It took 13 days to organize Saturday’s demonstration against the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and the detention of children and families. It was the fastest that organizers could patch something together.
They guessed about 5,000 people would attend.
The National Park Service is now prepared for 10 times that — 50,000 people — to rally outside the White House and march on the Department of Justice, according to a permit issued this week. Demonstrators will demand an end to family detentions and the reunification for at least 2,500 children separated from their parents at the country’s southern border.
Several speakers, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” and actors America Ferrera and Diane Guerrero, will take the stage at Lafayette Square to kick off the protest, which begins at 11 a.m. People who have lived through the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps and Trump’s family separation policy are expected to speak.
About 750 similar protests have been planned throughout the country in every state, from big cities such as New York and Los Angeles to tiny ones such as Antler, N.D., population 28.
“This moment is an inspiring reminder that the majority of this country is appalled at what’s being done in our name,” said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org, which is co-sponsoring the event. “This is absolutely bigger than politics. This is about right and wrong.”
The rally will cap off a week of demonstrations in Washington that included the arrests of 575 people Thursday at the Hart Senate Office Building during a women-led protest and another outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters, in which dozens called for the agency’s dissolution.
In the days it took organizers to plan Saturday’s event, the Trump administration reversed its policy of separating migrant children from their parents and was ordered by a judge to reunite immigrant families within a month.
It’s done little to quell public outrage.
After federal District Judge Dana M. Sabraw granted the preliminary injunction ordering that migrant children separated from their parents be returned to their families within 30 days — 14 days for children under 5 — the number of people signing up to participate in the protest increased, organizers said.
“It means the clock is ticking for the Trump administration and they need to show how they’re going about reuniting these families,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We will not let up until it’s absolutely clear that all of these families are reunited, until there’s an end to family detention, an end to this ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”
Saturday’s protest will convene at Lafayette Square, across from the White House, before moving down 15th Street NW toward Freedom Plaza, then down Pennsylvania Avenue NW to the Department of Justice. Protesters will march in a circle around the Department of Justice building before dispersing.
Lafayette Square, which can hold only a few thousand people, was selected because when organizers applied for a National Park Service permit, larger spots already were taken.
“Once we got planning, we realized Lafayette Park was the only place that wasn’t already permitted,” Galland said. “But you know what? It’s right across the street from the White House. It’s going to work out great.”
President Trump is spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and won’t be home during the protest.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) helped to coordinate the coalition of organizations that will march Saturday under the banner “Families Belong Together” because she said she was “haunted” by what she saw in a visit to a detention facility for mothers separated from their children.
“I met with all 174 of the women that were there, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to hear their stories, to hear about how their children had been taken away. To hear how they had been treated, to hear how they . . . heard their children screaming next door for them and wanted to go to them but couldn’t,” said Jayapal, who was among the hundreds arrested during Thursday’s demonstration at the Hart building.
“I felt we really needed something that was easy for people to get to,” she said. “The die-hards among us could go to the border, but we really needed to have something that got people in the streets, that hundreds of thousands could participate in.”
Attendees will include several other women who also participated in Thursday’s demonstration and were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police. They were charged with unlawfully demonstrating, a misdemeanor.
The women, many of whom live outside the Washington area, said they planned to join in both protests while in town.
“I sought it out,” Elly Brinkley, who arrived from New York earlier this week, said Thursday. “I knew something must be happening in D.C., and so when I saw the events, I knew I needed to be at both.”
Organizers of Saturday’s rally encouraged participants to wear white clothing as a show of unity and to take public transportation due to the expected crowd size and a lack of parking. Overflow space will be cordoned off along 16th Street NW and in Farragut Square, where organizers will set up large screens.
“At this moment, there is actually different momentum around immigration. I don’t think it’s just part of the ‘resistance’ energy we’ve seen since the election,” Morales Rocketto said. “I think that the inhumanity of this policy is activating new people who haven’t been activated into the resistance before. That, to me, feels really, really significant.”