Congress

Catholic nuns, priests protesting migrant child treatment arrested on Capitol Hill

The protest was organized by several faith-based organizations to condemn treatment of migrant children at U.S.-Mexico border

Capitol Police arrest protesters participating in civil disobedience in the Russell Rotunda at the Capitol on Thursday, July 19, 2019. A coalition of Catholic activists organized the protest to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the practice of detaining immigrant children. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Seventy demonstrators from a Catholic coalition were arrested Thursday in the Russell Senate Office Building as they protested the conditions migrants are being held in at detention facilities abutting the U.S. southern border.

The protest was organized by several faith-based organizations, including Faith in Public Life, Faith in Action and Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Catholic priests, nuns, and lay members converged on Capitol Hill to put pressure on Trump administration and lawmakers in Congress to end “the immoral and inhumane practice of detaining immigrant children.” 

Protesters could be seen being restrained with zip tie handcuffs, before being led away to a police bus parked on Delaware Avenue Northeast, near the corner of Constitution Avenue Northeast.

Eva Malecki, the Capitol Police spokeswoman, said they were arrested for “unlawfully demonstrating in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.”

“All were charged with D.C. Code §22-1307, Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding,” she said in an emailed statement.

A demonstrator is arrested during a protest in the Russell Senate Office Building on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Chris Marquette/CQ Roll Call)
A demonstrator is arrested during a protest in the Russell Senate Office Building on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Chris Marquette/CQ Roll Call)

“I just think that we can do better as a nation,” said Walter Liss, a Franciscan brother who attended the protest. “I just don’t like what I’ve seen on TV the way that people are being treated and or scapegoated, you know, how people especially people of color from other countries are being blamed for all sorts of problems in society.”

Liss was holding a signs that reads "For I was a stranger and you welcomed me," from the Gospel of Matthew. Others clergy members could be seen with signs that said "Mercy for immigrants" or with images of immigrant children. 

The protest was referred to as a Catholic Day of Action for Detained Immigrant Children by the organizers. 

UNITED STATES -  JULY 18: A woman a part of a coalition of Catholic activists lays on the ground as she protests to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the practice of detaining immigrant children in the Russell Rotunda at the Capitol on Thursday July 18, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 18: A woman a part of a coalition of Catholic activists lays on the ground as she protests to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to end the practice of detaining immigrant children in the Russell Rotunda at the Capitol on Thursday July 18, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Sean Bray, the director of campus ministry at Loyola University Maryland, said he joined the protest because of several issues at the border, including child separation and overcrowding. Bray said the way in which people are being treated at detention facilities is antithetical to the values of the Catholic faith, noting that he considers it a right to life issue.

“When we see our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and that comes from our Gospels, that comes from our social teachings,” Bray said. “And so, you know, there's Catholics who stand up for a number of different right for life issues, and this is one of them for us.”

Vice President Mike Pence recently visited the McAllen Border Station in Texas on July 19 where there were 400 men in caged fences with no cots and a “horrendous” stench, according to the White House Pool.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.