Men in business suits, a woman in blue scrubs and teenagers wearing “Resist” T-shirts gathered around a cardboard effigy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, booing and chanting.
“The people, united, will never be defeated,” they chanted in Spanish and English in the rain. “Undocumented, unafraid.”
Then they marched, about 200 strong, a few blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Justice Department. They carried with them the replica of Sessions, dressed as a Confederate soldier, with frowning eyebrows and bulging eyes.
“Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, living monument of white supremacy,” read the inscription at the base.
Nearly four weeks after a white supremacist rally to defend Confederate monuments in Charlottesville turned violent, and a day after Sessions announced that the Trump administration would wind down a deportation-relief program for young undocumented immigrants, liberal activists staged an unusual bit of street theater to express their opposition to both events.
Participants — who came from as far as Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia — said Sessions represented “a living, breathing symbol of the Confederacy.”
When they reached the federal building that houses the attorney general’s office, they sent the cardboard statue tumbling. It careened into a flowerpot before landing on the wet sidewalk. The head broke off from the impact.
“He represents a larger anti-immigrant agenda within the government that criminalizes immigrants and targets sanctuary cities,” said Tania Unzueta, who is policy director at the Latino advocacy group Mijente and who has a work permit and deportation-protection courtesy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that is being abolished.
Since the Charlottesville rally on Aug. 12, dozens of Confederate statues have been removed in cities from Austin to Baltimore, some in rowdy public displays, and others with little fanfare in the middle of the night. The activists thought the Sessions effigy would be a good way to capitalize on that theme.
A representative for the Justice Department had no immediate comment.
Wednesday’s march took a brief pause en route, when the top of the cardboard structure got stuck in a tree branch.
“Off with his head,” a woman shouted. The effigy was freed, and the march continued.
Outside the Justice Department, one of the protesters chosen to help yank down the statue was Genoveva Ramirez, 67, of Chicago. She was ably assisted by her 7-year-old grandson.
Ramirez, who came to the United States illegally from Mexico 17 years ago, has been issued her final orders of deportation after being stopped on a traffic violation. “I felt courage and power when the statue came down,” she said in Spanish, her daughter translating.
Activists preserved the head from the effigy, covering it with a plastic bag. The statue, Unzueta said, will remain in the District. The artist who created it doesn’t want to be identified.
“It doesn’t have a scheduled agenda yet,” Unzueta said. “But I imagine there will be more protests.”