Just six days into his first term, President Donald Trump visits Philadelphia on Thursday, an appearance welcomed by his fellow Republicans —and scores of protesters eager to express their outrage.
Trump is scheduled to address the two-day congressional Republican retreat at the Loews hotel in Center City.
The visit comes one day after Trump vowed to cut funding to "sanctuary city" communities like Philadelphia that offer safe harbor to undocumented immigrants.
“Philadelphia’s a great city! It’s a good choice,” said state Rep. Martina White, a Republican who represents Northeast Philly and part of Bucks County. She's on the same page as Trump when it comes to sanctuary city policies, havingpreviouslyintroduced anti-sanctuary city legislation in Harrisburg, which has not yet become law.
“It’s a good thing that President Trump has made public safety a priority ...Americans are bearing the brunt of these policies,” she said, citing two cases of illegal immigrants being arrested in the region for sexual crimes against children, one of whom wasreleased after posting bail before being re-arrested by the feds.
White doesn’t plan to attend the retreat, as she has a full day of events planned in her district and around Philadelphia. But she said she hopes protesters don't interrupt the retreat.
“People have the right to speak their minds," she said. "I hope it [the retreat] doesn’t get interrupted because our congressionaldelegates need to have theirtime to coordinate with one another.”
The annual House and Senate Republican Retreat, running through Friday, is intended for federal Republican officials to set a legislative agenda for 2017. In addition to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and British Prime Minister Theresa May will speak at the retreat.
On Wednesday, a small group of protesters were already carrying signs outside the Loews hotel at 13th and Market streets.
“He’s just another overrated president!” declared Havard Castiglioni, 19, of Wynnewood. “He wants to make America great again, but he starts by making it worse?”
Protester Melissa Amilani, 25, of South Philly, also protested. She listed Trump's intention to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, along with his views on the Environmental Protection Agency, funding for Planned Parenthood and “women’s reproductive rights” as things that “require immediate attention.”
Amilani said Trump’s election has unnerved her, despite Philadelphia being a heavily Democratic city. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 8 to 1. “It’s hard when you don’t feel safe on your block,” she said.
Also in attendance was pro-Trump protester Jerry Lambert, 71, of Bucks County, carrying a sign that said "I love walls."
"I think President Trump can turn the economy around and rehabilitate the economy," Lambert said. "Give him some time. We have to wait sixmonths to see what happens."