[Marxism] Amazing! 100, 000 Jam Chicago Loop in Support of Immigrant Righhts

David Altman altman_d at hotmail.com
Sat Mar 11 15:33:04 MST 2006

Although I read, or at least skim over, the Chicago Tribune every day, this, 
the front-page headline article, caught me totally by surprise this morning.

There's something going on here.............


A show of strength
Thousands march to Loop for immigrants' rights

Workers, students unite in opposition to toughening of law

By Oscar Avila and Antonio Olivo
Tribune staff reporters
Published March 11, 2006

In a show of strength that surprised even organizers, tens of thousand of 
immigrants poured into the Loop Friday, bringing their calls for immigration 
reform to the heart of the city's economic and political power.

What started as a word-of-mouth campaign, then spread through the foreign 
language media, grabbed the attention of the entire city by midday, as a 
throng 2 miles long marched from Union Park on the Near West Side to Federal 

Police estimated the crowd as large as 100,000, making it one of the biggest 
pro-immigrant rallies in U.S. history, according to national advocates.

Observers said the turnout could galvanize both sides in the immigration 
debate, launching a grass-roots pro-immigrant movement while provoking a 
backlash among those who want stricter controls.

The trigger for the rally was a controversial federal bill that would crack 
down on those who employ or help illegal immigrants. But the broader 
message--carried mostly by Mexicans, but also by a smattering of Poles, 
Irish and Chinese--was that immigrants are too integral and large a part of 
Chicago to be ignored.

The rally drew some of the state's most powerful politicans, including Gov. 
Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Richard Daley, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and dozens of 
aldermen and state lawmakers.

But the men and women who pushed baby strollers and waved homemade signs, 
the workers who clean hotel bathrooms and landscape suburban lawns, flexed 
their muscle too.

American flags bobbed overhead while also decorating shawls, placards and 
the scarf on a baby's head. That dominant motif was set off by the colors of 
Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and, of course, Mexico.

Urgent chants of "Si, se puede," or "Yes, you can," echoed off the walls of 
downtown skyscrapers, with drums adding a festive backbeat.

Despite the density of the crowd, shoulders and elbows rubbing from one 
sidewalk to the other, police said there were no incidents or arrests. But 
the event shut down traffic in parts of the Loop, and snarled the evening 
commute as marchers competed with office workers for space on jammed trains 
and rerouted buses.

As they transformed the Loop with their presence, immigrants made a powerful 
statement elsewhere by their absence.

Without his immigrant employees, a Northwest Side body shop owner gave up 
and closed for the day. An Italian restaurant in Downers Grove relied on 
temps to cook and managers to bus tables. High school students walked out en 
masse. "I have never been prouder to march, to show my commitment to a 
cause, than I have been today," U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told the 
crowd. "We have brought together the true fabric of what Chicago is, of what 
our country is."

After a moment of silence for soldiers in Iraq, a young girl led the crowd 
in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jose Soberanis, 21, led a group with a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. that 
he had sketched with his 11-year-old sister, Cecilia. He equated his fight 
with the civil-rights movements of the 1960s.

"As the saying goes, `I have a dream.' Well, we have dreams, too," Soberanis 
said. "African-Americans were looking for social acceptance. That is what we 
want too."

Hundreds of high school students were no-shows, and officials speculated 
that most of them attended the rally. At Farragut Career Academy in 
Lawndale, about half the 2,500 students walked out after attendance was 
taken at 10:40 a.m.

Josue Martinez, a Tilden High School senior who attended, said: "We're 
supporting our parents and our parents' parents, who came here and worked 
hard. A lot of classrooms are empty today."

Whole shifts of workers left their jobs to underscore the importance of 
immigrant workers. One server from an Italian restaurant came in his work 
tie and apron, draped with a U.S. flag. Construction workers, still wearing 
hardhats, came straight from their job sites. Clerks from the El Guero 
market in Aurora piled into the store's delivery van, riding on produce 

Alex Garcia and about 10 co-workers from a Joliet commercial sign company 
rode a Metra train to Chicago's Union Station, walked out to Union Park, and 
then retraced their steps as they marched back to the Loop.

"Most people don't realize how much work we do, but it's part of their daily 
lives," he said. "We are putting up all the buildings and cooking all the 
food. Today, they'll understand."

Crowds stretched back at least 20 blocks from Federal Plaza at one point. 
The procession was so long that some marchers still hadn't made it to the 
plaza when the two-hour rally ended.

Sensing the scope of the rally, critics of illegal immigration from around 
the country had flown into Chicago to support local activists at a news 
conference earlier in the day.

Sandra Gunn, government relations field associate for the Washington-based 
Federation for American Immigration Reform, said she hoped politicians would 
ignore the "display of arrogance and intimidation" from protesters who she 
said flout immigration laws: "It is our voices that they must heed."

Some bystanders, marveling at the crowd's size, shared similar opinions.

"They have a right to march," said Alicia Corley, an insurance claims 
adjuster standing outside a Potbelly sandwich shop on Adams Street. "But we 
can't even take care of our own people without more coming in from other 
countries. Look at all the homeless in the city. Let's take care of them 

Rally organizers originally mobilized to fight H.R. 4437, a bill approved in 
the U.S. House of Representatives that would drastically strengthen 
immigration enforcement, including extending a fence along the Mexican 
border and severe punishment for those who aid illegal immigrants.

They back a competing bill that would provide legal status for most 
undocumented immigrants and make it easier for legal immigrants to bring in 
relatives. That legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 
and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), also would expand temporary work visas.

Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington-based National 
Immigration Forum, said the Chicago rally would get the attention of Capitol 
Hill lawmakers. Sharry's first reaction when a Chicago participant e-mailed 
him photos from his cell phone: "Wow."


oavila at tribune.com

aolivo at tribune.com

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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