Chicago and Racism

Craig Brozefsky craig at
Sun Feb 16 01:34:18 MST 2003

"LouPaulsen" <LouPaulsen at> writes:

> There were about 7,000 at the demonstration in Chicago, which is not
> impressive by the standards of other "world-class cities" as they
> way, but it was the largest turnout here yet.

I was standing a block from the rally stage with some WWPers,
attempting to count the length of the march in blocks.  But the purple
banner condemning racist attacks on immigrants and the war on Iraq was
out of sight way before the march started thinning out.  I still do
not understand where they came from.  I spent the whole rally moving
thru the crowd and reading signs, chatting with aquaintences and was
feeling a bit down because it seemed no larger than the summer NION
demo at Tribune Plaza.  Apparently, crowds compress to fill available
space.  All we had was a strip mall parking lot with some delivery
trucks in it, a block or two of street and sidewalk, and a full
parking lot.  Yet, when the march started, they just kept coming.  We
went from being mildly disappointed, to ecstatic.  I also saw a sign
counting 4600 people, but the person modified it later.

I heard that there were 10k in Chicago at a demo against the first
gulf war after it started, but I could have misheard.  Feb15th was in
my experience the largest against this war.

> Andy Thayer of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (he is one of the
> stalwarts of the Chicago Coalition against War and Racism at
> which was the leading sponsor of the action)

I was never clear on what the term sponsor meant.  My impression from
meetings was that immigrant communities themselves did most of the
organising, Ifti Nasim in particular.  He unfortunately had a
heartattack the day before (or of) the demo and could not attend.
Andy continually refered to him as the main organizer and made sure to
get a recording of the crowd cheering for Ifti.

> Emma Lozano of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, and several Muslim and
> Pakistani activists whose names I don't know as well and can't
> represent here.

At least one was from the Pakistani American Democratic Forum, and I
believe the man who MCed was from that organization as well.  They
mentioned supporting Bush and voting for him, but feeling betrayed
now.  Not sure of any details there, but that is what I picked up from
their speeches.  Rev. Jakes, a mayoral candidate spoke as well.

There were two union speakers I was aware of, including the VP of a
laundry workers local, a small Mexican women who was nearly
overwhelmed with excitement, expressing solidarity and hope.  The
other union rep made a great speech, coherent, pointed, and well

> getting hypothermia.  I was so cold and worn out at the end of it
> that I didn't even have the energy to bring home any Indian
> take-out, and we really love it.

I ended up falling into a bar on Devon that a friend's brother runs
and whose father ran it before him.  Most of the regulars, some were
veteran activists and organizers I soon found out, were ecstatic about
the demo.  The owner bought some rounds for protesters coming in, and
the bar was abuzz with the power of people talking about the action.
I devoured Pakistani food (oh I love Nehari) and an Irish beer at a
Greek bar with a Latina barmaid, while chatting with a Zuni indian
about coal strip mining draining the aquifers that feed a sacred salt
lake.  Soul food for the globalized working man.

> We have a long way to go to get the kind of turnout which is routine
> in every other city Chicago's size.  The history of racism of the
> city has a lot to do with it.  But we're moving forward.

I would really appreciate some further discussion of this topic.  Both
ANSWER and CCAWR have anti-racist messages.  I look at the history of
this city, this country, and I see racism as one of the biggest
hurdles revolutionaries must overcome.  I once quipped that the real
objection the red-baiters had to ANSWER was that it was not espousing
white ideology.  Their ANSWER/IAC/WWP triumvirate distinctly erased
the anti-racist message, and disavowed any recognition of the work
minority organizations had done.  That may be overstating it, but I
think this a worthwhile line of investigation.

I would also like to know more about the history of socialist
organizations in the civil rights movement.  So much to learn...

Craig Brozefsky <craig at>
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