DC preps for ‘Day Without Immigrants,’ but Hill takes little notice
WASHINGTON — Washington, DC, restaurants and schools are preparing for a “Day Without Immigrants” protest Thursday, February 16th, but so far, policymakers who live in the nation’s capital haven’t taken much notice.
Immigrants and supporters are planning to strike Thursday in a protest loosely organized by social media and word of mouth. The goal is to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to society, as President Donald Trump’s administration continues to pursue hard-line enforcement policies that advocates fear will disrupt communities and the economy.
Restaurants in the DC area were planning to operate with short staff, offer menus in solidarity with striking immigrants and in some cases, close altogether.
Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is locked in a lawsuit with President Trump for pulling his restaurant from the Trump hotel project in Washington over President Trump’s anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric, announced he would close most of his restaurants Thursday as part of the protest.
The Trump International Hotel did not respond to a request for comment on its plans for Thursday.
Schools were preparing as well. A bilingual charter school in Northwest DC planned to close, and DC public schools were preparing for possible walkouts.
Similar actions have taken place in other cities. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the site of a similar protest this week, and bodegas in New York closed earlier this month in protest of President Trump’s travel ban executive order.
Thursday’s planned protest is the first such event in the nation’s capital, but so far it has failed to catch the eye of the lawmakers who create the policies that the protests will target.
Outreach to many of the offices on Capitol Hill that are the most involved in immigration policy turned up little awareness of the planned protest, aside from a few word-of-mouth exchanges.
The office of the Architect of the Capitol, which oversees and contracts with thousands of Capitol support staff, did not respond to an inquiry about whether any preparations were underway or absences were anticipated.
Restaurants to close
The impact may be felt, however, if policymakers try to eat at hot spots around town on Thursday.
Andrés announced his restaurants Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana would be closed, while China Chilcano would remain open for company staff to work.
“In support of our people & #ADayWithoutImmigrants Thurs 2/16 we will not open @jaleo DC CC MD, @zaytinya or @oyameldc #ImmigrantsFeedAmerica,” he tweeted.
Sweetgreen, a chain of salad restaurants, said it would close all of its DC locations in solidarity with its team members and Day Without Immigrants. In response to tweets, the chain said workers can use paid “impact hours” and still receive pay for Thursday.
Andy Shallal, the founder of Busboys and Poets, a small local chain of bookstores and cafes, said his business would be closed “in solidarity w/ my brothers & sisters.”
Bar Pilar said it was planning to open with a skeleton crew, and serve Latin American-inspired dishes in solidarity with staff and immigrants. A spokeswoman said some staff have pledged their tips to coworkers participating in the protest, and some proceeds from cocktail sales will be donated to the American Immigration Council.
John Andrade’s restaurants, including Meridian Pint, Smoke and Barrel, Brookland Pint and Rosario, will be open, but “bring your own food” with the kitchens closed, Andrade said in a statement on Facebook.
“As a Latino business owner, I stand in solidarity with all of my immigrant staff,” he said.
Black Restaurant Group, Shouk and Taylor Gourmet all told CNN they would see how short-staffed they are on Thursday, but said they support their worker’s decisions to protest if they so choose.
Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which operates the popular White House-adjacent institution Old Ebbitt Grill, said its properties would remain open but could be affected by the demonstration.
“It is going to be a difficult day for us,” the company’s president, Tom Meyer, said. “Immigrants are an integral part of our team; there is no doubt we will struggle. We have always loved, supported and cared for our employees, and tomorrow will be no different. We support their decision to stay home.”
DC fitness chain VIDA sent an email saying it would also be affected.
“Immigrant workers make up an indispensable part of our VIDA community and the backbone of many of our daily operations,” the email said. “We support our employees participation in the nationwide Day Without Immigrants movement tomorrow and as a result we have modified our operations wherever necessary.”
Schools were also preparing. Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Northwest DC will be closed Thursday for students and teachers participating in the protest, the school confirmed.
DC Public Schools Chief John Davis emailed principals expressing respect for protests but insisting teachers and students were expected to be in class.
“DCPS schools are and will continue to be safe places for all students and all people in our communities, regardless of immigration status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” Davis wrote. “While some may plan to attend this week’s walkout about immigration, all students and staff are expected to be in school throughout the day so that teaching and learning can continue. We highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where staff and students feel safe and secure and we respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest.”