A sit-down rally outside the White House on Thursday to protest deportation of illegal immigrants resulted in 145 arrests. The Washington Post reported that the demonstrators were part of a civil disobedience campaign designed to put pressure on President Obama to provide leniency for illegal immigrants and their families.
Organizers of the event said that hundreds of demonstrators were sitting peacefully in front of the White House, chanting and putting banners and flowers on the fence, when the 145 people were arrested by U.S. Park Police for blocking the sidewalk and taken by van or bus to a detention center in Anacostia.
A U.S. Park Police spokesperson said that there had been no violence or opposition from the arrested protestors, and most of them paid the $50 fine for holding an unlawful demonstration and were released.
The arrested protesters included dozens of labor and immigrant leaders, including Maryland Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, were also among those arrested. Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland de Virginia, issued a statement before his arrest asking the president to “do everything in his power to enact humane and compassionate administrative relief’ to end the “suffering of immigrant families facing separation” if other family members are deported.
Immigration reform has become a hot topic across the U.S. recently, with support for illegal immigrants increasing, as reported in this recent post by The Inquisitr. President Obama has said that he will use executive action to make changes in the U.S. immigration policy after Congress failed to reach an agreement on immigration reform this year. It is believed he is considering measures that will grant deportation relief for some categories of illegal immigrants and granting more visas for highly skilled workers and family members of immigrants who are already residents of the United State.
So far, the Obama administration maintains that it has concentrated on deporting only illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. Some immigrant advocates, though, claim that thousands of illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding people have been deported anyway, breaking up families who have lived together in the U.S. for years.
It is unclear if any of the protesters were actually illegal immigrants at risk for deportation. According to The Washington Times, police did not check their immigration status. However, as part of standard procedure, the authorities did conduct criminal background checks to search for outstanding warrants.
A Park Police spokesman, Lt. Richard Butler, said, “The only time immigration ever comes up is if there has been a hit or a flag that has come up from other departments.”
[Image courtesy of Talk Radio News]