Hundreds arrested after mass protest against Trump immigration policies

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Police have arrested nearly 600 people after hundreds of loudly chanting women demonstrated inside a Senate office building against US president Donald Trump’s treatment of migrant families.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, said she was arrested during the protest.

Ms Jayapal, who was born in India, tweeted a video of herself in which she said she was proud to be arrested to protest against the president’s zero-tolerance policy.

The protests came amid demonstrations around the country over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families. They offered a glimpse of what might happen on Saturday when rallies are planned coast to coast.

Amid daily images of distraught immigrant children separated from parents and herded into fenced enclosures, women sat on the floor of the Senate Hart Office building’s 90-foot atrium.

Seated around a black metallic sculpture, they shouted slogans and cheered for a handful of fist-pumping politicians — all Democrats — who waded into the crowd.

“What do we want? Free families!” and “This is what democracy looks like” were among their cries. Many wore foil blankets similar to those given to migrants at US detention facilities.

Susan Saradon
Hundreds of activists, including actress Susan Sarandon, were at the protest (AP/J Scott Applewhite)

Capitol Police said around 575 people were charged with unlawfully demonstrating inside the office building. The police said those arrested were being released after they were processed.

Winnie Wong, political adviser for the Women’s March, said the crowd’s fervour will translate into “the energy we will need to see to at the ballot box in November” when congressional control will be at stake.

“We’re here to fight for our families to be free, to fight for the ability of our kids to be with their parents — not in cages, not in prison, but able to live their lives free, safe and secure,” Ms Jayapal said.

Democratic senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Edward Markey of Massachusetts also appeared before the crowd.

“These folks are out here fighting for the core principles of our nation, and I applaud them for it,” Mr Merkley said.

Under Mr Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, the government has begun prosecuting all migrants caught entering the country without authorisation.

Mr Trump has halted his policy of taking children from their detained parents under public pressure but around 2,000 of them are still being held, with many families saying they have not known how to locate them.

Hundreds of people gathered at a rally outside a federal courthouse in Brownsville, Texas, near the US-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dozens of people shut down a government meeting in Michigan in protest against a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees at a local jail.

Eight people were arrested outside an ICE building in Portland, Oregon, that has been closed because of a round-the-clock demonstration.

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