She asked whether they had heard the audio recording of children crying for their parents inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. She asked how it made them feel.
The shouting drew attention from inside. Several employees inside the Washington headquarters for Immigration and Customs Enforcement peered through windows.
Noticing their faces, the crowd began to roar: “Quit your jobs,” they repeated. “Quit your jobs.”
Wednesday’s protest was the latest in a series of anti-ICE demonstrations around the country, calling for the disbandment of the organization and the immediate return of migrant children separated from their parents at the southern border.
Activists in cities around the country — including Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and San Diego — over the past few weeks have disrupted operations at ICE facilities, part of an effort dubbed “Occupy ICE.”
In Portland, protesters camped outside an ICE facility, creating a blockade with their bodies and preventing workers from reentering the building. Police have warned that arrests are imminent.
On Wednesday in Washington, protesters disbanded after about two hours.
They were not allowed into the building or beyond the metal barricades police had set up before their arrival. They asked to be allowed into the lobby, but officers refused.
Some activists managed to march along the building’s perimeter, chanting and singing and banging on pots and pans with metal spoons, while others were turned away and told to keep to the sidewalk.
The protest, organized by Cosecha, a grass-roots organization that advocates for immigrant rights, drew dozens of people, several of whom said they had taken an extended lunch break from jobs to participate. Others were prepared to be arrested — half a dozen women passed around a black marker before the rally began, writing phone numbers on their arms.
But the rally was peaceful, with police closing 12th Street SW as organizers held hands and stretched across the road, blocking traffic.
Heather Holleman, 41, knelt near a stroller, explaining to her 3-year-old daughter what was happening.
“We talk about how we live in a place where we can use our voices when we feel there is a law or a rule that is unfair and hurting people,” said Holleman, who lives in Hyattsville and said it was important for her to bring her child to the protest. “I feel strongly that we, as white people, need to teach her about privilege, how that’s kind of a superpower that she can use to help other people.”
Other rallies opposing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings and its separation of children from their parents have been planned throughout the week.
On Thursday, organizers with the Women’s March and CASA de Maryland will lead a protest from Freedom Plaza to the Justice Department and congressional offices. More than 1,000 women are expected to participate, organizers said.
Cosecha organizer Paola Henriquez, 18, said such protests help to keep the pressure on lawmakers and can inspire others to help.
“It gives me hope in my community, in the fact that there are people all over this country who know this is wrong,” she said. “It upsets me to see so many people of color working for these organizations, these systems of oppression, because we’re all affected by this. ICE hurts all of us.”