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Chicago May Day rally and march draws unprecedented numbers
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2017-05-01

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"Are you ready for a revolution?"

It was the battle cry for the thousands of people who gathered in Union Park on Chicago's Near West Side for a May Day rally and march that was unprecedented in size and scale.

Beneath the festive atmosphere simmered a rage at what representatives from the Chicago Teachers Union ( CTU ) called "the politics of economic segregation and salaries that are not enough for a dignified life. They are closing our schools and, for people to have health care, they have to decide if they can pay for treatment not to die or pay for rent and food."

"This is a very special May Day because of the disastrous 100 day policies of Donald Trump," R3 ( Resist Reimagine Rebuild ) Coalition member, activist and historian Professor Barbara Ransby noted. "But it's also a hopeful May Day because we are in the process of building a fierce, united coalition in this city. We need to bring folks from all communities in Chicago together, we need to transcend our differences. We understand that we are a political family, not the kind that gets you elected or a job, but shows up when you are under attack."

Both the CTU and R3 Coalition joined the May Day rally and march from demonstrations earlier in the day, the latter standing with members from the BYP ( Black Youth Project ) 100, Mijente and Organized Communities Against Deportations( OCAD ) in a united front outside Chicago's Juvenile Detention Center and FBI headquarters to make their voices heard concerning "the school to prison pipeline, to the traffic stops that initiate deportation proceedings, to Muslim registries that lasted for over a decade."

Chicago's immigrant community was out in force.

Among them, was Celene Adame, the wife of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez who was arrested and brutally injured by Immigration Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) agents during a raid on his home in late March this year after he was mistakenly placed on Chicago's "gang database."

Adame is suing ICE and the City of Chicago.

"These are systems that target us and treat us like garbage," Adame said. "We will remain united."

Sen. Dick Durbin joined the rally greeting and speaking with the demonstrators and representatives from organizations such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and labor organizations and unions from across the city and state including the CTU, United Food and Commercial Workers, American Federation of Teachers ( AFT ) and Service Employees International Union ( SEIU ).

"We may not all agree with one another but we do agree on this; America can be a better, stronger, more just nation and we are determined to see that happen," Durbin said. "We are demanding economic justice to make sure people are paid a living wage. If you work in America, you should not be in poverty."

"We also believe in immigration justice," Durbin added. "When I introduced the Dream Act 16-years-ago, I never imagined that I would be standing here today still begging that the Dream Act become the law of the land in America. The election of Donald Trump is a challenge to all of us. We will stand and speak up for our values. We've seen people coming together. The question is whether we will take this energy and emotion and translate it into political action to elect men and women who will stand up for the values of America."

The thousands who marched in solidarity with those values took their message along Washington Street to Daley Plaza.

"I am undocumented. My entire family's undocumented," Tania Unzueta declared. "The question most people ask us is 'how are we protecting ourselves and why are we not scared?' Today's march is part of the answer to that question."


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