A police escort on Friday led 100 protesters through downtown Washington, opposing government plans to round up undocumented people
Chanting “When Trump says go away, we say no way,” members of Jews United for Justice and CASA, a nonprofit that works with local immigrants, braved the heat to march from L’Enfant Plaza to the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Headquarters.
“Aside from our own moral obligations as Jews to oppose this human rights crisis, when our partners and our neighbors are raising their voices, we want to be there with them,” said Rebecca Ennen, deputy director for Jews United for Justice.
The march came the same week as Jewish groups around the country protested President Donald Trump’s promise that mass deportation roundups would begin “fairly soon.” On June 30, 36 Jewish protesters arrested at ICE detention center in New Jersey. Others were arrested in Rhode Island and Philadelphia. About 1,000 Jewish protesters shut down traffic in the heart of Boston on July 2, leading to 18 arrests.
Risking arrest is an “intentional strategy,” Ennen said. The Washington protesters did nothing to risk arrest, she said, because it could have led to the deportation of undocumented people among the marchers.
The half-mile trek to the headquarters took the protesters through streets that were closed off for the event. CASA members, each one holding up a letter to spell he phrase, “Abolish ICE,” led the group.
“Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are,” the protesters chanted as they walked, “So we tell them, we are the immigrants. The mighty, mighty immigrants.”
Jews United for Justice members carried signs reading “Close the Camps” and “Never Again is Now.”
Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde, of Oseh Shalom in Laurel, came to the march with several congregants.
“We’re taking an action against the insanity and cruelty that is unfolding continually at our borders and just getting worse,” he said. The treatment of migrants at the border and of undocumented people is “a perversion of American values and of Jewish values.”
At ICE headquarters there’s a quick pause for a group photo and then they chant “Si, se puede,” the Spanish translation of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes, we can.” Some passersby watch as the protesters march in a circle, take pictures or offer their support.
The entire event lasted less than two hours, cut short because of the heat. People quickly dispersed, into the shade and to head home.
Washington resident Melissa Klein said, “My Jewish conscience [bought me here today]. I feel like Judaism is about justice and it’s important for me to remember our history and let history be our teacher, and that means never again for everyone.”
Ennen said that Friday’s protests was just one of many JUFJ has a role in. On Tuesday, the organization will lead a protest at the Spirit of Justice outside the Capitol building and will take part in a Lights for Liberty rally outside the White House on July 12.
Mary Rita Weiners, an Oseh Shalom congregant, said, “It’s really important for me, especially with the threat of raids and the conditions that are going on at the border. I saw this [event] and I had other things on my schedule, and I just said, ‘This feels much, much more important.’”