By Brett Stover, News Director
At noon Tuesday, dozens of people gathered outside U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s office in downtown Columbia to protest President Donald Trump’s recent cabinet nominations and executive orders.
The protest was organized by the local group CoMo for Progress. It’s an organization that “sprung up pretty spontaneously” after the election, according to one of its leaders, Theo Schwinke.
“There’s a lot of progressive-minded people here that were very disappointed and surprised by the results of the election and we knew that we had to do something,” Schwinke said. “We came together looking to support one another. We realized [these protests are] what democracy looks like, and we are going to be active.”
The protesters stayed for about an hour at the office of Sen. Blunt, a Republican, chanting phrases like “no wall, no hate, no fascist USA,” “no ban, no wall,” and “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
Some protesters, including Schwinke, spoke with a staffer inside Blunt’s office about their concerns. They asked the staff member what Blunt’s positions were on various recent issues such as Trump’s executive order restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.
“The big issue today is … Senator Blunt is blocking us out,” Schwinke said. “He’s not responding to our calls, he’s not turning up when he’s invited, he’s not responding to our tweets or our posts on Facebook. It’s frustrating that our representatives are not representing us.”
A few Trump supporters also were there to counter-protest. Jack Rentschler, a student at the University of Missouri, voted for Trump in November. He said that he came to represent his point of view.
“You’ve got people on both sides all over the country that protest, yelling the most absurd, non-fact-based stuff,” Rentschler said. “I think the solution to a lot of the division that we have as a country right now is constructive civil discourse. Obviously, protesting isn’t the highest form of that, but it’s all part of the process that I think is vital in order to become more unified after our American identity was basically shattered by partisan politics with the election.”
Rentschler said that he feels that while Trump has made progress during his first week in office, he still dislikes the way the new president has implemented the changes.
“A lot of what I disliked with Obama was his heavy use of executive orders,” Rentschler said. “I think some of Trump’s executive orders were warranted. I think his initial decision to sign that order on healthcare made sense to me, but I’d like to see him reciprocate with the rhetoric that was used during the election cycle and despite the fact that it would take longer and use democratic processes like bills being presented in congress and being approved by the president. That’s what I wanted to see. It’s not true democracy regardless of the intent of an executive order, or who’s signing it.”
This anti-Trump protest is just one in a series of demonstrations against the newly-inaugurated president. Schwinke emphasized that CoMo for Progress was focused on accountability for federal legislators from Missouri, saying that a sign of success for the organization would be for Blunt to show up and talk to them.
“It would be good to see Senator Blunt turn up, Schwinke said. “It would also be good to see Representative Vicky Hartzler turn up, she’s also another one who’s dodging our calls. Just to come and listen and to represent us, and to show us that they’re serious about working for the people of Missouri.”
Blunt later released a statement on the protests.
“Peaceful protest is not something we should be concerned about,” Blunt said. “It’s one of the great things about who we are as a nation that people can freely express their opinions.”
Post updated Feb. 2 to reflect Roy Blunt’s statement.