A Thousand Rally for Immigrant Rights

8/25, Sunday -- Chicago --


    "This is supposed to be a country that is for immigrants.
Well as far as i'm concerned, this land is ours, we were here
before they got here - california, arizona, all that property.
I'm still pissed about that.  The indians - that's our people." -
 participant in August 25th march who describes herself as a
"strong Latina Warrior Woman"

    "I'm never gonna turn a kid out of my classroom. I'm never
gonna turn a kid in.  I'm an educator, that's what I do. I don't
think that there's a real risk of going for prison for that, but
if there should be, I'll do it anyway." - woman at August 25th
march who will continue to teach undocumented immigrants bilingual
classes, legal or not

    Chicago, Sunday, August 25, 1996. - With signs and banners
reading "stop scapegoating immigrants" and "no one is illegal, no
borders," nearly 1,000 people took to the streets in opposition to
increasing governmental attacks on the rights of Latino people,
particularly undocumented immigrants.  There were seniors.  There
were small children.  There were Latino youth wearing ski masks
over their faces to show support for the Zapatistas, as well as
politicians in suits and ties.  There was a sizeable contingent of
anarchists along with dozens of people waving American flags.  It
was big, it was quite mixed and it was very angry.

    The protest was made up of two marches, each beginning miles
apart along a busy Chicago thoroughfare, traveling through
different neighborhoods and ending in a joint rally.  As one group
began to head out, police ordered people to remain on the
sidewalks.  It fell on deaf ears, and it didn't take long before
the crowd of more than five hundred began to pour into the
streets.  People took over the entire southbound traffic lane, and
at one point, even managed to block the entire width of the

      It had the air of a festival.  To the beat of a percussion
section, chants of Libertad! Libertad! echoed off of buildings
along the way., and shouts of "Zapatista Vive!"  Some gave a new
twist to an old rap standard - "the border, he border's on fire.
We don't need no water let the muthaf*cka burn."

    The demonstration was called by a number of organizations
including El Centro Sin Fronteras, JAvenes Rebeldes, the Illinois
Hispanic Democratic Delegation and Coordinadora '96, which is
organizing for an October 12th civil rights march to Washington
DC.  The demands raised reflected the diverse political viewpoints
present.  Some organizers stressed equal opportunities,
affirmative action and constitutional and human rights for all.
Others issued a call to open up the border to workers, and to stop
immigration raids and deportations.  There were calls to free all
political prisoners and end police brutality.  One banner demanded
justice for Jorge Guillen, a Honduran man murdered last fall by
the Chicago Police.  Taken together, it represented a powerful
indictment of the current state of affairs concerning immigrants
and Latinos.

"The US wants to use these countries for all their natural
resources and for all their labor, and move their factories down
south and pay people a fraction of what they pay here.  But then
when some people try to come across the border and get a little
peace of pie here, they want to round them all up and stick them
in a concentration camp.  It's pretty sick." - "Concerned Youth"
from Florida at the August 25th march

    To sense the mood behind the protest, one only has to take a
glance at the worsening conditions facing immigrants in this
country.   The border has become increasingly militarized by the
administration, forcing undocumented workers to take more deadly
chances to cross.  Locally and nationally, deportations have been
rising.  In the Chicago area alone, 635 workers have been arrested
this year in raids and 80% deported, while nationally, 50,000
immigrants were deported or denied entry and 1.1 million
immigrants stopped at the border.  California's Proposition 187
has become a model for immigration policy nationally - threatening
to deny medical care for immigrants and school for their children.
The House has recently voted to make English the only official
language in the U.S.  The videotaped beating of immigrants by
police at Riverside revealed the type of brutal treatment known
only too well to those crossing the border.   Through all of this
a climate of hostility and viciousness has been fanned that blames
everything from drugs, and crime to job loss on immigrants. 

    This kind of stereotyping brought a reality check from a
Latino student in the march.  To the "immigrants-just-want-that-
welfare-check" hype, he commented, "When Mexicans come over they
just come to work.  They're working class.  They're in every
kitchen in the city.  You go into an Italian restaurant, they're
making your pizza.  You go into a chinese restaurant, their making
your egg fu young.  We just come to work.  We don't come here to

    With the Democratic Convention only a day away, it was fitting
that the march made it's way toward the Democratic Convention site
in the United Center.  Clinton's aggressive pose in being "tough"
on "illegal immigration," coupled with his actions beefing up
border security has won little applause from the demonstrators.
One man commented, "Clinton is no better than Dole.  He's signing
the legislation.  He can say whatever, but it doesn't reflect the
reality of his, of the true stance."  Others kept faith with the
president, most notably the public officials at the rally who
criticized administration but declined to boycott the vote.

As the marchers drew close to the United Center, the protest
became a trial run for days to come once the Convention starts.
Most of the marchers headed off the street and into a fenced off
parking lot - what some protesters refer to as the "protest pit".
This is the only place near the United Center where the City of
Chicago will allow protest to occur.  However, at least 150 people
refused to go into the parking lot, remaining out in the street,
and calling on others to join them.  Describing herself as a
"young anarchist", a woman who had come from Seattle to protest at
the convention, felt that the importance of the issues facing
immigrants demanded that she and other demonstrators stay in the
street, "The establishment putting on this convention, wants to
keep all the people, all the dissenters in this caged area.
.....They're shooing us into a pen like cattle.  We want to have
our voice right there just like all the multimillionaires who are
running this show.  We think we have the right to be part of the
debate also." 

The Chicago Police made no effort to move people out of the
street, and just waited for the protest to end and disperse.  Over
the next few days, it will remain to be seen if they continue to
operate in that uncharacteristically passive way.

This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and community struggle in Chicago.
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