Hundreds of people—and at least one member of the U.S. Congress—were arrested on Thursday when as many as 2,500 people took part in a direct action organized by Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy Action in Washington, D.C.
The protests, which began at Freedom Plaza before moving to the Hart Senate office building’s atrium, called for an end to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has caused a migrant family separation crisis, and for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Capitol Police told Rewire.News that 575 people were arrested and charged with “unlawfully demonstrating” during the protests. According to the Women’s March, 630 people were arrested.
A Women’s March spokesperson explained the discrepancy when reached for clarification. “We had 630 people submit intake forms prior to arrest, and we followed up with each of them after the action personally,” she said in a text message. “This is our best possible estimate of numbers.”
Among those arrested were Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who spoke about her experience in a video posted to her Twitter account on Thursday. “This is far beyond politics—this is about right and wrong and we have to stand up and we have to put ourselves on the line,” she said in the video. “I’m proud to have been arrested with them. To put myself in the camp of people who believe that the United States of America is better and as a member of Congress I refuse to let this president and this administration do what they are doing to children, to parents, to asylum seekers in my name.”
Several other lawmakers were also on hand for the action, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who was not arrested. “I think it’s amazing. This is what democracy looks like and women all across America are speaking out. They are not going to take this, they are going to be heard,” said Gillibrand in an interview with Rewire.News prior to the arrests. “They’re going to fight, they’re going to speak out, they’re going to speak back, and they’re going to take a stand. That’s what they’re doing right now.”
Gillibrand on Friday morning declared her support for abolishing ICE and “reimagining” the agency. The news came after Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) announced earlier in the week that he would introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to abolish the agency.
“It’s so meaningful to see women who are not directly impacted by this issue turn out and say ‘actually this affects us all,’” said Women’s March Co-chair Bob Bland in a phone interview with Rewire.News Thursday afternoon. “We as Americans cannot allow for children and families to be separated and detained indefinitely with a zero-tolerance policy and basically the absence of amnesty in this entire process. We cannot allow that.”
Bland said she hoped protesters would continue raising their voices going forward. “For a lot of people it was their first time engaging in civil disobedience, so we had trainings throughout the action,” she said. “A lot of women went home to their own communities today with a full toolkit of knowledge around nonviolent civil disobedience.”
For some participants, the risk of arrest was worth it to have a chance at changing the administration’s policies at the border. “I’m planning on risking arrest because there’s no limits to what [Trump] is willing to do, and we also have to have no limits in terms of what we have to do to resist despotic policies,” 47-year-old Jen Marlowe, who traveled from Seattle for the protest, told Rewire.News. ”I’m not scared to get arrested, I’m not worried about getting arrested, I’m much more worried about what’s happening to families and children and I want to do whatever I can to center them and prioritize them and their struggle.”
Rewire.News Producer Lauryn Gutierrez contributed to this report.