Tens of thousands of people flooded downtown Washington, D.C., on Saturday in protest of the Trump administration's immigration policies as President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE doubled down on his pledge to "IMMEDIATELY" deport those who enter the U.S. illegally.
On a hot day with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees, protesters crowded Lafayette Square across from the White House at a rally that was as much a protest against the president himself as it was against the recent rise in migrant family separations.
Protesters blasted the administration's recently ended practice of separating and detaining migrant children away from their parents while the adults face prosecution, with chants such as “What do we want? Families together! When do we want it? Now!” and “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
The “Families Belong Together” event was hosted primarily by a coalition formed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the liberal activist group MoveOn.
The protest in D.C. was joined by more than 700 events planned at cities across the country on Saturday, according to organizers, with major marches in New York, Los Angeles and other cities such as Boston attracting various lawmakers and public figures.
Trump took a defiant tone in a tweet amid the protests on Saturday afternoon, writing, "When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering."
"Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!" Trump tweeted while at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., for the weekend.
Saturday's protests were organized to fight three main issues: family separation policies, family detention policies and the "zero tolerance" policy started under Trump that drove the uptick in children separated from their parents at the border.
Organizations also demanded that the president reunite all separated children with their parents within the deadlines assigned by a California federal judge earlier this week.
“We want people to be reunited but then not detained at all,” Ashley Allison, the executive vice president of protests and campaigns for The Leadership Conference, said in a phone interview. “And then not deported either, for that matter.”
Protesters were instructed to attend the event dressed in all white in order to demonstrate a united front.
“We’re hoping to send a strong message to the administration that we will not allow for these atrocities and attacks on children and families to continue and that we are broad and united across many geographies and experiences in this country,” Ai-jen Poo, director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said in a phone interview. “This is a moment for everyday people to take back the country.”
Protesters used a variety of signs on Saturday to criticize the administration's immigration policies, with a number of signs playing on the president’s signature campaign slogan, turning it into phrases such as “Immigrants Make America Great” and “Make America Nice Again.”
Also featured were mockeries of first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMcCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral GOP leader's remarks on Fox underscore Trump's power White House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee MORE’s controversial jacket that she wore en route to a child detention facility in Texas earlier this month. Painted onto a variety of green T-shirts and jackets was a variation of the phrase “Of course I care — don’t you?”
Immigrant voices were highlighted throughout the day’s official programming. An asylum seeker from Brazil at the center of an ACLU legal case appeared alongside her son. She read her story in pieces to be translated by an interpreter.
She and other speakers at the event were met with potent chants from the crowd, such as, “We see you, we love you!”
Religious leaders were also brought to the forefront of the day's scheduled events.
The Rev. Traci Blackmon, who pastors a church in Florissant, Mo., fired up the crowd by ripping the Trump administration and the Supreme Court for a number of recent controversial decisions.
She also pushed back on officials invoking Bible verses to support certain policies, something Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE was recently criticized for doing.
“What we are witnessing at our borders with black and brown families today is not who America has become — this is who America has always been!” she declared to a cheering crowd, with some responding, “Call them out!”
As she finished her remarks on each printed page in front of her, Blackmon would throw them to the ground.
“People of faith must not be silent in the face of a god that we do not serve!” Blackmon continued. “Our silence will not save us, my friends. When our leaders use Scripture to legislate hate, they do not speak on behalf of God.”
Celebrity appearances at the rally included actress America Ferrera, singer Alicia Keys, actress Diane Guerrero and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who sang a song from his acclaimed Broadway musical.
He said he would keep singing lullabies until parents separated from their children were able to sing their own lullabies to them again.
After the scheduled events ended, protesters marched from the White House to the Justice Department, where many people laid their signs in front of the doors to the building. Some continued on toward the National Mall.
“People are starting to realize this is the kind of moment that we are going to read about in the history books as a moral atrocity and our children are going to ask us what we did to help,” Poo said.