PHILADELPHIA >> There was no warm welcome for President Donald Trump in Philadelphia on Thursday as he arrived for a confab with Republican leaders and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May.
Protesters loudly jeered Trump as he arrived in a Secret Service caravan at the Loews Hotel in Center City, where police had created a no-traffic circle for a multi-block radius.
The largely peaceful protest gathered first at Thomas Paine Plaza around 11 a.m. and proceeded to march around Center City for much of the day. Tensions grew as night fell, with police and protesters engaging in minor shoving matches. But most of the day passed without issue.
Condemning a number of Trump’s policies, protesters marched in support of preserving the Affordable Care Act, abortion and transgender rights, NoDAPL or No Dakota Access Pipe Line, Black Lives Matter and a variety of socialist, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist causes.
“We’ve got to be out here or else we won’t have our right to health care,” said Sharon Lewis of SEIU Local 1199 in Queens, N.Y., a breast cancer survivor who said she was participating in 10 actions in 10 days.
“Something is just not right with this administration. It’s bogus, and there are millions of people who feel the same,” she said.
Andrew Galati of West Philadelphia was at the rally in solidarity with the anti-North Dakota Access pipeline protesters who were urging Wells Fargo Bank to divest in the project.
“The water protectors have shown tremendous courage and I don’t see them backing down,” Galati said. “We have to bring forth the tides of change in this county, and it won’t be easy.”
Delaware County GOP Chairman Andy Reilly confirmed that U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, was among the guests at the Congressional Republican Retreat. Also in Philadelphia was Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
May was the first foreign dignitary to meet with Trump since the inauguration.
Inside, Trump claimed that Philadelphia’s murder rate is “terribly increasing,” a falsehood that was refuted by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. He called Trump’s statement “an insult to the men and women of the Philadelphia police force.”
From Swarthmore, Colleen Guiney, a pediatric nurse at small primary care provider in South Philadelphia, said it was her work with children and families that compelled her to join the protest after work on Thursday.
“I see what happens when a child loses access to health care. It tears the whole family down” Guiney said. “Under the Republicans plan, many kids will be displaced and that’s very dangerous.
“It’s like throwing the baby in the bathwater.”
Doctoral students from the University of Pennsylvania arrived in their lab coats with signs held high. China Byrns of Hawaii said she and her fellow labmates were there to “show that we don’t support Trump and his legislation in Congress.”
“We believe in scientific evidence,” she said.
Guiney said many patients with chronic illnesses like asthma are concerned that new health coverage might deny them based on pre-existing conditions. Repealing the ACA without another plan in place, she said, would be disastrous.
“No one is against children’s health, but to vote to repeal with no plan means many children will likely suffer,” Guiney said.
She added that her first experience at the protest was supportive and filled with love. People complimented her “Save Children’s Health” sign and she found herself in awe of thousands of people “peacefully taking over the city.”
“(I protested) because it was not appropriate for Donald Trump to come to Philly without being met with a message,” she said. “We will let him know what we think.”