They came from all over the country, slept at friends’ homes or in churches to risk arrest in Washington on Thursday.
Hundreds of women from 47 states gathered in Freedom Plaza, robed in white and carrying signs deriding the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
Most were white, stumbling over the syllables of Spanish-language chants. Many had never faced arrest before. But here they were.
“I have two kids, and as a white mother, there is almost no circumstance that they would be taken away from me — ever,” said Victoria Farris, who slept Wednesday night in All Souls Church after participating in civil disobedience training. “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 protest, organized by a coalition of organizations including the Women’s March and local immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland, was meant to demand the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and an end to family detentions for migrants crossing the southern border.
Several participants had written “WE CARE” on their palms, a rebuke of First Lady Melania Trump’s controversial jacket, which she wore on her first trip to visit detained children near the border.
Ana Maria Archila, executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said calling for the disbandment of ICE “would have seemed absurd even a few months ago.”
But now it was central to the mission of her group and Thursday’s march.
“This country has finally been exposed to the brutality and inhumanity of immigration enforcement,” she said. “This barrage of injustices has inspired us to say, ‘No more. We will not be silent. We will not obey.’ ”
After starting at Freedom Plaza, the group was expected to march to the Department of Justice and the Hart Senate Office Building.
The administration’s immigration crackdown hit resistance this week after the House rejected a border bill championed by the president, and a federal judge ordered the government to reunite immigrant families within month.
But organizers said that has done little to abate national outrage. Thursday’s march was one of several Washington demonstrations this week to rebuke Trump’s immigration policies.
On Wednesday, dozens of activists, including several who were recipients of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which gives temporary protection to immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, rallied outside ICE’s Washington headquarters and called for the organization’s dissolution. They shouted at police and implored workers peering out the windows to “quit your job.”
On Saturday, thousands are expected to descend on Lafayette Square in a protest calling for the end of family detentions and the return of the 2,000-plus children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Organizers of the D.C. rally also plan protests in 351 congressional districts around the country.