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Women March in DC to Protest Family Separation

A photo essay documenting the activism on June 28th

“We Care” “We Care” shouted a thousand women as they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capital. Organized on very short notice by WomensMarch, which brought millions of women to Washington on January 21, 2017, the march started at Freedom Plaza and stopped for a rally at the Justice Department before proceeding to the Hart Senate Office Building. There they occupied a central atrium and intentionally disturbed the peace. 575 were arrested.

Marchers gathered in Freedom Plaza in the morning. Those who intended to be arrested signed in and checked their stuff. Bagels and bottles of water fortified them for what was to come. After the sit-in was over, about six hours later, they were brought back by shuttle buses to claim their possessions and eat pizza.

Women were asked to wear white, though not all did. Men were asked to provide support, but not get arrested. It was specifically a women’s event.

Monitors, identified by their red vests, were given detailed instructions.

The rally in Freedom Plaza featured chanting and singing. Most of the songs were recycled from the civil rights movement with some new words.

The chanting continued as they started the march down Pennsylvania Ave.

Zero Tolerance is a Sham.

Free the Families. Stop the ban.

Women, Women Disobey.

Rise Up Now. Today’s the Day.

“Trump” greets them at the Trump Hotel

“We Care” was written on palms so they could double as signs.

There are multiple police forces in DC. On Pennsylvania Avenue the marchers were escorted and watched by the D.C. police.Cops protecting the Department of Justice wore the uniform of the Department of Homeland Security. In the Hart office building they were arrested by the Capitol Hill Police.

After marching around the Dept. of Justice, demonstrators rallied in the hot sun where they were addressed by Congress woman  Sheila Jackson Lee (D TX).

Civil disobedience (CD) in DC is usually orchestrated. Protest leaders work out with the different police forces exactly what will happen and protestors are told the rules. Rather than go to jail, arrestees are processed on site and given the equivalent of a ticket. This is called post and forfeit. They have two weeks to pay what is usually a $50 bail forfeiture.

Protestors lined up outside the Hart Senate Office Building to go through a metal detector. They gathered in a central atrium. Those who didn’t want to be arrested watched from balconies on upper floors.

Officially, signs were not permitted inside but….

The Capitol Hill police waited until the women were ready before walking into the atrium. They gave them time to chant and sing as well as flash forbidden signs and banners for the cameras.

When their leaders tinkled a bell, the women sat down and unwrapped foil “space blankets” that they had been given at Freedom Plaza. These were used to wrap children in by the border patrol so were used in the demonstration to symbolize separation of families.

This was also the signal to the police to begin the arrests.

Police walked up to each woman, asked for her ID and if she wanted to keep the foil blanket. The cops retained the former and tossed the latter into a corner. Women were then escorted to different walls to wait until there were enough to escort out of the atrium.

They were visited by several Democratic politicians, including Senators Ed Markey (D. MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D. NY) and Tammy Duckworth (D. IL). Gillibrand sat down and linked arms with the protestors. Duckworth rolled in with her new daughter in her lap. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D.WA) sat down and was arrested with the other women.

Groups of arrestees were escorted to a nearby park which substituted for a holding cell.

When their turn came they lined up in front of tables while police IDed them and wrote out what looked like a traffic ticket.

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Jo Freeman

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