Overnight protesters stake out ICE building, demand changes in immigration policies

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Philadelphia police arrested 29 protesters Tuesday who had been camped outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office along Eighth and Cherry streets in Philadelphia since Monday night to protest U.S. immigration policies.

Those arrested were blocking the entrance to the ICE building and refused to allow anyone to enter or exit, according to police officials. They were issued citations for failure to disperse and then released.

Dozens of protesters sat on blankets and under umbrellas in the 90-degree heat. Some held signs reading “No one is illegal,” “No Borders” and “Sanctuary City.”

As they chanted “Abolish ICE,” a few passing motorists honked their horns. By late Tuesday afternoon, the demonstrators showed no signs of leaving their encampment.

Across the street, Philadelphia police and Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Services officers kept watch and filmed the gathering.

The demonstration, which began with a rally at City Hall Monday afternoon, evolved into a march to the ICE office and then the overnight encampment.

They were demanding abolishment of ICE — the agency that enforces U.S. immigration law;  a shutdown of  a federal detention facility in Berks County for people awaiting decisions on their immigration cases; and an end to Philadelphia’s data-sharing contract with ICE.

Organizer Marlon MacAllister said the protesters were there to demonstrate  that people are united around the issues of immigration.

“We’re sort of stewarding this spot, in particular, because it’s in front of the garages that are used to transport detainees,” he said. “We’re effectively trying to shut down the facility for as long as we can … kind of — and in a similar vein — of our demand that ICE just shouldn’t exist.”

He said the plan is to stay there as long as they can.

Another part of the plan is to pressure Mayor Jim Kenney, said Anlin Wang, another organizer.

“District Attorney Larry Krasner has already pledged to not renew that contract [with ICE]. Now, all it needs is for Mayor Kenney to agree to that as well,” said Wang. “In August, when this contract is up for renewal and it expires, once that’s done, the city actually becomes a sanctuary city in actuality and not just mere rhetoric.”

Kenney has long touted Philadelphia’s stance as a sanctuary city that does not cooperate with federal immigration officials in holding undocumented immigrants in custody for nonviolent crimes.

A spokesman for the mayor said Tuesday city officials are weighing all their options.

Rachel, who lives in West Philadelphia, had been participating in the demonstration for 15 hours as of Tuesday morning. She declined to give her last name, but said she wanted to join the protest “to show how not normal this is.”

“There have been deportations and really awful family separations happening for much longer, from like the history of the United States from very, very far back. This is a moment that we really need to seize to just show people that it’s just so beyond not OK,” the 24-year-old said.

“We can’t go on as we have been doing. We can’t accept just letting these kinds of complete flagrant disregard for humanity and human rights go unchallenged. We need to meet it with the same kind of response that it merits.”

Protesters stood near the parking lot entrance and debated with some of the drivers. Police asked the protesters to move off the private driveway onto the public sidewalk. After the protesters complied, Philadelphia bike patrol officers formed a barricade on either side of the driveway.

By 11 a.m., Philadelphia police moved the protesters away from at least one of the garage doors they were blocking.

“We want to give them a safe place to protest. We’re just going to move just a little bit. It’s only 50 feet and we’re going to we’re going to block this [Cherry] street off,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Dennis Wilson.

Police arrested 29 protesters who blocked the entrance to the ICE building and refused to allow anyone to enter or exit, according to authorities. Two people sustained minor scrapes and bruises during the arrests.

ICE officials said it was business as usual Tuesday, but they would not say whether the office was open or closed.

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