Jamelle Bouie

Protesters Push the Conversation on “Abolish ICE”

Thousands rallied against the Trump administration’s immigration policy in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. to protest the Trump administration and its family detention and separation policies. They joined countless thousands in cities across the country, all gathered in a collective stand against President Trump and the infrastructure of detention and deportation on the border.


Here in Washington, D.C., slogans ranged from “Stop Family Separation” and “Families Belong Together”—the official name for the event—to “No Trump Camps” and “Abolish ICE,” a call with growing traction among progressive activists and Democratic lawmakers. On Saturday, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN she supports ending the agency. “It has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues,” Gillibrand said. “We believe that we should protect families who need our help, and that is not what ICE is doing today, and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that works.”

For now, Gillibrand is ahead of the curve compared to her colleagues in the Senate. That may not last. Like the “Medicare-For-All” rallying cry for more universal health care, “Abolish ICE” has caught fire with the Democratic grass roots, moving from the margins of social media to mainstream conversations in a matter of months, with progressive candidates like Deb Haaland in New Mexico and the recently victorious Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York leading the charge.

Judging from this changing status quo, we might be witnessing an even larger shift in how Democratic voters and politicans approach immigration, rejecting the enforcement-heavy approach of the Obama administration and aligning themselves with activists who endorse a far less militarized and force-heavy approach. In sparking a substantial backlash, Trump’s draconian approach has helped open up the immigration conversation within the Democratic mainstream. And, more immediately, it has galvanized liberals in a way unseen since he entered office, adding even greater urgency to the upcoming November elections.

Here are some scenes from Saturday’s march in D.C., which traveled past the Trump International Hotel and the Department of Justice headquarters:

Protesters waving American flags.
A demonstrator holds up a poster calling for the end of the administration’s family detention policy.
Actor Lin Manuel-Miranda is at the front of a march down to the Trump International Hotel and the Department of Justice.
A crowd of demonstrators.
Demonstrators shout at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C.
Turning her sign into a bullhorn, a demonstrator shouts “Shame!” at the Trump Hotel.
An activist leads a group of demonstrators to the Justice Department doors.
A banner displaying one the major message of the rally: “Stop Family Separation.”
Signs and other protest materials taped to the door of Justice Department.