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Don’t let Trump use Iran to distract from impeachment, say Pinellas activists

About a dozen local groups rallied in downtown St. Petersburg to keep the focus on the president’s impeachment and urge a fair trial in the U.S. Senate.

ST. PETERSBURG — Local activists rallied Monday outside the St. Petersburg Judicial Building in downtown to keep attention on the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

About 30 people gathered, clutching red, pre-printed signs that said: “Demand a Fair Senate Trial with Witnesses & Fact-Finding!”

In the background, one man held up a cut-out of the letter "M" and a drawing of a peach. One by one, activists stepped forward to express their concerns about the president’s conduct and called on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, to support a fair impeachment trial in the Senate.

“This is not about politics, this is not about party, this is about principle,” said Michael Fox, of the group Progressive Democrats of America. “We simply ask that the Senate does its job and has a fair, transparent process.”

Related: Impeach Trump? Tampa Bay is divided, just like everywhere else

Some feared that the president’s decision on Jan. 3 to order the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top military and intelligence leader, was an attempt to draw attention away from the impeachment proceedings.

“The lives of our troops will not be used as a distraction (for Trump) to try to save face,” said Karen Berman, the leader of Fired up Pinellas. “Too much is at stake.”

The activists called on one another to keep the focus on impeachment through activism and rallies.

“It is a very dangerous moment in America and it is one that requires us not to cross our fingers in hope...but for us to step forward and fight for our democracy," said Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida.

Andrea Hildebran Smith reminded attendees that her group, Floridians Against Corruption and Treason holds demonstrations every Monday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at First Avenue N, between Eighth Street N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N, to rally in support of impeachment.

“It is very therapeutic to hear the honking and to see people that agree with you,” said Joanne McCarthy, an organizer with By The People.