On a sunny spring afternoon, dozens of protesters gathered at the intersection of American and Somerset streets in Kensington to band together in calling for the resignation of the president and CEO of Congreso, Carolina DiGiorgio.
“He hates us, and he hates you too because of the color of your skin,” Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a Latinx community organization in South Philadelphia, shouted through a bullhorn at Congreso’s headquarters in the hopes her words would reach DiGiorgio’s ears. “This is beyond politics – this is about hate.”
As head of Congreso, a local nonprofit group with a stated goal to “strengthen Latino communities,” DiGiorgio courted controversy earlier this year when she attended a rally in Harrisburg – where she was photographed and shown on national television – held by President Donald Trump.
DiGiorgio attended the event with her husband, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, Val DiGiorgio.
However, by supporting the administration of President Donald Trump, those in attendance at Thursday’s rally said that DiGiorgio is actively encouraging a government that is seeking to deport Latinos, kill programs meant to support minorities and cut funding to the very organization she heads.
“She’s going to hurt her own community,” said Nikki Lopez, executive director of Galaei, a queer Latin social justice organization. “It just demonstrates that they are distanced from the community that they claim to represent.”
Protesters Thursday pointed to the escalation of deportations of undocumented citizens and the stepped-up raids of family homes by ICE enforcement under Trump’s administration as one issue many had with DiGiorgio’s public support of the president’s policies. They said that Trump’s administration is actively working to cut programs – like Planned Parenthood, Meals-On-Wheels and a laundry list of other services – that residents in this community use on a daily basis.
“Congreso is a big part of this community,” said Teresa Muldrow of Fairhill, who attended the rally with her dog, Poncho, both dressed in homemade protest shirts. “So, it’s important that Congreso represents the real people of this community and the feelings of this community.”
During the day, protestors took turns on a megaphone, shouting their concerns up at Congreso’s high-rise administration building in the hopes that DiGiorgio would hear their pleas.
Almiron derided the fact that DiGiorgio makes more than $200,000 a year, especially since the majority of Congreso’s funding comes from Philadelphia taxpayers.
Almiron said that DiGiorgio – who started as CEO in February after spending seven years on Congreso’s board – should be ashamed of taking a six-figure salary while saying she supports a community that feels targeted by many of Trump’s policies.
Dulllé Muhammad, of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, said that DiGiorgio needs to resign, because if she supports the policies of Trump’s administration, she must not truly support the city’s minority, low-income community.
“You can’t say that you support this community and support an administration with these policies,” he said.
Calls made to DiGiorgio’s office seeking comment on the protesters’ concerns were not immediately returned. But she previously told the Inquirer her appearance at the rally was only as a “political wife” with her husband. She claimed she didn’t applaud for chants of “build the wall” at the rally (which she called “hurtful”), and she said if she was seen applauding, it was for Trump’s calls for more support for military veterans. Congreso’s board said they remain supportive of and confident in Carolina’s leadership.