WASHINGTON — Thousands of women marched through Washington, D.C., on Thursday afternoon and occupied a Senate office building in a "mass civil disobedience" act to protest the Trump administration's immigration policy.
According to the United States Capitol Police, approximately 575 protesters were charged with "unlawfully demonstrating." Police said they were being processed on the scene and then released.
Protesters were demonstrating against the "zero tolerance" policy, which has caused more than 2,000 migrant children to be separated from their parents after crossing the border, has sparked public outcry. A major protest is planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C., with sister rallies across the country.
"We're here to show solidarity with all the mothers who have been separated from their children, and this is because we want to make sure families are reunited," said Luba Cortes, an immigrant defense coordinator with Make The Road NY. "ICE is a rogue agency, and we don't want it to continue this way, so we also want to abolish ICE."
The Women's March was a massive protest in the nation's capital and around the globe on Jan. 21, 2017 — one day after the inauguration of Donald Trump — that advocated for human rights on issues such as health care, LGBT equality and immigration and was seen as a response to Trump's election campaign and political views.
Similar rallies were held a year later in January, and Women's March organizers have been involved in everything from outreach programs to grass-roots efforts in local communities.
Disobedience events also took place in other U.S. cities on Thursday. In Burlington, a group of roughly 45 women and children marched on a federal building.
In the nation's capital, the two-mile march took protesters past the Trump International Hotel and reached the Department of Justice, where many women sat down in the street to block the entrance of the building.
Later, protesters moved to the Hart Senate Office Building, wrapped in silver cellophane blankets to symbolize the blankets given to children in detention facilities. Hundreds of women swarmed the ground floor of the building's atrium, and dozens more crowded the upper balconies. Those on the ground floor planned to be arrested.
Several members of Congress, including Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., stopped by to speak with protesters.
Police soon arrived on the scene and began leading small groups of protesters out of the building. Linda Sarsour, a co-chair of the Women's March and an organizer of the event, said many protesters were engaging in civil disobedience for the first time.
"We are living in a very horrific time," Sarsour said. "We are probably going to need to do this many times."
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, tweeted that she had been arrested.
Protesters carried signs and chanted, "Where are the children?" and "Abolish ICE!"
"As a human being first and foremost, and as a citizen of this nation, I think everyone should rise up and protect these babies, protect these families," said Minerva Garcia, who attended the protest. "All they want is an opportunity to start a new life."
Actress Susan Sarandon joined the protest as it reached the Department of Justice.
"We just want to send a message to our Congress that we're serious about it," said Lois Einolf, a protester. "We're not going to stop until they get this problem resolved."
Contributing: Joel Banner Baird, Burlington (Vt.) Free Press and Herb Jackson, The Record