8/25, Sunday -- Chicago -- 1,000 RALLY FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS "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 street. 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 lounge. 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.
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