It was not your usual summer playdate.
Sure, there was face-painting and red and orange water ice, a kiddie pool, and paper butterfly wings to color and wear. But instead of frolicking in a backyard, the children were gathered Wednesday afternoon at the front door of the Philadelphia field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — about 40 pint-size protesters calling out the Trump administration for its treatment of migrant families at the southwest border.
The butterfly wings carried their message: “Close the Camps.”
The demonstration, “Kids Melt ICE: A #PlaydateProtest,” was organized by a coalition that included the immigrant advocacy group Juntos and the Philly Childcare Collective (PCC), which provides childcare for parents involved in protests. The action blocked part of Cherry Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets, where the youngsters jumped into a wading pool cooled with ice cubes. Off to the side was a poster with photographs of the children who have died in ICE custody.
Ro Adler, a PCC organizer, said this was the first time the group had launched its own demonstration. “We’re all really excited to have a child-centered activism happening," they said. “... It has come together with a lot of energy.”
PCC distributed written material explaining how parents could explain the issues to their children, how they could “nurture empathy” and help them feel “safe, loved, and cared for.”
Rachel Betesh, 36, of Yeadon, came with her 7-year-old daughter, Beta Weissman. Children, Betesh said, should learn “speaking up in public and seeing their parents upset about things that matter.”
Tasha and Frederico Marino, of Hatfield, brought their three children and a friend. Their seven-year-old son, Kailir, said he had come "to melt ice... I’m going to make my face painted... [as] a tiger, 'cause I like tigers.
Danielle Selber, of Bala Cynwyd, was there with her 5-year-old son. “The day he was born, I was on my way to protest,” she said, "but I went to the hospital instead.”
One organizer asked the children to “share why we are here.”
From the crowd came an answer: “To save the babies.”
And another, which elicited cheers: “Don’t take kids away from their parents.”