July 06–A day after Philadelphia police swept away their encampment outside the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Center City, opponents of the Trump administration’s immigration policies have set up a new protest camp at City Hall. It’s a move to get Mayor Kenney’s attention, as the people of “Occupy ICE” grow angrier at the mayor for allowing police to destroy their camp.
About two dozen protesters slept in makeshift tents constructed out of beach umbrellas duct-taped to tarps — organizers say police told them no tents were allowed — and plan to occupy this space outside City Hall until their demands are met.
The demands are the same — the abolition of ICE, the closure of a federal detention center in Berks County, and an end to a data-sharing agreement with federal officials, including ICE — but the tactics have changed. Nationally, the Occupy ICE movement, which has reached about a dozen other cities, has focused on impeding the day-to-day operations of the agency by camping outside its headquarters. Now, Philly’s Occupy ICE effort is zeroing in on local officials.
“This is a living, breathing mass movement, in all its chaos and complexity,” read a statement from the Philly Occupy ICE Collective, saying that the group’s strategies and leaders would continue to change and that “more actions are likely to be planned in the near future.”
The set-up at City Hall was intentional: Protesters want to be “face-to-face” with members of City Council and Kenney, whom they fault for Thursday’s raid and arrests, said Alex Casper, a 21-year-old who lives in West Philadelphia. They haven’t seen Kenney yet.
Kenney has said he supports the goals of the Occupy protesters. But in a statement Thursday, he said that even if he agreed with them about ICE, he could not make exceptions for people who were breaking the law and creating “a threat to public safety by blocking access to a building and setting up permanent encampments.”
In another so-called sanctuary city, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he would not interfere with the protests, describing ICE as an agency “that has not fully lived American values of inclusion,” and Occupy ICE Portland subsequently succeeded in temporarily shutting down the agency. This disparity between Wheeler and Kenney have led some to question if Kenney is torn between two of the groups that put him in office: progressives and police.
The camp, which protesters built into the wee hours of the night and included some materials salvaged from the original camp site, has been dubbed #OccupyCityHall. Protesters Friday morning were milling around outside, chanting and eating donated bagels. They wrote messages — to Kenney, they say — in chalk on the sidewalk, including “Good Luck Getting Reelected Bootlicker” and “If you do nothing, you are the problem.”
Casper said the protesters want to confront Kenney and City Council members, particularly about their plan for PARS, the police database to which ICE has access. Some said they would be willing to retreat if Kenney vowed to end that agreement, which is up for renewal once it expires in August.
In addition to being closer to public officials, the camp at City Hall is certainly more visible than protesters’ previous location at Eighth and Cherry Streets.
“Being here,” Casper said, “everyone sees us.”
About 10 a.m. Friday, Katy Otto pulled over on the side of the road next to the camp in her gold Toyota Camry hybrid and quickly handed over doughnuts, coffee, cases of water and a canopy she’d bought first thing in the morning to support the campers. She said the donations were a small way she and her husband could take part in the effort — caring for their 3-year-old makes it difficult to camp out.
The hand-off lasted just a few seconds, and luckily for Otto, she was able to get all the supplies out of her trunk before a police officer in a marked car started sounding a siren behind her.
“It’s a small thing our family can do to support,” Otto, 40, of South Philadelphia, said. “There are ways everyone can pitch in, even if we can’t be out there.”
Protesters are making sure that they don’t block any entrances, as they’re trying not to get kicked out. They’re also complying with police requests, such as this morning, when police asked protesters to adjust their tarp set-up so their tarps were not obstructing the actual facade of the building. Police said they needed to be able to see the building itself, so the group connected their tarp to the back of a statue of John Wanamaker.
Though the initial Occupy ICE effort was organized by several groups, including the Philly Socialists and the Democratic Socialists of America, many of the protesters at City Hall are not affiliated with a group. The Philly Socialists said they are less involved with this specific encampment but are still providing support and plan to work with the Occupy ICE collective to fight for their demands, said Enav Emmanuel of the Philly Socialists.
The new encampment was yet another way that Occupy ICE evoked the Occupy Wall Street encampment, which set up outside City Hall for two months until police broke it up on Nov. 30, 2011, and arrested 52 people.
This article provided by NewsEdge.