House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley briefly collapsed Wednesday afternoon during a two-hour protest over the Trump administration’s handling of undocumented immigrant children and families at the border.
Crowley, eight other House Democrats and dozens of activists were blocking an intersection a short walk from the White House on an overcast but humid D.C. afternoon when the 56-year-old fell to the ground.
He took a drink of bottled water, then stood up and walked to the nearby W Hotel with the help of Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) and Gustavo Torres, executive director of the immigrant rights group CASA Maryland.
“He’s O.K.,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), who trailed Crowley into the hotel. “He just got a bit of cold water.”
A Crowley spokeswoman said the New York lawmaker collapsed due to “heat exhaustion,” but had recovered.
The congressman tweeted about the incident shortly afterward. for everyone’s concern -doing fine now,” he wrote. “Wish I could say the same for the children and parents at the border.”
The protest, which dispersed shortly after the incident, took aim at President Donald Trump for separating families under his administration’s new “zero tolerance” prosecution policy, which seeks to refer all suspected border crossers — including parents and asylum seekers — for federal prosecution under illegal entry and reentry statutes.
Democrats say the move is cruel and unnecessary, and have criticized the physical and emotional toll on migrant children split apart from adults at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The protest Wednesday took that argument to the doorsteps of U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) led dozens of activists from Freedom Plaza to the front entrance of CBP’s main office, located in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
As the group strode down 14th Street, Crowley walked alongside actor John Cusack, a vocal Trump opponent and surprise addition to the gathering.
Cusack, who tweeted a photo with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), another participant, sat down with the group in front of the government building.
Asked why he had joined the act of civil disobedience, the actor pointed to facilities used to house unaccompanied minors along the border.
“They’re putting kids in f–king cages,” Cusack told POLITICO.
Democratic lawmakers and activists said they intended to provoke arrests by blocking the entrance of the headquarters of Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency to Border Patrol, but the Metropolitan Police Department didn’t break up the gathering.
A DHS spokesman declined to comment on the security response to the protests, which were peaceful and orderly.
Speaking to the crowd of activists, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) called the family separations at the border the nadir of the Trump administration‘s vast immigration crackdown.
“It is the cruelest of the cruel,” she said.
Chants broke out in both English and Spanish during the action, including a refrain of, “Move, Trump, get out the way,” set to the melody of the popular but profane 2001 song by the rapper Ludacris.
When arrests never materialized at CBP headquarters, the group decided to march toward the White House and eventually took over an intersection several blocks away. D.C. police blocked off traffic in both directions, but again declined to make any arrests.
“I have been in acts of civil disobedience before and never have I seen a situation where they actually wouldn’t arrest us,” Chu told POLITICO afterward. “They were afraid of what our message is, which is that it’s wrong to separate children from their parents.”
Gutierrez, who has been arrested at least six times for civil disobedience, according to an aide, foisted the blame on Trump directly.
“He will not take action in public against American citizens who raise their voices,” he said in reference to the lack of arrests. “But he does what a coward does, he attacks children, infants, babies, through his attorney general when they’re alone at the border without protection.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.