Sen. Jeff Merkley to Portland demonstrators: ‘We need your involvement now more than ever’

More than 100 people rallied outside Sen. Jeff Merkley’s downtown Portland office Tuesday, thanking the senator for his opposition to some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees and voicing their disdain for the president’s picks.

Merkley was expecting the demonstrators, and his state director read a statement on his behalf that, in part, highlighted his votes against three of Trump’s Cabinet picks. The statement also praised demonstrators for their activism and proclaimed grassroots organizing is more important than ever.

“Thank you for being here today to demonstrate the power of our ‘we the people’ democracy and show that when we join together we can send a message loud and clear to this new administration: We will not be silent in this new era,” Merkley wrote.

Demonstrators toted signs including those reading “stop Trump’s #swampcabinet” — a reference to Trump’s “drain the swamp” moniker — and “if you are not concerned you are not paying attention.” They also broke out in intermittent chants and quieted for a few speeches.

“We’re trying to send a message that we really need him to work behind the scenes or whatever to get as many people as possible opposed to these nominees,” said organizer Lisa Stiller. Organizers want to keep holding similar rallies, she said.

Anti-Trump group Indivisible Oregon said on Facebook that demonstrators held at least four rallies or meetings at Oregon senators’ offices Tuesday.

Merkley, a Democrat, wrote that it’s his top priority to “oppose and delay Cabinet members who will hurt our working families or undermine our core American principles.” He specifically highlighted his votes against John Kelly, the new Secretary of Homeland Security; Mike Pompeo, CIA director; and Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state.

“Now, more than ever, we need grassroots power to stand up and fight every day for a vision of a more diverse, tolerant America with economic opportunity for all,” Merkley wrote. “So thank you for getting involved, for getting informed and making your voices heard. We need your involvement now more than ever to make our ‘we the people’ democracy work for all the people.”

The crowd closed Tuesday’s rally with chants of “Thank you, Jeff” shortly after Jessica Stevens, Merkley’s state director, finished reading his statement.