Protesters dancing outside Philly hotel ahead of Trump visit

A day before the newly sworn-in president was set to visit Philadelphia, the streets in front of the Loews hotel in Center City became a gathering place for protesters to dance, chant and express their hopes for the next four years.

Philadelphia police estimated that more than 1,000 people were demonstrating as part of a “Queer Rager” dance party.

Except for some minor fence-pushing, police said, the gathering was peaceful.

Mariko Franz, 33, of West Philadelphia, participated in the protest party with her 8-year-old daughter "to send a message to Trump that we oppose his agenda and that we're going to be out here for the next four years."

Organizers of the event said it was mostly intended to protest the GOP's plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  But the topics expanded to include Trump's immigration policies, his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, and his cabinet picks.

The demonstration ranged from angry, profanity-laden chants directed at the upper floors of the Center City high rise, where Republican congressional leaders are staying, to waving glow sticks, singing and dancing. 

"As they try to take away our health care, to police Black, Brown, Queer and Trans bodies, to regulate our bodies, we’re here to say #WeAreQueer #WeAreHere #WeWillDance," the invite said.

A similar dance party was held outside the house Vice President Pence rented in Chevy Chase, Md., the night before he was inaugurated.

President Trump in Philly: Click here for live updates.

Protesters, as well as some supporters of Trump, began gathering as early as mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Pro-Trump demonstrator Jerry Lambert, 71, of Bucks County, stood outside the Loews Wednesday afternoon showing his support for the president.

He held a big sign that read: "I love walls."

"President Trump, he can rehabilitate the economy, that's the No. 1 issue," Lambert said. "He's already creating thousands of jobs."

Kendall Topping, 23, of Philadelphia said the Trump administration needed to accept the science that climate change is real, and develop energy policies based on that.

"Climate change is something that affects us all," she said. "It's a bipartisan issue. It's our crops. Our food. Our economy."

Security fences, monitored by a significant police presence, stretched across the area around 12th and Market and through surrounding side streets in preparation for the GOP retreat Thursday in Center City that will include Trump’s address to his peers.

Three or four other demonstrators stood across the street from the hotel, holding up signs and saying they wanted GOP leaders to hear their messages.

"Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act," said Rebecca Rose, 28, of Philadelphia. "We're putting people in poverty over [paying for] health care."

From the nearby Hard Rock Cafe, which runs a steady rock and roll soundtrack at its front door, the music of the Talking Heads "Building on Fire" drifted across Market Street.

A man in a dungaree jacket yelled at passersby, "They're trying to kill Americans in there! They're taking away their health care!"

The displays are expected to continue Thursday, as Trump arrives and the GOP congressional retreat continues.

About 2,000 people said on Facebook that they would attend a lunch-hour “die-in” on Thursday at the Loews hotel, where Trump will attend the annual GOP congressional retreat. Protesters will march from Thomas Paine Plaza near City Hall to the Loews, where they will fall to the ground to protest the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

SEIU Healthcare — the state’s largest healthcare workers union —  will hold an event prior to the march, also at Thomas Paine Plaza.

Staff writer Aubrey Whelan contributed to this report.

Continue Reading