Video by Ford Fischer
Photos and Story by Alejandro Alvarez
About two hundred people packed into Lafayette Square for a second day of protests following President Trump’s controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Left-wing groups in Washington sought to confront the president for what they deemed an act of treason following Trump’s rebuff of the American intelligence community in favor of Putin’s word. After having mobilized demonstrators through social media to shout down Trump’s return from Helsinki on Monday night, former Hillary Clinton adviser Philippe Reines joined with Stormy Daniels lawyer and outspoken Trump opponent Michael Avenatti to spearhead a second night of events in Lafayette Square outside the White House.
“Yesterday was the day Trump all but acknowledged that Putin is the President of the United States,” said Avenatti, who received a roaring welcome from the crowd reminiscent of a celebrity. “Why do you keep choosing one of our biggest foreign foes instead of us?”
Avenatti compared Russian meddling to an attack on American self-determination, invoking the terms “invasion” and “strategic surgical strike” to describe an act of aggression he saw as “no different than if they had placed 100,000 troops on our border.” Introducing Avenatti, lead organizer Reines derided Trump as a “squatter,” repeating his closing message from the previous night deeming the president to be illegitimate and the office of the presidency to be, in effect, vacant.
Actress Alyssa Milano, Trump critic and a key figure in the #MeToo movement, made a unannounced appearance at the rally in which she questioned the timing of Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh – “the one guy who thinks a president is above the law” – to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. In her own remarks, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden also challenged Trump’s eligibility to make new appointments to the bench “while in the pocket of Putin.”
For about an hour and a half, protesters huddled around a podium and heard from several speakers just short of the north fence. As with the previous night, most of Tuesday’s chanting revolved around accusations of treason, corruption, and collusion levied toward the president. “Who’s the puppet, you’re the puppet,” began protesters, who at several points throughout the event chanted “traitor” and “impeach” toward the north-facing side of the White House. Cardboard signs featured Trump’s face on farcical cartoon characters, and others depicted the president behind bars or wearing a prison uniform.
Despite a name evoking Occupy Wall Street, “Occupy Lafayette Square” involved little in the way of occupying, as far as anything along the lines of New York City’s Zuccotti Park in 2011. Though a third night of protests were planned Wednesday evening, no protesters had plans to pitch tents and sit-in throughout the night on Tuesday. A smaller group of demonstrators remained after the organizers had left, at one point kneeling and reciting the preamble to the Declaration of Independence before gradually dispersing.