Several dozen protesters were arrested by Philadelphia police after briefly interrupting the city’s “Salute to America” Independence Day Parade. The activists had marched through Center City in opposition to the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Customs and Border Protection.
Several hundred of the activists had rallied earlier in the morning outside of the local ICE bureau, near 8th and Arch streets. The protest action was organized as part of a national “Never Again Week of Action,” which saw Jewish-American organizations orchestrate similar marches across the U.S., in an effort to link modern immigration enforcement tactics to the Holocaust.
“This is the Jewish community basically getting together to say ‘never again.’ It’s something we usually say about the Holocaust, but ‘never again’ is now,” said Sarah Giskin, who helped organize the march. “Philadelphia is supposed to be a sanctuary city. ICE should not be operating here at all.”
She said protesters wanted to see the immediate closure of the local ICE field office and the closure of a controversial immigrant detention center in Berks County. But Giskin added that protesters also organized in favor of broader changes, including immigration reform and the abolition of ICE altogether.
Like many of the attendees, Johanna Lester, a social worker who marched on Thursday, cited reports of inhumane conditions at detention camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The deaths in these camps, the child abuse, the sexual abuse, the abandonment, the neglect. Not having toothbrushes, soap, a bed or their family or freedom. Like, when do you say ‘enough’?” Lester said. “If you’re not in the streets now about what’s going on, then what more will it take?”
Marchers later moved toward Independence Hall. About three dozen slipped past police barricades and formed a human chain across Market Street. The activists briefly interrupted the planned parade route before police intervened.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department said they were unsure of exactly how many arrests were made or if any protesters had been charged with a crime. A press release from the protest organizers asserted that over 33 had been arrested.
An ICE spokesperson said that the agency was committed to providing “safe and humane environments” to all individuals in its custody. The statement said that its Berks County facility had “an outstanding track record with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services” and described a list of amenities at the detention center, like rec rooms, an outdoor play area, and educational opportunities for detainees.