Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chicago Rallies for International Workers Day! Without Legalization, there can be no Equal Labor Rights!

Video of the beginning of the march.

May 1st is celebrated around the world as international workers day. In socialist countries like Cuba and Nepal large rallies are held. In capitalist countries around the world, protests are held. In Germany, Anarchists riot and smash bank windows. In Colombia union workers demand an end to the paramilitary violence against union members.

The holiday has its roots in Chicago. In the workshops and factories of the 1800's, in the major cities and capitalist strongholds, workers would be forced to work in dangerous conditions for up to 14 hours a day, for such a pitiful ammount of money that many of them could not afford homes and food for their families. If they had families, they were unable to spend time with them. To be caring parent to their children, to be a devoted spouse. They were treated by the captains of industry as mere tools to their profit machines.

But the workers would not tolerate this. They began to organize for the eight hour work day. The 1886 strike for the 8 hour work day was world wide, but Chicago was seen as the largest and the most militant of the workers on strike. A few days later, on May 3rd 1886, the police attacked strikers, killing several. Anarchists organized a rally to take place the next day at Haymarket Square to condemn the police brutality.

At the rally a riot broke out. Police and strikers were killed. In the political trial that followed, eight men were condemned to death. The eight Chicago Anarchists were found guilty not because of any violent actions there were involved in, none of them participated in the riot, but because their political ideology stood in opposition to the values of bourgeoisie society. The Haymarket martyrs were fighters for workers and immigrants rights. They represented a movement that was fighting for the dignity of all.

For years, this workers holiday has been forgotten in the United States. This has changed in recent years. The House of Representatives passed the anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill in 2006, a law which would have deported many immigrants and made it illegal to assit an undocumented immigrant in any way, including driving an injured immigrant to the hospital. In Chicago, a group of activists organized to hold a rally against the bill on March 10, 2006. It was an overwhelming success. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to oppose the Sensenbrenner bill and to support immigrants rights.

The Spanish language press had been promoting the rally for weeks ahead of time, while the English language press was silent about it. I only found out about the rally through a small flier which was poorly photo copied and stapled to a college campus bulletin board. I didn't have anything else on my agenda and decided to go on a whim. I expected maybe 15 activists vainly handing out fliers. I got on the red line and saw two young mexican students who were wearing Che t-shirts. I asked if they were heading to the rally and they replied that there were. I told them I would probably see them down there.

I got off at State and Lake, and attempted to transfer to the Green line which would take me to Union Park. Except that I couldn't get on the el. There was a giant crowd on the platform which spilled off into a long line down the stairs and into the sidewalk. All of this crowd was heading to the rally. I stood in line, making my way towards to el trains. A train came, and it was full. Completely packed. Another came. Completely packed. The train speakers announced that all the loop trains were being rerouted to carry protestors to the rally. I saw a white friend of mine, and we just stared at each other with amazement. It was as if the revolution were happening, and no one bothered to send us the memo!

The massive outpouring of opposition to the bill could be credited with the bills failure in the senate. It also launched the Movimiento Diez de Marzo, who almost immediately began organizing another immigrant rights rally, one that would be national, and one that would ressurect International Workers Day in America. The protest on May 1, 2006 was the largest in Chicago history. Hundreds of thousands came out to support immigrants and workers rights.

This year, the protests continued. While the crowd was not as large as it had been before, it is substantial that activists are continuing to push for legalization and amnesty of immigrants even with Obama as President. It is also important to stand up for immigrants rights with the media using Swine flu to stir up anti-immigrant hysteria.

Below are pictures and videos from the march and rally through Downtown Chicago and ending at Federal Plaza.













The Young Polish Alliance, affiliated with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. My Dad's side of the family is Chicago Polish, so I was excited to see organized Polish activists standing up for immigrants rights.

The Albany Park Neighborhood Council.

Korean American Resource and Cultural Center.

Video of the Korean contingent in the march.





The Chicago Chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project





The United Auto Workers

Teamsters Local 743.

I grew up in the North suburbs, and was would often hang out in Waukegan, a predominately latino town. A few years ago, the town council passed a law which allowed Waukegan police to be trained in checking immigration status, thus allowing them to check a persons status on routine traffic stops. This law has done little but spread fear. Many Latinos have moved out of Waukegan, businesses have closed and both documented and undocumented workers have been intimidated by the law. It's safe to say that Waukegan is a place close to my heart, and I wish immigrants rights activists in Waukegan the best.




Mexican dancers at rally at Federal Plaza.





These photos of me were taken by my friend Tamara Smith.

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