Si, se puede! - Chicago Witnesses Massive Protest for Immigrant Rights
14 Mar 2006 16:55 GMT
On Friday, March 10, 2006 Chicago’s downtown was paralyzed by an immigrant rights march estimated at more than 100,000 people. The march, organized by a citywide coalition of community, labor and immigrant rights groups, was called to protest the punitive enforcement provisions of the anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill.
Protesters carried hand-lettered signs saying "No Human Being is Illegal", "We are America," "My Mexican immigrant son died in Iraq," "Don't deport my parents,""I'm a dishwasher - not a criminal," and "Si, se puede!" - "Yes We Can!" The crowd stretched two and half miles, from Union Park on the West Side to their rally destination in Federal Plaza.
The march was one of the largest street protests Chicago has ever seen — exceeding the historic May 1, 1886 march down Michigan Ave. by 80,000 largely immigrant workers demanding an eight-hour workday. Read more | Democracy Now! coverage
Indymedia reports: [ 1 | 2 | 3 ] Photos: [ 1 | 2 ]
Other resources: Pueblo Sin Fronteras | Centro Romero | Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
On Tuesday Feb 14th immigrants across Philadelphia and regionally staged a walkout to protest bill HR 4437 as part of A Day Without An Immigrant. The bill threatens to criminalize those assisting undocumented immigrants as "alien smugglers" and to turn undocumented status from a civil violation to a federal aggravated felony.o
For more information on pending immigration legislation, see The National Immigration Law Forum | American Immgration Lawyers Association | American Immigration Law Foundation | National Immigration Project |Immigrant Legal Resource Center
For information on border activism in general, see deletetheborder.org| No Border Network | O.R.G.A.N.I.C. Collective | No More Deaths | Immigrant Solidarity Network
Taking the EL to Union Square Park (a half hour early!), every car and platform was flooded with the overwhelmingly Latino participants in the demonstration. White people curled in fear or made sarcastic remarks, Black people inquired about the goings on, and it became clear that the vast majority of the mobilization came from within the Latino/Latin American communities of Chicagoland, and the Spanish-language news media and radio stations gave a huge boost to the numbers. Towns from Aurora to Addison had rented out every last available bus to Suburban protesters, and some even came from Wisconsin and Indiana. The evidence was laid out for all to see: it is possible to get massive numbers in the streets of the Windy City!
Some groups had been organizing for over a year, with a powerful show of force in last June's South Side demonstration, where between twenty and forty thousand (20-40,000) overwhelmingly Brown people showed they would not be hushed into silence by the national efforts to promote xenophobia and racist patriotism. The capitalist news media, from Lou Dobbs to FOX News, has been increasingly spouting hate, which has in turn energized racist groups like the Minuteman (whose origins are alleged to have come from the likes of the John Birch Society and/or the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s and 1970s). Rounding it out, several competing motions in Congress and state legislatures have pushed to eliminate the human rights of the undocumented, or else to secure their inalienable rights. Bills like HR 4437 call for the elimination of rights to health care, education, and all constitutional rights for the undocumented, as well as laying the groundwork for the possibility of huge detention camps where people are held until deportation and mass deportations the likes of which this country hasn't seen since the deportations of millions of Mexicans during the Great Depression. HR 4437, also known as the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, would even criminalize any act by a citizen that did anything for an undocumented person, including provide health care, teaching, renting a home, and everything else. HR 4437 has passed the House, and is going on to the Senate. The DREAM Act and other proposed bills counter by promising basic rights for all human beings within these borders.
But yesterday was not just Mexicans, but large numbers of Ecuadorians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Irish, Poles, Chinese, and some Asians, Africans and peoples from elsewhere. Unions, local businesses, churches, bike clubs, even competing street gangs, all came together for the immense show of force. This was a united voice of people coming out for their very surival. Other demonstrations had happened in other cities, but no where on the scale of the one here on Friday.
The plan of the protest and an obstruction The protest marched from Union Square Park down Jackson to Federal Plaza, but early on I overheard police plans to cut the march in half at a certain point so that it wouldn't totally clog the Loop. This was indeed carried out, though there has been little discussion of how many were cut off.
Estimates on the Number Early police commanders' unofficial estimates ranged from seventy-five to one hundred thousand people (75-100,000), but CBS reports final police estimates at three hundred thousand (300,000) and organizer estimates at five hundred thousand (500,000). The Associated Press puts the police estimate back down to one hundred thousand (100,000). The Tribune sided with the AP, also noting that the crowd stretched for over twenty blocks at one point. On this one, I will go with the police over the organizers, but it was certainly too high to accurately estimate.
In any of the research that I have ever done, throughout the Civil Rights Movement, late 19th Century class struggles, and other periods, I have never heard of a protest in the city of Chicago of more than one hundred thousand people. So please inform me if I'm wrong, but yesterday's immigrant human rights march was possibly the largest protest in Chicago history, and certainly in more than a century. More details on the numbers below.
Minuteman's laughable response CBS reports that Minuteman's Illinois leader race-traitor Rosanna Pulido said “I don’t care if there’s three million people out there, if they are illegal they do not have a voice in America.”
HOY reported that Minuteman had a counter-protest… at Grant Park at 10am!
Policital criticisms in short A longer discussion should be had, though, about the politics of the protest. The complexities can be summarized in this way: Latinos in the USA are generally more conservative than nuestro pueblo in Latin America. The radical Latino voices of Chicago were absolutely drowned out by the overwhelming attempt by most participants to mainstream themselves. The radical and progressive groups, including Zocalo Urbano, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, several union contingents, Zapatistas, la Voz de Los de Abajo, and many others were engulfed in a crowd where pro-McCain/Kennedy signs were not uncommon. The McCain/Kennedy signs trumpeted the two Senators for promoting an alternative that would be better for immigrants, but it was still a bit unsettling to see them name of the Republican Senator instead of the name of the Bill. There was more red white and blue than red white and green, and this moderations also revealed itself in the roster of speakers, which was filled largely with elected officials: Governor Rod 'Pornstar' Blowjobavich, Herr Daley, Senator Dick Durbin, Representative (and amazingly a former Black Panther leader) Bobby Rush, Representative Luis Gutierrez (y'know, the pro-war congressman whose speaking at the anti-war protest next week), and others. As it ended
Police attempted to push the remaining thousands onto the sidewalks, while young men started chanting Cuuuuuuuleros. To the police who did not realize what this meant, it is one of the many ways that the Spanish language gives us to say assholes. ABC has a report decrying the weak police presence (proving again the capitalist news media's preference for fascism), though I have snapshots of riot police contigents that were within a few blocks of Federal Plaza.
At one point, I went up to the Federal Building which houses the Federal courts, where I found Palestinian torture-victim and political prisoner Muhammad Salah's wife watching from the floor where her husband's trial is being held. As we sat there together, we agreed that the struggle for survival will never end in defeat as long as the people are united.