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Thousands march to mark May Day

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Updated: June 3, 2013 3:17PM



Thousands walked from Union Park on the Near West Side to Federal Plaza in the Loop on Wednesday to demand immigration reform, sending a loud message to end deportations.

Many carried signs asking President Barack Obama to pay attention to their fight. Others chanted in Spanish, “Yes, we can. Stop deportations.”

Anna Munoz, 16, stood before a podium in Federal Plaza and said her father, Efrain, is being deported to Mexico after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers raided the pallet factory near O’Hare Airport where he worked. “We want to be together as a family,” said Anna, who’s in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

“This day is about stopping families from being destroyed as these deportations continue,” Rosi Carrasco, an immigration activist, earlier told a Union Park crowd of hundreds. “We want legislation that includes everything. . . . We can’t do this anymore.”

Sen. Dick Durbin was the featured speaker. "It is time for America to stand together for comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

Immigration was in the limelight, but marchers chanted and waved signs calling attention to everything from workers’ rights to freeing Bradley Manning, the imprisoned U.S. Army soldier accused of leaking secret government information to WikiLeaks.

The loud but peaceful crowd swelled to thousands as union workers and community activists marched east over the Kennedy Expy. into the Loop. A few dozen anarchists, many who protested the NATO Summit protest last summer, marched as well.

“We are here fighting for justice and equality for all the immigrants,” Maria Sosa said as she marched with United Here, a union representing hotel and food service employees, among many others. “We want all the [undocumented] people to get out of the shadows and be with their families and to not be afraid anymore.”

May Day gatherings started earlier in the day at Cityfront Plaza, where protesters — many wearing masks and black bandanas across their faces — waved black and red flags before marching on Michigan Avenue and through the Gold Coast with police close behind.

“I think Americans have become accustomed to being systematically complacent, and I think people need to get used to seeing certain forms of rebellious expressions” said one marcher, who would identify himself only as Carlos “Contrajefe,” Spanish for “against chief.”

Historically, May Day commemorates the eight workers who died at the Haymarket riot during a labor protest in 1886. The eight are viewed as martyrs of the labor movement, which ultimately created the standardized eight-hour workday.

“That really shook the union movement up, to say that our work is sacred and we’re not animals,” said one marcher, who referred to herself as Virginia X.

In recent years, May Day has expanded to mark support for labor unions and immigration reform.

At Union Park before the march, union members from Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union distributed postcards made out to Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to halt school closings. Members of a Communist party discussed politics and others passed out leaflets about workers rights.

Occupy Chicago planned the rally in Union Park, followed by the march for immigration reform to Federal Plaza. The Chicago Federation of Labor also planned a rally at the Haymarket Monument at Randolph and Desplaines before joining the march to Federal Plaza.

Contributing: Mitch Dudek



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