Anti-ICE rallies are sweeping through Philly in the runup to Independence Day

Some demonstrations got so popular they were moved to accommodate the crowds.

4-year-old Ethan Schiller, at a June 2018 protest in Rittenhouse Square

4-year-old Ethan Schiller, at a June 2018 protest in Rittenhouse Square

Rachel Wisniewski
monicazorrilla

Updated 12:36 p.m.

On Friday morning, a group of citizens attempted to disrupt daily activity at Philadelphia Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Cherry Street near Eighth.

Per former American Friends Service Committee employee Jack Malinowski — who is acting as unofficial press contact for the “ad hoc group of wizened people” organizing the action — it was a one-time initiative of companions and compañeros, veteran peace activists and human rights activists who are outraged by the “cruelty shown towards these refugee children and their families.”

Per WHYY, the action orchestrated by the self-named “Old Farts” led to six arrests.

Because they didn’t want anyone to stop them as they tried to block the local ICE office as a symbol of opposition to child and family detention, the group of self-described “elder citizens and Friends” purposely did not publicize their intentions in advance.

Other actions with similar goals, on the other hand, are being widely publicized — and look to be widely attended.

There are at least three organized rallies to end family detention are taking place within the next couple of days in Philly, with 23 different social justice groups coordinating to spearhead them. Demonstrators will call for the end of violent rhetoric towards immigrants, the abolishment of ICE and the shut down of family detention centers such as the one in Berks County, among other demands.

More than 6,000 people have indicated interest in attending, per the various Facebook pages for the events.

On Friday, June 29, a group of “lawyer moms” will lead a demonstration at Sen. Pat Toomey’s office at 200 Chestnut St. from 12 to 2 p.m.

Other local rallies decrying ICE machinations are going beyond the calls for family reunification and the end to family detention.

What started out as two separate protests scheduled for Saturday, June 30, will now converge at the same location — Logan Circle, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — because of their overwhelming popularity and the size of the crowds expected to show up. The urgent need to stop the “criminalization of immigrant communities” was cited by one of the organizers as a driving motivation in the event page comments.

A third pre-Independence Day rally will take place on Monday, July 2, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. On the “STOP ICE” event page, a coalition member noted that ICE must be abolished because “ICE is responsible for raids of homes and workplaces” and “ICE is a weapon used to drive down wages and working conditions of immigrants.”

The surge in community action and grassroots-led protest comes as various moves by the Trump administration have catapulted immigration policy into the limelight, including the encampment of thousands of children at the border; the subsequent, equally contentious push for family detention centers as a viable alternative; and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the president’s travel ban.

This treatment of foreign refugees and undocumented civilians has galvanized the immigrant-supporting community in Philadelphia, which includes various elected officials.

On June 19, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro — joined by the attorneys general of 20 other states — penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen.

In the letter, the AGs argue for a change in the unconstitutional and “cruel” tactic in “separating children from their parents as families lawfully seek asylum in the United States and protection from domestic, sexual and gang violence,” per a June 19 press release.

Mayor Jim Kenney, a longtime advocate for immigrants, also weighed in on the matter. “History will judge [Donald Trump’s] administration accordingly,” he said in a June 20 statement.

On June 27, Pennsylvania became one of 17 states to sue the Trump administration over the practice of family separation.