Chants of Sí se puede (Yes we can), and We are not criminals, rang through the streets and could be heard blocks away, as well as the chant USA, USA, which some of the organizers promoted.
Former employees of IFCO Systems, a pallet manufacturer, were prominent in the march. Twenty-six of them were arrested in an immigration raid here a few months ago and are facing deportation hearings. They were joined by immigrant workers from families that have been separated by deportations.
Some of the organizers, especially Rafael Pulido, known as El Pistolero, a popular radio talk show host here, had called for protesters to carry U.S. flags. While many of these flags were visible through the crowd, as the march proceeded flags from Mexico and several other Latin American countries kept appearing.
One group of about 30 youth, most of them Muslims, wore white T-shirts with the slogan, Yes to legalization; Yes to moratorium; Sí se puede. La Rosita, a butcher shop, gave out hundreds of white T-shirts with the slogan, Yes to legalization, no to discrimination.
Leonel, 28, a worker from Mexico who asked that his last name not be used, said he recently moved here from Washington, D.C., where he had participated in protests for immigrant rights. These marches are very important, he said. I work at a small company. All six of us took the day off to come here.
Centro Sin Fronteras, a well-known immigrant rights group, called the protest, along with Pulido, with two weeks notice. As word about the action spread, it generated discussion among working people. It soon won broad sponsorship from religious and community groups, including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the March 10 Committee. The latter is the umbrella organization that called the earlier huge protests here. It includes the UNITE HERE union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, Casa Michoacan, and other groups.
The police estimated the size of the action at 10,000. But it was certainly larger. It spread at least over 10 full city blocks. Due to extreme heat today, many left at the end and did not stay for the final rally.
Gabriel Velasquez, a worker at Stampede Meat, a large packing plant here, went to work for a few hours before the march. A few people didnt go to work at all but I went in to see who else was going to leave and several decided to come out, he said. I also brought my little daughter with me.
The day before the march the ending rally site was changed to Grant Park in downtown Chicago after city cops refused to allow protesters to go to Federal Plaza.
Many of the rally speakers blamed Republican politicians for the governments failure to pass an immigration reform bill. None of the speakers referred to support by Democratic politicians for stepped-up border patrols and other anti-working-class provisions of the immigration bills passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives (see article in this issue).
Congressman Luis Gutierrez called for a moratorium on immigration raids until an immigration reform law is passed.
Other speakers included Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1; and Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers.
In her talk, Emma Lozano from Centro Sin Fronteras invited everyone to go to the immigration court at 9:00 a.m. on July 31 to support the IFCO workers who will appear before an immigration judge that day for their deportation hearing.
Forthcoming activities in Chicago publicized today include a National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention sponsored by the March 10 Committee. Scheduled for August 11-13, it is open to all supporters of legalization of immigrants from across the country. The March 10 Committee is backing a call for more protests for immigrant rights throughout the United States on Labor Day weekend, September 2-4.
Pennsylvania city approves anti-immigrant measure
U.S. rulers work toward new policy on immigration
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home