Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 21:26:54 -0500 (CDT) -- Chicago 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Stop the War on the People The noise under the el overpass was almost deafening. "Aaaaah!," they screamed, announcing their presence to a supportive Chicago working-class neighborhood. More than 500 marchers reverberated wordless noise until they passed through the concrete sound chamber, then resumed their previous chants: "Aqui estamos! Aqui nos quedamos! No nos vamos!" ("We are here! We are staying!" We are not going!") Curious, predominantly Latino neighbors, roused from their mid-morning labor, lined sidewalks to offer their thumbs up. This morning's "Stop the War on the People!" march, a protest against the anti-immigrant sentiment so common in contemporary America, rolled boldy southward through Chicago's streets from its 9:30 a.m. starting point at Division and Milwaukee in multi-racial Wicker Park. The march's final destination was the designated "protest pit" in front of the United Center, home to this week's Democratic National Convention. Pueblo Sin Fronteras ("People Without Borders"), a North Side immigrant-rights organization, coordinated the march to publicly "ask and demand respect, to be respected as human beings," according to the group's Joe Gomez. Wearing a striking red "United Farm Workers of America" tee shirt, Gomez helped Chicago police keep eager marchers on a single side of the street as he breathlessly explained Pueblo Sin Fronteras' mission to empower immigrants to take control of their own lives. "Immigrants, irregardless of what group they come from whether they be from Latin America, from Asia, what have you, have been bombarded by attacks from both political groups [Democrat and Republican]." According to Gomez, Pueblo Sin Fronteras helps immigrants fight non-violently for their own rights. Community activsts such as the Reverend Ramon Niedes of West Town United Methodist Church joined the march to oppose anti-immigration legislation and "the kinds of racist attitudes" that have led to increased anti-Latino sentiment over the last few years. To Niedes, this march was an opportunity to demonstrate the broad-based coalition of Latinos and non-Latinos "who are interested in having the same kinds of ideas on the wage/job situation and the increase in the minimum wage. Those things are vital to the interests of our people." The march itself was a vibrant hodgepodge of Latinos and multi-ethnic supporters from various community organizations marching with Puerto Rican flags and Spanish banners. Some, like Pueblos Sin Fronteras member and former Guatemalan political prisoner Maya Ruiz, wore military-style berets or headbands that read "Viva Las Zapatistas." Ruiz believes that the U.S. government has adopted anti-immigration policies out of "pseudo-political interest" in manipulating the political process "just from their own convenience or for the minority." According to Ruiz, the afflicted peoples must unite to fight these minority interests. "That is why in this‘ Americans, South Americans, Europeans, whatever," he says. Among the marchers wove a mass of anarchists who chanted, sang, danced and hollared excitement into the protest. Many of the anarchists wore blue armbands reading, "Todos somos ilegales" ("We are all illegal"), a tactic popularized by Latino-rights group La Resistencia. The blue bands allude to a tactic used by the Dutch during World War II to confuse anti-semitic Germans by having all citizens wear the yellow stars that Nazis used to identify Jews. The anarchists' "Cut the Strings" Puppet Theater built extensive signs and intricate puppets to, according to San Francisco puppetter Alli Starr, "impress that no one is illegal, that their borders are irrelevant and that their terrorism won't work anymore." "We are anarchists," said an activst named Sascha, as he held a sign which read "Ni estados, Ni fronteras" ("No States, No Borders"). "We reject borders in general." Though the anarchists provided life and numbers to the march, some of the Latino marchers expressed a difference of opinion with them as to whether the protest should stay within police-defined boundaries. Some anarchists spilled out onto both sides of the street. "Stay on this side," cried neighborhood resident Bruce Dixon, shooing protesters back within their designated lane. "Poor people catch the bus. They can't get to church [or to work]." He believes that the anarchists were stepping outside of police bounds, "Because they're young and stupid. They're not really hooked up with real people who have to work for a living." The tactical disagreement between march organizers and the anarchists solidified when the protesters reached the "protest pit," a fenced-in area for marches and speeches outside the United Center. The pit is officially sanctioned by the Chicago police. While Latino marchers poured into the pit to continue their rally, several dozen anarachists remained outside chanting, "Our power's in the street, don't go in the pit!!" Several of the anarchists expressed concern that while the pit-friendly marchers demanded "more Latino fire fighters, more Latino police officers," they were ignoring more fundamental, institutional flaws in the socio-economic system that perpetuate racism and poverty. Some Latino marchers inside the pit expressed concern that the anarchists' more confrontational tactics were not productive. Chicago police surrounded the anti-pit protesters but did not advance; the protesters dispersed without incident. The fervor of the "Stop the War on the People!" protest demonstrates the fervor of the activists who have descended upon Chicago to make their voices heard at the DNC. For more information about other events planned, contact Countermedia at email@example.com.
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