On Wednesday (December 18), President Donald Trump was impeached from the House of Representative. And on Thursday (December 19), Anthony Torres was arrested.
That morning, the 25-year-old communications and political director for the activist group By the People had marched with about 50 other people to the capitol in a push to “set the terms of the public debate for [President Donald] Trump's trial” in the Senate. Carrying massive blue signs that read “Your choice/The constitution/or Trump,” they went directly to Senate Majority Mitch McConnell’s office and asked him to vote to remove the president from office. That’s when Capitol Police warned them: If you stay, we’re going to have to arrest you.
“We prepared for that, and we were committing civil disobedience,” Torres told MTV News. But he and the other activists stood their ground. “These offices are actually for us,” he added. “We have to be using our bodies and our voices to disrupt business as usual… So we occupied the office of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, because Mitch McConnell has made very clear so far that he's chosen his side, and his side is not the people.”
Torres says he’s “a little exhausted” from the wild day he had — which required waking up at dawn, protesting with dozens of other activists in the freezing cold, and getting arrested. But the months he’s spent lobbying for the president’s impeachment have mostly invigorated him overall.
Torres started working with By the People as a volunteer in August of 2018, and joined the group full-time as a staffer in September of this year. The timing was no accident — that month, news broke that a whistleblower had filed a report regarding a June, following a phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2016 election interference based on a conspiracy theory, and to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The complaint brought the details of that call into the forefront of the national conversation and ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment on the grounds of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
By the People had been working to impeach the president long before the impeachment vote and the Ukraine scandal. Founded soon after Trump’s election, the group began asking Congresspeople to sign a pledge that they would work to impeach the president in February of this year; Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) signed onto the letter.
“This movement, Trump's impeachment, is about so much more [than Ukraine],” Torres said. “It's about a rejection of three years of Trump's corruption, racism and criminality, and about laying forth a democracy that actually serves the interests of all of us, rather than just being abused for the personal benefit of the wealthy and powerful few, like Trump.”
For Torres and plenty of other activists, this is just the beginning. “Impeachment isn't enough — removal is how we will put an end to the evils of the Trump administration,” he said. Whether the President loses his job before the term is up is a decision that has to be made by the Senate, who won’t be voting, or even holding a trial, until after they return from holiday break. Torres sees that as more time to make his voice heard: “That means also bringing non-violent and moral protest to the halls of power,” he adds.
The group is now focused on contacting senators and asking every one of them to vote to convict the president. Given that the Senate is currently run by a Republican majority, such a flip can feel like an uphill battle given that many conservative Senators are presenting a united front in defending Trump's actions. But Torres isn't giving up yet — for him, the stakes are simply too high.
"Choose between upholding your oath and removing Trump," he warns, "or protecting Trump and betraying our country.”