Correction, Nov. 11: “Pastor Paul” quote changed. Updated, 7:48 a.m.: Video added; 7:09 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – A peaceful East Avenue protest turned rowdy Thursday when a few counter protestors appeared across the street and answered chants of “nobody is above the law” with shouts of “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”
In short order, Norwalk Police swarmed the area and traffic snarled as one lane of East Avenue filled with police cruisers. Police kept the two groups away from each other and there was laughter among all the shouting.
Leading the counter protestors was “Pastor Paul,” who was joined by two or three men who said they had never met before; a man who identified himself as Daniel Oboy waved a large American flag while Paul yelled phrases such as “Hillary is not your president,” “down with the deep state,” and, “the Illuminati does not run America.”
About 300 people met on the Town Green at 5 p.m. to protest Wednesday’s resignation of Attorney General Jeffrey Session, in a rally called “A Mueller Firing Rapid Response event” in a Norwalk Democratic Town Committee email. The e-mail described the event as “part of MoveOn’s nationwide movement planning to hit the streets (Thursday) at 5pm to demand that the Trump-Russia investigation be allowed to proceed to its conclusion.”
Sessions resigned the day after the election, and said that President Donald Trump had requested the resignation. Matthew Whitaker, who has criticized the investigation led by Robert Mueller, is taking over as acting Attorney General.
The rally began with Mayor Harry Rilling addressing the crowd, thanking them for gathering and saying that America has always been great. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” followed, with the leader asking “Conclusion?” and getting a reply of “Collusion.” “Nobody is above the law” the crowd chanted.
A few people stood on East Avenue, holding signs.
“It scares me what he’s doing with the Justice Department,” said John Norton of Manchester, whose sign said, “Trump is not above the law.”
Norton and his wife babysit their grandchildren in Wilton.
“What’s going on right now, at the top of the heap, is not good for democracy. It’s becoming more of a dictatorship than a democracy. So, very upsetting,” Ann Norton said.
The crowd on the Green moved to East Avenue, lining the sidewalk with signs and drawing honks from some drivers.
“Trump is out of control and we need to do something about it,” a Norwalker who identified herself only as “Mary” said. “He is going to try to shut Mueller down and it is so important that that doesn’t happen.”
Oboy and “Pastor Paul,” the Rev. Paul Juchniewich, made their presence known about 18 minutes into the rally, yelling from the other side of East Avenue. Reporters and a Norwalk Police officer crossed the street, and were followed by about 50 protestors, who stood just down East Avenue from the Trump loyalists, as Paul yelled, “Bill Clinton is a racist!”
“I want to make sure we keep the street open,” the police officer said to Juchniewich, agreeing with him that his First Amendment rights are important.
A Norwalk Police SUV arrived, and stopped in the northbound passing lane. Soon another cruiser arrived, then another, and the lane was filled with cruisers.
“Hillary Clinton colluded with Russians,” Juchniewich yelled. “Hillary is not your president… Hillary is not about the law. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.”
Asked by NancyOnNorwalk why Clinton was the issue, Juchniewich said, “She stole money from the Haitians. The Clinton Foundation is a criminal enterprise, PizzaGate is real. Bill Clinton flew on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane like 20 times and had sex with little girls.”
Asked again, he said, “He’s the issue because no one is above the law.”
Juchniewich sued Norwalk in 2010, claiming false arrest and alleging a civil conspiracy to deny him the use of 25 Van Zant St., where he operated Cavalry Chapel. The suit was settled in 2012.
A short while later, a Norwalk Police officer told a protester that the group had been told they couldn’t meet on the Green, that they needed a permit.
Dana DeVille of Black Rock, Bridgeport, explained to NancyOnNorwalk that she’s been working with campaigns, such as the one for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, and is involved with politically active groups.
“I think that we have to come out and support and protect our country. Nobody is going to do it except us,” she said.
“Robert Mueller is not above the law!” the men yelled, later cracking, “Kavanaugh pushed Ginsberg down.”
“Look at all the traffic you guys caused,” one of the men yelled. “You — losers.”
Then, to a woman who had offered an opinion, one said, “Who’s the president, you stupid bitch?”
“Donald Trump has got to go,” the protestors said.
“You’re delusional,” Juchniewich replied.
Later, Tina Duryea, who said she did not help organize the rally, explained to NancyOnNorwalk her reasons for being there.
“We are concerned with the President asking for Sessions to resign because…he asked him to resign in order to speed up the process to find a way to undercut Mueller’s investigation,” she said. “Whether he is going to fire Mueller, or stop funding Mueller, or do other things to undermine him, that was his end goal. We think it is very important that the Mueller investigation continues and that all stones are overturned and we know exactly what is going on with the President, with his family, with all the people in his inner circle, with Russia and with other people he’s been (associated with).”
No one knows what Trump has been doing because he won’t share his tax returns, she said.
“There’s a lot of stuff that he’s doing that’s very shady and we want Mueller to get to the bottom of the investigation,” Duryea said. “We believe that he’s taking steps to undercut the Mueller investigation. This protest is to say he can’t do that. This is a nation of laws, still and he is subject to the same laws as all of us.”
Juchniewich, Oboy and the other men just want attention, she said.
“I think that they are probably very insecure and very pathetic human beings,” she said. “Nobody should be paying attention to them, frankly. I think that this is all a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. They just came here for attention because they are very pathetic human beings.”
“They are violent, we are having a peaceful protest and they are trying to stir the pot,” a woman said.
Norwalk Police Lt. Terry Blake estimated that there were about 30 officers onscene.
“We do have an abundance of officers and detectives here to make sure that the safety of everyone protesting is maintained,” he said.
Deputy Chief Jim Walsh declined to explain what prompted the police presence.
The protest peacefully disbanded at 6 p.m., the advertised time for it to end.
All Norwalk Police officers who were present were ordered to download the video from the body cameras, according to Harold Cobin, a NancyOnNorwalk contributor who monitors a police scanner.
Rilling said this was protection in case someone filed a complaint.
The Green is owned by the First Taxing District, and he found out about the rally at about 4 p.m. when he was asked to stop by, he said.
“They are saying that nobody is above the law,” Rilling said. “I agree we need to know the truth. If somebody has nothing to hide, then why would they interfere with the investigation? I hope that they don’t. I hope that they let the investigation go through because the American public deserves to know if there was Russian interference or if there was some sort of collusion with the Russian government, and who was involved and what they did.”
Rilling said he had been told by Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik that an officer went across East Avenue to become a barrier between Juchniewich and the protestors, and when his car was surrounded he became concerned and called for assistance.
“I think, in the final analysis everything went as well as could be expected,” Rilling said. “We had one peaceful group. we had another group on the other side who were relatively peaceful, although if you listen to the police chief and the officers, they were a little bit belligerent. But nothing serious happened. So it was over and people have the right to peaceful assembly.”