The skies grew dark Saturday afternoon as tornado alerts buzzed cell phones across the city. Which might have explained the initial lackluster turnout for an Independence Mall protest against President Donald Trump — the third in Philadelphia in a week.
But eventually, as a steady rain began to fall, three dozen protesters were listening as organizers with Refuse Fascism Philly played an audio recording published by ProPublica in 2018 of immigrant children separated from their families at the Mexican border.
Chanting, “Close the camps! Trump, Pence must go!” protesters then marched with police escorts to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters at Eighth and Cherry Streets, where a year ago dozens had camped out as part of a nationwide #OccupyICE action demanding abolition of the agency.
Sam Goldman, a Refuse Fascism organizer, said ending what she called the “Trump regime” would not be a matter of one massive event like the Women’s March. This would require “mass, sustained nonviolent resistance,” she said.
“There needs to be protest everywhere, all the time,” said Goldman, 32, of Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, Philadelphians had rallied outside the Old City office of Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), joining thousands of protesters in almost 200 cities and towns as part of a nationwide protest calling for elected officials to #CloseTheCamps. That was a reference to the controversy over what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) — and hundreds of historians — has described as “concentration camps” at the nation’s border.
And on the Fourth of July, nearly three dozen protesters were arrested as they, along with 300 others, tried to disrupt the Salute to America parade in Center City. “Never again is now!” chanted the protesters, part of a nationwide #JewsAgainstICE action.
No one was arrested Saturday.
West Philly residents Naimah Stevens, 20, and David Renoit, 20, said they hoped the demonstration would provoke other Americans into considering the effects of Trump’s policies. “I think we can all agree that what’s happening at the border is an injustice,” Stevens said.
Steve Horton, 65, of Philadelphia, expressed concern over Trump’s impact on an array of issues including immigration and health care, and said he believes the administration has created chaos. “Quite honestly,” he said, “on a fundamental level, we’ve gone astray.”
Joanna Schwartz, a second-grade teacher in South Philly, said her students — many of whom are immigrants and children of immigrants — were on her mind during the protest. It was encouraging, she said, to see the turnout.
“It really brings tears to my eyes,” she said, “to know that you’re not alone in feeling this sadness.”