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|3/10: Chicago Ethnic groups rally for immigrant rights
Released 11 March 2006  By Oscar Avila and Antonio Olivo - Chicago Tribune
Ethnic groups rally for immigrant rights
By Oscar Avila and Antonio Olivo
Published March 10, 2006
A mass of flag-waving humanity jammed downtown Chicago this afternoon as
tens of thousands of protesters rallied at Federal Plaza to demand more
humane immigration laws.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Richard Daley and other political figures
crowded onto the stage to speak to the crowd.
Noting Chicago was built by new arrivals to this country who simply wanted
a share of the American Dream, Daley said, "We are not going to make
criminals out of (immigrants). That is not what America has ever stood for."
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a Hispanic, drew cheers as he recognized
Irish, Polish, Chinese and African-American rally participants.
"I have never been prouder to march, to show my commitment to a cause, than
I have been today," Gutierrez said. "We have brought together the true
fabric of what Chicago is, of what our country is."
Even as the rally began, about 2 p.m., people continued streaming into the
Loop, the line of march extending as far west as the United Center.
Streets in the immediate vicinity of Federal Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn St.,
were closed for the rally as a crowd estimated by Chicago police as 75,000
to 100,000 in size spilled off the sidewalks.
And as the afternoon rush hour approached, police issued an alert asking
the public to avoid not just the federal building complex, but the area
bounded by Madison Street on the north, Roosevelt Road on the south,
Ashland Avenue on the west and all points "all the way east."
Earlier, businesses, restaurants and schools across the region emptied out,
and busloads of immigrants from Mexico, Poland and Ireland converged on the
protest's assembly point in Union Park, at Ashland Avenue and Washington
Boulevard on the city's West Side.
At the park, the participants representatives of many ethnic groups in
addition to the Hispanic community, the event's main
organizer immediately broke into mini-rallies, some speakers grabbing
megaphones and rallying participants from baseball bleachers.
The protesters stepped off shortly after noon for a two-mile march to
Federal Plaza. They moved amid a sea of flags, including those for
Guatemala, Ecuador, Ireland and especially Mexico. But U.S. flags were the
Marchers such as Jose Soberanis tried to make the case that the cause of
illegal immigrants fits with basic American values. Soberanis, 21, led a
group waving U.S. flags and a drawing of Martin Luther King that he created
with his 11-year-old sister, Cecilia.
"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."
Whole shifts of workers left their jobs to underscore the importance of
immigrant workers. One server in a Downers Grove Italian restaurant came in
his tie and apron, draped with a U.S. flag.
A Chicago factory worker, Amada Ochoa, 44, said she felt a swell of pride
when about 150 employees walked out the doors around noon at their West
Side plating company.
"We felt a feeling of unity," she said. "It shows our work is important."
Alex Garcia and about 10 co-workers from a Joliet commercial sign company
rode a Metra train to Chicago's Union Station and then walked about 12
blocks to Union Park, then re-traced their steps as they headed back to the
Garcia, whose company installs signs for McDonald's, Burger King and other
fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area, said, "Most people don't realize
how much work we do, but it's part of their daily lives. We are putting up
all the buildings and cooking all the food. Today, they'll understand."
Anticipating the big turnout, critics of illegal immigration held a
preemptive news conference this morning in Grant Park. They predicted the
rally would backfire on its organizers, stoking the anger of other
Chicagoans that illegal immigrants were arrogant enough to demand increased
Opinion polls find most Americans favor stricter immigration enforcement,
the critics said.
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