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Protesters say millions spent policing anti-Trump marches is small price to pay for free speech

The bulk of the money spent on policing protests covers the overtime pay for the officers assigned to the demonstrations.
Policing protests has cost Philadelphia millions of dollars.Getty Images

Anti-Trump protests have cost Philadelphia nearly $3 million, according to estimates, but organizers of the demonstrations argue that failing to voice opposition to the new president’s policies will result in costly consequences for the city.

Since Republican Donald Trump was inaugurated as the country’s 45th president, protesters have frequently taken to the streets. The Women’s March of Philadelphia drew approximately 50,000 people. Thousands marched weeks ago to protest Trump’s immigration bans. Rallies occur nearly every weekend.

Policing the protests has cost the city roughly $3 million, of which more than $2.8 million was related to overtime pay for the officers.

City spokesman Mike Dunn said in a statement that it is too soon to know just what impact these costs could have on the city budget.

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“Unexpected costs in any department are constantly evaluated during a fiscal year,” he wrote in an email to Metro. “It is too soon to say if we need to make any adjustments for this.”

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Skylar Harris, an organizer with The People United USA, said that the cost of policing protests likely pales in comparison to “the cost of staying silent.”

She added that changes to the country’s immigration policies along with ICE investigations and the follow-up legal battles that would likely ensue, would likely cost the government much more than simply continuing to support sanctuary cities as they do now.

“The cost of enforcement and the risk of liability is a real issue,” she said. “And if Harrisburg has a plan to cough up the extra funds for additional police and lawsuits, I have yet to hear it.”

Protest organizers emphasized that the costs of policing marches and rallies won’t alter plans for future demonstrations against the policies of the Trump administration.

“Working class Philadelphians protesting Trump’s racist policies did not ask for [$3 million in] police protection,” wrote organizer Mike Hess, in sharing a statement from Socialist Alternative Philly. “Philadelphia should have community control of police so that public safety spending can be allocated democratically. In the meantime, that money would be better spent on Philly’s decaying public schools,”

Despite the cost of policing protests, the city plans no changes in the way it handles them, the city spokesman said.

“We're not going to speculate on the extent of future protests,” Dunn said. “But, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the safety of our citizens, including those who are exercising their right to free speech.”

 
 
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