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Protests Slam Trump's Declaration as States Ready Lawsuit

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People hold signs during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on President's day near the White House in Washington, Feb. 18, 2019.

Protesters around the U.S. spent Presidents Day rallying against President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration as at least a dozen states planned a lawsuit to block Trump's latest ploy to fund his long-promised border wall.

"Trump is the national emergency!" chanted a group of hundreds lined up Monday at the White House fence while Trump was out of town in Florida. Some held up large letters spelling out "stop power grab." In downtown Fort Worth, Texas, a small group carried signs with messages including "no wall! #FakeTrumpEmergency."

Meanwhile, Colorado and New Mexico became the latest states to join with California and other states in challenging the declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, both Democrats, said in a statement that the wall project could divert tens of millions of dollars from military construction projects in Colorado.

A crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered in frigid weather at the state Capitol in Denver roared with approval when Weiser told them his office was joining the multi-state lawsuit.

"There is zero real-world basis for the emergency declaration, and there will be no wall," New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Organized by the liberal group MoveOn and others, Monday's demonstrations took the occasion of the Presidents Day holiday to assail Trump's proclamation as undemocratic and anti-immigrant.

Kelly Quirk, of the progressive group Soma Action, told a gathering of dozens in Newark, New Jersey that "democracy demands" saying "no more" to Trump.

"There are plenty of real emergencies to invest our tax dollars in," said Quirk.

In New York City, hundreds of people at a Manhattan park chanted "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here" as several of them held up letters spelling out, "IMPEACH."

There were some counter-protesters, including in Washington, where there was a brief scuffle in the crowd.

Trump's declaration Friday shifts billions of dollars from military construction to the border. The move came after Congress didn't approve as much as Trump wanted for the wall, which the Republican considers a national security necessity.

His emergency proclamation calls the border "a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics."

Illegal border crossings have declined from a high of 1.6 million in 2000. But 50,000 families are now entering illegally each month, straining the U.S. asylum system and border facilities.

Trump's critics have argued he undercut his own rationale for the emergency declaration by saying he "didn't need to do this" but wanted to get the wall built faster than he otherwise could. In announcing the move, he said he anticipated the legal challenges.

"President Trump declared a national emergency in order to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on his border wall obsession," Manar Waheed of the American Civil Liberties Union told protesters rallying in a Washington park before heading to the nearby White House fence. The ACLU has announced its intention to sue Trump over the issue.

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy, said the president had undertaken to "steal money that we desperately need to build a country of our dreams so that he can build a monument to racism along the border."

At one point during the rally, a counter-protester walked through the crowd toting a sign saying "finish the wall" on one side and "protect the poor" on the other. Another man snatched his sign from him, sparking a short scuffle.

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