Protesters who had camped on the concrete apron of Philadelphia City Hall for three weeks to protest the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency (ICE) on Saturday removed their belongings, took down a makeshift wooden kitchen and beach umbrellas, hauled away metal filing cabinets, and swept up ahead of a city-imposed deadline for them to leave.
Deborah Rose, 33, of West Philadelphia, one of the activists and organizers, said outside City Hall that the protesters were complying with the deadline because Mayor Kenney on Friday announced that Philadelphia will end a data-sharing agreement with ICE.
But, she noted: "We have a long fight ahead of us."
Rose would not specify where all the signs, filing cabinets, umbrellas, and other belongings would be taken. "They will probably be used for a variety of things as the 'Abolish ICE' campaign continues," she said.
But on Sunday, @no_ice_PHL, the Twitter account that's been giving regular updates on the protest over the course of the past couple of weeks, said that the group moved just across the way to Broad and Arch Streets.
"The struggle continues," the group wrote Saturday evening, sharing photos of protesters gathered near the Municipal Services Building.
In addition to asking that the city end its database-sharing agreement with ICE, protesters have been demanding for ICE to be abolished, an end to stop-and-frisk in Philadelphia, and a closure of the Berks County family detention center, which holds parents and children who are awaiting immigration decisions or asylum hearings.
Kenney on Friday said that he won't renew the controversial city contract that allows ICE agents to access the key law enforcement database, known as PARS, and use that information against undocumented but otherwise law-abiding immigrants in Philadelphia. "I cannot in good conscience allow the agreement to continue," the mayor said.
The decision had no bearing on Saturday's deadline for protesters to vacate the City Hall encampment, city spokesperson Mike Dunn said in a Saturday email.
PARS is an acronym for a real-time computer database of arrests, operated by the city and shared via contract with ICE, the federal agency responsible for finding and deporting people in the country without documentation. The contract expires Aug. 31.
About 50 people had stayed at the City Hall "Occupy Ice" encampment overnight since July 6, Rose said. In total, the mini-village had attracted about 300 people over three weeks. Protesters were initially given a 2 p.m. deadline Saturday to vacate the encampment, but that was then pushed back to 3 p.m. The last protester who had been camped out at the site packed up her belongings and removed them in a red shopping cart just a few minutes before 3 p.m.
Soon after she left, city crews began clearing away any remaining dust from the east side of City Hall.
Dunn said that the protesters were told to decamp because of a planned construction project outside City Hall. "The notice to decamp is due to the construction project, which expands to that area starting Monday," he said. "Crews need time over the weekend to prepare that location for the work. The group has been aware of this deadline for two weeks. In fact, the original deadline was last weekend, and we agreed to extend and work around them."
He said the project was part of planned reconstruction around City Hall that began in 2015. "It includes replacement of concrete on the northeast corner, replacement of a water-service line, new ramps for the north portal and new landscaping," he said.
On Saturday, the protesters were complying with the city's deadline to leave. In the morning and early-afternoon hours, about 40 people helped take down the makeshift encampment.
Connor Ney, 29, of Wichita, Kan., packed away food and cleaning supplies from the makeshift kitchen that had been covered with a blue tarp. He said he had left Kansas because of the bad economy and came to Philadelphia on July 1 on a Greyhound bus. After arriving in the city, he decided to join the protesters, he said.
Anthony Novotny, 58, of Havertown, said he had participated with the protesters during the day "to save our immigrants."
"Immigrants have the right to be here. That's what the Statue of Liberty stands for," said Novotny, dressed in a red "Impeach Trump" T-shirt.
Atena Jeretic, 25, watched solemnly Saturday as her fellow protesters removed the last remnants of the encampment and packed them onto a silver metal truck and private cars parked on the east side of City Hall as police and city workers oversaw the process.
A native of Paris, she said she had lived in the Philadelphia area for six years, from 2011 to 2017, and attended Haverford College. Calling herself a homeless "traveler," she said she had been part of the Occupy ICE encampment for the last two weeks after coming to Philadelphia from the Occupy ICE protest in New York.
Asked where she would go next, she said she didn't know. "Where the wind takes me," she said.
Outreach workers with the One Day at a Time Recovery community organization, working with the city, were at City Hall on Saturday to see if anyone needed assistance finding housing.
Before the 3 p.m. deadline, Philadelphia Police Inspector Roland Lee said he was overseeing the encampment removal "to see this comes through with a peaceful resolution."
While there were police officers seen on standby in areas around City Hall, and several police vehicles were parked outside the Municipal Services Building across the north side of City Hall, police were not needed Saturday afternoon as protesters took down the encampment.
Jane Slusser, Kenney's chief of staff, happened to walk outside City Hall close to the 3 p.m. deadline Saturday. "Everything's going fine," she said. "It's been a very smooth transition today."
Kenney said he had grown concerned that ICE was using the database "in inappropriate ways," including to conduct investigations of undocumented immigrants who had not broken any other laws. That sows fear and distrust in immigrant communities, he said, with the effect of discouraging crime victims and witnesses from coming forward.
The mayor has been outspoken in support of immigrants, including filing a federal "sanctuary city" lawsuit against the Trump administration over the right to limit police cooperation with ICE. Last month, a federal judge ruled for Philadelphia, saying the city's position was based on policies that were reasonable, rational, and equitable.