Hundreds of women from nearly all 50 states gathered in Washington, D.C., Thursday to protest the Trump administration’s detention of migrant families through the “zero tolerance” policy. They also called for the termination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a drastic demand that would have been unthinkable several months earlier.
By Thursday afternoon, 575 protesters had been arrested and escorted out of the Hart Senate Office Building by police, charged with the misdemeanor of unlawfully demonstrating, according to U.S. Capitol Police.
“I was just arrested with 500+ women and @WomensMarch to say @RealDonaldTrump’s cruel zero-tolerance policy will not continue,” Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) tweeted. “Not in our country. Not in our name.”
The protesters were organized by a group of advocacy organizations, including the Women’s March and the immigrant advocacy organization Casa de Maryland. They spent Wednesday night sleeping in churches or friends’ homes before being trained on civil disobedience, according to the Washington Post.
“I have two kids, and as a white mother, there is almost no circumstance that they would be taken away from me — ever,” Victoria Farris, one of the protesters, told the Post. “I was awake one night because I couldn’t sleep thinking about all those [immigrant] mothers and terrified children. I realized I had to do something more than protest, more than make a sign and march.”
The protests began Thursday morning in Freedom Plaza, where women wearing white held signs and berated the Trump administration for its treatment of migrant families. They called for the reunification of separated families and an end to family detention. Some had written “WE CARE” on the palm of their hands, a snub aimed at First Lady Melania Trump’s recent wardrobe choice.
The group marched to the Justice Department and then on toward the Hart Senate Office Building, singing hymns and protest chants in both English and Spanish along the way. As they passed by the Trump International Hotel, the protesters yelled “Shame” and “Where are the children?” There were banners confiscated by police, but their voices rang loud: “Abolish ICE, shut it down!”
The protesters were greeted by several members of congress, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
“I join them in calling on the Trump administration to reunite these families and give these kids back to their parents,” Duckworth said, according to the Post. “On my side of things, I ask my colleagues, let’s pass, finally, sensible immigration reform.”
Jayapal, who joined the protesters, was led out with the marchers when the arrests began around 3 p.m. As the demonstrators inside the Hart building were rounded up in groups of a dozen or more, they continued to chant and sing. Police took about an hour to clear the building.
This protest, known by the hashtag #WomenDisobey, is just one in a collection of recent demonstrations aimed at the White House’s treatment of migrant families. On Wednesday, dozens of activists — some of whom are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) — called for ICE’s dissolution outside their Washington office.
Thousands more are expected to gather Saturday in a nationwide Families Belong Together march, aimed at demanding the reunification of families separated by the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.