration” is a circus, and the majority of us are not amused.

        So buckle up, cuz here goes – and this is ONLY WEEK 19 of Trumpland
        (ending Sat 3/25)

        Three weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence, or apologize.
        As Week 19 opened, Trump’s Gallup daily approval rating hit a new low: 37% approve, 58% disapprove.
        After Trump’s embarrassing meeting with Merkel last week, Germany’s defense minister refuted a claim by Trump that Germany owes NATO “vast sums of money,” by saying “there is no debt account in NATO.”
        New York AG Schneiderman hired fired US Attorney Bharara assistant to focus on issues specifically related to the Trump regime.
        An op-ed penned by two former chief WH ethics lawyers titled, “Trump’s unprecedented war on ethics,” detailed the a long laundry list of ethics breaches already committed by Trump and his regime.
        Continuing the Deep State theme, the Trump regime installed insiders in executive branch agencies to spy on fellow employees. At the same time, leadership roles remain largely unfilled (61 of 553 have a nominee).
        POLITICO reported that Federal career staffers are living in fear of being targeted and singled out by Breitbart conservative media outlets, for not being loyal to Trump.
        At the first day of the House Intel Committee’s hearing into Russia, Comey said the FBI is conducting a counterintelligence investigation of both Russian interference in our election, and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
        Comey also said there is “no information” to back Trump’s wiretapping claim.
        During the hearing, Trump live-tweeted from the @POTUS Twitter account. His tweets contained false and misleading information.
        When asked by Rep Himes during the hearing, Comey refuted and corrected information in Trump’s tweets. AP fact checked Trump’s tweets vs. what was actually said in testimony.
        McClatchy reported that the FBI is also investigating the role of conservative media outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars in the Russian hacking of our election.
        Ivanka got a West Wing office and was granted security clearance, but did not get a formal government role or title.
        Government watchdogs called on Trump to give Ivanka an official title to avoid conflicts of interest between her government roles and financial interests.
        Eric Trump filed to bring in foreign workers to work at his Trump Winery. A lawyer working for him said, “It’s difficult to find people.”
        Modern Appealing Clothing filed a class action suit against Ivanka’s brand over “unfair competition,” citing Trump and Conway’s publicity.
        As Trump’s bad week continued, the WSJ reported Kushner’s sale of 666 Fifth Avenue to a Chinese buyer for a $400mm profit, was teetering.
        Trump hotel in DC will host an event on American-Turkey relations, sponsored by an organization whose chair is a Turkish businessman with ties to the Turkish government. Four Seasons had previously hosted.
        James Woolsey said while on the Trump transition team, he attended a September meeting in which Flynn discussed how to get Fethullah Gulen to Turkey without going through the US extradition legal process.
        The Trump Organization is pursuing a hotel deal in Dallas with a man known as “Turkish Trump,” whose real estate company has business ties in Russia, Kazakhstan and at least two dozen other countries.
        Trump threatened Republicans in the House who were considering voting against Trumpcare, “I’m gonna come after you.”
        NBC reported that The Trump Organization is in violation of New York City law for not being registered with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development.
        Deutsche Bank — a major lender to Trump — was fined $630 million for money laundering over $10bn for Russia from the bank’s Moscow office in a scheme dubbed, “Global Laundromat.”
        Maddow reported that Sen Van Hollen asked Sessions to recuse himself from the US investigation of Deutsche Bank, formerly conducted by US attorney Bharara, and asked if this is why Bharara was fired.
        The Trump Organization launched a new hotel chain, triggering all sorts of ethics concerns, including that investors may invest in order to gain favor and access to the new administration.
        According to a New York Magazine reporter, Trump is “obsessive” in recording and watching cable news: “a source close to the White House told me that he does DVR basically all of the cable news.”
        In the Trump regime’s second major email scandal — Tillerson’s use of an alias email account (Wayne Tracker) — Exxon claimed to have lost all emails from the alias account.
        Trump’s newly appointed GSA head said his Trump DC Hotel lease is valid. An expert on government procurement law at GWU called the GSA decision harmful to the “integrity — and thus credibility — of GSA.
        Hawaii’s Rep. Beth Fukumoto resigned from the GOP and said she would become a Democrat. Her open letter cited Trump “marginalizing and condemning minorities” and demeaning women.
        AP reported a bombshell: former Trump campaign manager Manafort was under a $10mm/year contract with a Russia-related entity, starting in 2006, to covertly promote the interests of the Russian government.
        The WH responded that Trump was not aware of Manafort’s work for Russian billionaire while Manafort worked on Trump’s campaign.
        Manafort is also being investigated for transactions with banks in Cyprus, known as a haven for laundering money for Russian billionaires. Wilbur Ross was previously Vice-Chair of Bank of Cyprus.
        Maddow reported that the Attorney General of Cyprus is cooperating with US officials in turning over information related to Manafort.
        Five Democratic Senators sent a letter to Wilbur Ross asking for clarification about his ties to Bank of Cyprus. The response was due March 24th, but as of now, Ross has not responded.
        A Ukrainian lawmaker released documents which show that Manafort laundered payments from former Ukrainian President Yanukovych, who has been hiding in Russia since his overthrow.
        CNN reported that the FBI has information that members of the Trump regime possibly coordinated with Russia on the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton.
        Tillerson gave a surprisingly frank interview to IJR, saying “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” Tillerson said he had planned to retire in March to spend time with his grandkids.
        On Thursday, House Intel Committee ranking Democrat Schiff said he has been presented new evidence on collusion between the Trump regime and Russia that merited a grand jury investigation.
        Russian lawyer Nikolai Gorokhov, who represents the family of Magnitsky, a Russia who died in prison in 2009 after uncovering massive fraud, mysteriously “fell” from his fourth floor apartment, the night before he was set to appear in court in Moscow. He survived.
        Gorokhov was also scheduled to be a witness in a US case connected to the largest money-laundering scheme in Russian history, USA v. Prevezon, which was on the brink of going to trial in Manhattan. Fired US Attorney Bharara had been spearheading the case.
        Two days later, former Russian parliamentarian Voronenkov, who fled Russia after criticizing Putin, was assassinated on the streets of Ukraine’s capital. Voronenkov was said to be a key witness in Ukraine’s investigation of Yanukovych and Russian military involvement.
        Wednesday, offering no evidence, Nunes held an impromptu press conference where he claimed that some Trump transition team, including Trump, had been inadvertently surveilled.
        Nunes bypassed protocol of reporting his findings to the House Intel Committee, instead briefing Ryan and then the WH before his press conference, even while the WH is under investigation by the FBI.
        On Thursday, Nunes apologized to the members of the Intel Committee for not going to them first, and said he was unsure if the Trump regime were even in the phone calls and other communication he cited.
        Thursday night on Hannity, in explaining his actions, Nunes said he felt a “duty and obligation” to Trump.
        On Friday, Nunes backed down from his assertion that Trump was surveilled. He also refused to reveal his sources.
        On Friday, Nunes abruptly canceled an open hearing scheduled for Tuesday, in which DNI director Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting AG Yates were scheduled to testify.
        The Daily Beast reported that Tuesday, the night before his Trump surveillance claim, Nunes left a Uber car with a senior staffer to take a phone call, and then mysteriously disappeared for hours.
        WAPO Editorial Board called for Nunes to be removed as Chair of the House Intel Committee, and investigated for leaking.
        As the week closed, a Quinnipiac poll found that 66% of Americans want an independent commission to investigate Trump-Russia ties.
        The House Oversight Committee requested documents from the WH and FBI on any communications between Flynn and Russia.
        The Senate Intelligence Committee asked Trump adviser Stone to preserve any Russian-related documents.
        Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s chief WH ethic lawyer, tweeted that he testified to the House Oversight Committee that “treason is an oversight issue.”
        The RNC, while chaired by Priebus, hired a firm with intelligence connections to Russia, to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
        Andrea Mitchell reported on her show that a single source had told her Trump transition team members are purging their phones.
        All week, Spicer and the Trump regime tried to distance Trump from Manafort, Flynn and others under FBI investigation. Trump loyalist National Enquirer ran a cover story on Flynn, “Trump Catches Russia’s White House Spy.”
        A Russian organized crime money-laundering network, with offices in Trump Tower three floors below Trump’s penthouse, was under a court-approved wiretap by the FBI. The investigation led to the indictment of 30 people, including a Russian mafia boss.
        WSJ Editorial Board issued a blistering attack on Trump — “A President’s Credibility” in which they described how Trump’s constant lies and falsehoods were eroding public trust, abroad and at home.
        Canada’s largest school district canceled travel to the US, citing worries about Trump’s Muslim Ban.
        A waiter in California refused to serve four Latina customers until they showed proof of residency, saying “I need to make sure you’re from here.”
        Organizers of a Cinco de Mayo festival in Philadelphia canceled, fearing an ICE raid. The festival had been a Mexican folk tradition since 2006.
        Trump continued to take credit for jobs he didn’t create, this time 20,000 jobs at Charter Communications announced last October.
        The Federal Judge in Hawaii who ruled against Trump’s second Muslim Ban has received multiple death threats, and is under 24-hour protection.
        Despite a 44 seat advantage in the House, Trump first major legislative attempt, to repeal and replace Obamacare, failed — a sign of incompetence, but also his weakened political capital amidst Russian allegations and record low favorability.
        NYT reported that Ryan had told Trump he didn’t have the votes, but Trump, Bannon and Short wanted to force a public vote to create a GOP enemies list. Ryan said no.
        Trump blamed the loss on Democrats, calling Pelosi and Schumer “losers.” The conservative WSJ Editorial Board blamed Republicans.
        NYT reported that a US led coalition is investigating a strike in Mosul which killed up to 200 civilians — the highest toll for an American attack in Iraq since 2003. Unlike Obama who acted in a way to protect civilians, this and Yemen showcase Trump’s complete disregard for human life.

        Lisa Marie Alter

  9. Don L Bergmann

    For those interested, a few of us have been “demonstrating”, signs and thumbs up gestures, at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge each Sat. from about 10:30 to 11:30. Our primary theme is to question the dersirabilty and legality of the Trump Executive Orders on Immigration.
    Don Bergmann

  10. Proud of my hometown and our Connecticut legislative team! So sorry I couldn’t be there too.

  11. An observation on the march for democracy yesterday:

    Late last night when I returned home and turned on the evening news I see an equally peaceful, very large, anti-Putin/corruption march in Moscow (and many other places) where demonstrators are attacked by riot police. Hundreds were arrested incl the organizer, representatives of both Russian and international press. Regardless of our own differing views our president needs make his position on Russia and Putin clear. Having lost health care he talks about ‘loyalty’ when he should be demonstrating transparency.

    I am very, very grateful to be living in a democracy such as ours where we don’t have to fear being beaten and arrested for peacefully expressing our views, regardless of what they are and not matter how much we disagree.

    My first march ever; a peaceful orderly and hugely uplifting one where the job of the police was to direct traffic accommodating both protesters and drivers. They did a great job.

  12. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    Proud of Westport. I wish I could have been there to join you……..

  13. to all you bleeding hearts out ther now that we have a president if we impeach him who do you suggest we put in his place; just curious

  14. Marcy Sansolo

    congratulations to the organizers of this event, to all of the people in attendance, to all of the people who showed support by honking of as they drove by and to dan for such an excellent piece. i feel lucky that i was in attendance.

  15. Thanks for this great reporting, Dan. It was wonderful to see so many people care enough to take action to defend our democracy which is very much in peril.

  16. Bruce J. Kent

    “Democracy” is nothing more than mob rule Alice, and not our system of government (thank God!). Dan, can we say “God” on this site?

  17. Kevin O'Brien

    Interesting that so many who pat themselves on the back for being open minded and wanting discussion excoriate those who try to discuss it. I may be a life-long Democrat, but as for Blumenthal et al, these are folks who push for a $15/hr wage while paying their staff half that. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m excoriated fro even saying something about it. And as for the Paris Accord, here are the facts, presented by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, as so many seem not to know when asked what’s in it.