Ten immigrant-rights activists who attempted to block two public entrances at City Hall scuffled fiercely with police Friday before being dragged outside and left to sit among about 100 supporters.
After establishing control at one of the doors so people with business in City Hall could enter and exit, police decided there was no reason to make arrests, said Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan, the commander at the scene.
The activists were protesting Mayor Nutter's anticipated change to his 2014 executive order barring law enforcement cooperation between city police or prison officials and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Nutter is expected to roll back that order by authorizing cooperation in certain circumstances.
"Nutter talks stridently and strongly against Trump," Peter Pedemonti said, "but behind closed doors he is changing to a policy that will lead to more deportations, which is what Trump wants." Pedemonti is executive director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, which sponsored the demonstration.
Some protesters held signs emblazoned "Nutter=Trump," trying to link the mayor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has stoked national controversy and drawn harsh criticism from Nutter.
Twenty months ago, amid cheers from immigrant-rights groups, Nutter signed an executive order that ended the city's compliance with federal requests to detain immigrants who otherwise would be released pending trial or after having served their sentences. The policy on detainer requests, known on the street as "ICE holds," barred police and prison officials from cooperating with federal agents.
It was the product of months of lobbying by immigration activists, who hailed it as one of the nation's most progressive anti-deportation policies, and it turned Philadelphia into a so-called sanctuary city.
Last month, after deputy mayor for public safety Everett Gillison revealed that Nutter would roll back the order, the rights groups cried foul.
Under the amended order that Nutter is expected to sign before he leaves office, local-federal cooperation will be renewed in cases in which an individual is suspected or convicted of gang activity, illegal possession of a firearm, drug trafficking, murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. Cooperation also will be extended if an individual is suspected of terrorism or espionage.
Activists say the changes will tear apart families through deportations, erode trust between immigrants and police, and waste municipal resources.
Supporters of the new order call it common sense. "If a person is suspected of being a terrorist, and they happen to be in our custody," Gillison said, "are you telling me that we don't want to tell the feds?"
Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, who campaigned on staunch support for immigrants, has vowed to reinstate the sanctuary city policy when he takes office.
So why demonstrate now? To loudly clarify the state of play for some immigrants who are confused by Nutter's change of mind, Pedemonti said, and to cover their bets.
"Kenney has been awesome," he said, "but we'd prefer not to have to gamble."