Thirty-three protesters were detained and cited after a crowd of nearly 300 people sought to disrupt the Salute to America parade in Center City on the Fourth of July.

The group of protesters included Philadelphia Jewish community members, immigrant leaders and allies, who gathered outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility located near the corner of Eighth and Cherry Streets to highlight the conditions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

They marched to Sixth and Market Streets, where they sat in the street to block the parade route.

The protesters were detained and cited at the intersection for “obstructing a highway,” Philadelphia police said Thursday. Police reported no injuries or property damage.

Chanting “Never again means close the camps” and “Never again is now,” a group of 33 protesters formed a human chain across Market Street, barring the Mill Creek Fire Company from continuing the procession. Police removed the protesters — wrists pressed against their backs — from the street soon after they sat down.

“We believe this action was necessary because on a day like today, on the Fourth of July — the celebration of freedom and justice in our country — we found it ironic and believe it is abundantly clear that in America right now there are people who are not free, who are not receiving justice, who are not receiving independence," said Pele IrgangLaden, one of the organizers.

Protesters interrupt the Salute to America parade with a message demanding the closure of detention camps at the United States-Mexico border.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Protesters interrupt the Salute to America parade with a message demanding the closure of detention camps at the United States-Mexico border.

The blockade was planned as part of the protest, IrgangLaden said. The 33 protesters indicated days before the protest that they would be interested in partaking in a “high risk action." They then completed nonviolence civil disobedience training on Wednesday to prepare and plan for the July Fourth protest.

Sarah Giskin, one of the organizers, called for the closing of what she called “concentration camps” — referring to the detention centers where undocumented immigrants, including those seeking refugee status are being held — and the abolition of ICE. Participants also chanted “Shut down Berks,” referencing the immigrant detention center in Berks County, Pa.

Rebekah O’Donoghue, 35, said she was there to protest “the immorality” at play in immigration detention centers.

“I felt that on the Fourth of July, it was important to speak up,” she said.

Rabbi Micah Weiss, 31, for the Reconstruction Movement located in Philadelphia and Nomi Teutsch, 31, attended the protest with their two newborn sons. “We brought our babies here to show the importance of families standing together.”

Teutsch, who said she was a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, drew a “direct comparison” between the concentration camps of 20th century Europe and detention facilities for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The protest aligns with similar actions, both past and pending, led by Jewish community members in major cities across the country.

“We were taught as Jews how the Holocaust happened, why it happened,” said IrgangLaden. “This happened to us and we must make sure it does not happen again to anyone. We see all the signs with the concentration camps, and we are not willing to see what happens next.”