Philadelphia police break up encampment outside immigration building

Written by Alexandra Villarreal/Associated Press | Jul 6, 2018 3:20 AM


An encampment protesting ICE outside the agency's Philadelphia headquarters. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

(Philadelphia) -- Police broke up an encampment outside an immigration office in Philadelphia on Thursday, where dozens of protesters had taken over sidewalks for a fourth day to decry U.S. immigration policies.

Police moved in around 1 p.m., about 10 minutes after police asked protesters to move coolers of water and other supplies off the sidewalk, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Shortly after, officers entered the camp through the back without warning, the newspaper said.

Video posted on social media shows officers pushing their bikes through the encampment, toppling tents and camping chairs, tearing down tarps and pulling some protesters across the concrete amid the chaos. In the footage, voices can be heard saying, "stay calm" and "you're hurting people!"

Police released a statement saying protesters were blocking the entrance to the building and refusing to allow people to enter or exit.

Protesters said their occupation was to advocate for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to be abolished; to have a family detention center about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Philadelphia shut down; and to urge the city to stop sharing arrest information with ICE.

"I'm here because I think ICE is a terrible organization that doesn't need to exist," said protester Tabitha Ahnert, who spent two nights sleeping outside the office.

Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Thursday that he couldn't allow protesters to block access to the building or set up permanent encampments.

"No one, regardless of political view, is permitted to set up an encampment and the mayor cannot make exceptions simply because he agrees with the protesters," said Kenney's spokeswoman Deana Gamble.

Philadelphia has said that as a sanctuary city it won't hand immigrants in the country illegally to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents unless federal officials have a warrant signed by a judge.

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