ST. GEORGE – Sen. Mike Lee’s St. George office was swarmed by nearly 40 people holding a rally expressing their dislike of President Donald Trump’s cabinet choices. They also expressed general grievances and worries about policies the new administration plans to implement.
Though part of a national call to oppose Trump’s cabinet appointees made by MoveOn.org, the rally in St. George carried much the same spirit and theme as Saturday’s Women’s March that draw nearly 1,500 people.
Not wanting to lose the momentum of Saturday’s event, Dorothy Engelman said she helped get the word out about the event, though noted she was not the event organizer. She said she simply helped to facilitate it.
Engelman found out about the event Monday afternoon via a notice from MoveOn.org. From there she helped contact others about the gathering, she said.
The notice from MoveOn.org was part of a national call to oppose Trump’s cabinet and was accompanied by the hashtag “#SwampCabinet” with rallies held at senatorial offices in various cities.
“Donald Trump riled up crowds claiming he’d ‘drain the swamp’ and chase corruption out of Washington,” the MoveOn.org press release states. “But, so far, he has done nothing but nominate individuals that will continue to foster the same corruption he described during his campaign.”
Originally only expecting a handful of people to arrive due to short notice, Engelman was surprised by the gathering crowd.
“I’m delighted,” Engelman said as she reflected on how many people showed up at Lee’s office on Tabernacle Street. “I was hoping for a dozen. I think we got three dozen.”
Though the senator was not present at the office, Betty Arial, the office’s Southern Utah director, was. She took down names of those who voiced their concerns and told the crowd they would be sent to Washington, D.C.
The group had attempted to contact Sen. Orrin Hatch’s St. George office, but no one was available at the time, Engelman said.
Topics concerning a potential loss of the Affordable Healthcare Act and funding to Planned Parenthood were shared while discontent for Trump’s cabinet picks was mentioned only in a more general sense. Of the cabinet nominees, attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, and education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos were mentioned by name.
“I feel the cabinet nominees reflect a desire to gut key organizations within government,” rally attendee Kathryn Syssoyeva said. “I don’t think this is in anyone’s best interests. The cabinet appointees by and large do not reflect the values of our nation.”
Linda Stay, who has been a known gay rights advocate in the community, said she was worried that LGBTQ rights would be adversely affected by the cabinet picks. She also said that as a woman who has experienced breast cancer, she worried treatments made available to her under the Affordable Care Act may now be taken away.
“I would have died without that treatment that I was able to get,” Stay said. “I am very, very concerned that that’s going to disappear and I will be left without access to health care.”
Mention of DeVos’ name at times seemingly caused members of the crowd to bristle, particularly among those who said they were retired educators. DeVos, they say, is unqualified and inexperienced for the position and will damage the nation’s public education system.
Sessions’ pending appointment as the nation’s next attorney general was also opposed due to accusations of racism.
“I never thought that we were still as racist of a country as that brought out,” said one of the gathering’s attendees said of Sessions’ nomination.
Lee expressed his belief that Sessions is qualified for the job during with an interview with Fox News that he posted to his Facebook page Jan. 10.
“Senator Jeff Sessions is undeniably qualified to be the Attorney General. While I may disagree with Sen. Sessions on some policy issues, that does not change his qualifications for this position,” Lee said.
Further comment on the subject of Trump’s incoming cabinet was sought from Lee’s office, but requests were not returned by time of publication.
“My mantra is: ‘silence is not an option,’” Engelman said. “If we’re going to see change take place, it has to be us doing it. It’s not scary – it’s empowering and energizing.”
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