ROCKFORD — Protesters converged downtown Thursday evening chanting "not above the law" as their battle cry against President Donald Trump's appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. attorney general. The move means that Whitaker will oversee Robert Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign.

"We have to raise our voice and show that we care," said Carolyn Cadigan, who was among more than 100 people who gathered in Joe Marino Park at the corner of East State and Water streets.

The protest came a day after Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign and appointed Whitaker. Similar rallies were staged across the country. Organizers say Whitaker's appointment is an attempt to obstruct Mueller's investigation, which was previously overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. It's an issue of our democracy," said Barb Verni-Lau, who led the local rally.

Whitaker had previously criticized Mueller's probe. Congressional Democrats immediately called for Whitaker to remove himself from the investigation.

"We believe in our government because it belongs to us," Rockford immigration attorney Sara Dady told the crowd. Dady tried unsuccessfully to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger in Tuesday's election.

"We have a president who is undermining public trust in our institutions every day," she said. "That makes us less safe. That makes us less secure. We cannot allow one person to undermine public trust in our government."

Kevin Haas: 815-987-1410;; @KevinMHaas