WASHINGTON — Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky expected to be arrested on Wednesday for acts of civil disobedience. To their surprise, they were not.
The Illinois lawmakers, with other House Democrats and activists — as well as actor John Cusack, raised in Evanston — were demonstrating here against the Trump administration immigration crackdown started last month where children were separated from their asylum-seeking parents at the Mexican border.
The demonstrators were aiming to get arrested in order to throw a spotlight on the Trump policy, resulting in frantic parents out of touch with the children.
“I cannot think of an act that is more cruel and more inhumane than to rip the child from the arms of a mother,” Gutierrez said at a rally kicking off the protest at Freedom Plaza.
Earlier Wednesday, in a speech on the House floor, Gutierrez said, “The President and the Attorney General and others have said this is a national security strategy and that our national security depends on taking toddlers, infants and children – most of whom are under age 12 – from their parents. But come on, really?
The protesters, including Gutierrez, Schakowsky and others marched from Freedom Plaza to the Customs and Border Patrol headquarters at the Ronald Reagan Building on 14th St.
They sat on the steps blocking the main entrance, but Customs and Border Patrol honchos never officially complained so the lawmakers and others — who had anticipated being arrested there — were left alone.
Cusack, wearing a Cubs World Series champions hat, said in a Tweet that they shut down an entrance, “But they wouldn’t arrest us. I guess they didn’t want that photo op — but they don’t mind taking children away from their parents.”
The protesters then marched over to 15th Street, blocking the traffic near an entrance to the White House. And law enforcement authorities declined again to make arrests.
I talked to Gutierrez later, and he told me, “This administration will attack defenseless women with their children at the border that come seeking asylum in the United States, but will not take on American citizens in public.”
Schakowsky told me, “These are people who have fled domestic violence who have fled gang violence trying to get to safety. They were not even allowed to have credible interviews to find out if they could seek asylum.”
“And now Jeff Sessions, our Attorney General, has said that domestic violence and gang violence is not a reason that you could be allowed to come to the United States of America.
Nationally, Democrats are ramping up protests against the Trump administration over the child separation issue.
Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth joined with other Democratic senators who signed on to a bill to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at a border.
Gutierrez, who has been arrested at least half a dozen times through the years in protests here, Puerto Rico and New York, noted how hard it seemed on Wednesday for a member of Congress to get arrested in this town.
The protesters stopped “the traffic on 15th Street in every direction. That’s clearly a violation of the law,” Gutierrez readily admitted.
The Wednesday protest had been promoted in advance.
On Thursday, Gutierrez and the other protest leaders will regroup to figure out their next moves when it comes to arrests to dramatize the border crisis.
Said Gutierrez, “We’re meeting tomorrow at noon, and the next time we will not advise this administration of what action we will be taking. “