Cops: 150,000 march for immigration rights

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The CTA is not having any delays out of the usual due to the immigration march during the evening commute, spokeswoman Wanda Taylor said around 6 p.m.

"Throughout the day we had personnel monitoring the situation," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, a Metra spokeswoman also said although they had estimated an additional 4,000 riders coming to downtown on their trains, there hadn't been any train delays tonight.

"It's not anything that we couldn't handle," said spokeswoman Meg Reile. "But we were prepared if we would have had to deploy extra equipment."

From Dan P. Blake


Most of the crowd was leaving Grant Park and boarding buses, but some stuck it out despite the increasingly high winds. Carmelo Sanchez, a 41-year-old factory worker from Pilsen, huddled with his wife and five children under a protest sign to listen to a speaker from the National of Islam.

Sanchez said he was wasn't leaving until there weren't any additional interesting speakers to listen to.

"We're not leaving yet, this is our third march. My kids need to see this," Sanchez said.

From Emma Graves Fitzsimmons


5:31 PM Julio Reveles, 22, said he sneaked into California from Mexico when he was 3.

Now living in Cicero, he credits his Catholic faith for allowing him and his family to make a better life in this country. He and some friends carried around a 50-pound Jesus figurine, surrounded by cloth flowers, to inspire other marchers.

"It's what faith is all about," Reveles said.

As Reveles left the stage at Grant Park, a group of teenage girls stopped him to take a photo. One made the sign of the cross to herself.

From Sara Olkon


5:19 PM At about 5 p.m. most of the crowd in Grant Park had left as it became chillier and windier, leaving several hundred people in front of the stage where a speaker continued to talk. Attendants folded up strollers, loaded buses and jumped on bikes to leave the rally.

Police opened traffic on Columbus Drive around the same time, telling people to stay on the sidewalks as many people started to stream from the field. The crowd appeared to be about half or a third of the size of what it had been earlier at the height of the rally.

Luis Abrego, 47, of Edgewater, left the rally early due in part to the cold. He attended the rally in Grant Park with his wife and 15-year-old son.

"It's great how many people came out to show support," he said. "It was a lot bigger earlier."

From Emma Graves Fitzsimmons and Angela Rozas


4:59 PM: Luis Badillo, a construction worker from Cicero, took to the stage in Grant Park to sing protest songs. The 46-year-old played classical guitar and sang "Salgo a la Calle" ("I Take to the Street").

He came to the country 25 years ago from Mexico. He thinks the raids are nothing but attempts to intimidate immigrants. "I think the government is feeding fear in our community," Badillo said.

After addressing the crowd, Ron Power, president of Local 881/United Food and Commercial Workers, said: "I think it's inspiring to think this many people would show up. The power of the people rises. Elected officials need to realize they can't discriminate against people who support the community. It has to stop."

From Sara Olkon


4:53 PM: One of the speakers late this afternoon was Saul Arellano, the young son of activist Elvira Arellano, who took refuge in a Humboldt Park church in August 2006 to avoid deportation for entering the country illegally.

In a shy, tiny voice, Saul Arellano took to the stage in Grant Park and said in Spanish, "I'm an American citizen here fighting so that my mom isn't deported. I want her to remain with me and it's not fair to deport our parents."

From Sara Olkon


4:38 PM: Police are estimating the crowd at 150,000, said police Deputy Supt. Charles Williams. There were two arrests along the route for graffiti at the 1300 block of West Washington Boulevard, but Williams said police are still trying to determine whether the suspects were associated with the march.

"It was a very peaceful crowd. They were able to march safely, get the message out," Williams said.

Meanwhile, Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Raymond Orozco said there were two people treated for medical emergencies: one declined to go to the hospital and the second person was taken from the march to be treated for nausea.

From Angela Rozas


4:36 PM: Additional Metra employees will be on hand at stations during rush hour to assist with the estimated additional 4,000 people they expect to be using the trains after the immigration rally in Grant Park, a Metra official said.

"We're monitoring the situation and we'll make adjustments accordingly if we need to," said Judy Pardonnet, a METRA spokeswoman.

She said no additional trains have been added, but several dozen employees have been assigned to stations to assist people who are unfamiliar with the trains.

From Mary Owen


4:18 PM: At 4 p.m., the crowd started dispersing and heading from Michigan Avenue to Columbus and Jackson. They're leaving in droves while a speaker at the podium was talking.

It's hard to tell if the tail end of the marchers got to Grant Park or if the majority of the crowd is leaving. Many people are going back to their cars and buses at Union Park.

From Johnathon E. Briggs


4:01 PM: People were still streaming in to Grant Park as of 3:30 p.m., with a core group of several thousand gathering near the main stage, chanting, cheering, and waving flags and signs.

Thousands more ringed Hutchinson Field, listening to the speakers, sitting in the grass, and tending to children.

In his brief remarks to the crowd, Mayor Richard Daley said the march represented "the people's message that we want common sense immigration reform."

Pointing at the city's skyline, Daley said Chicago is a city "built by immigrants."

"It is being built by immigrants, in the past, present and future," Daley said.

"We will not be deterred, we want a compromise, by the 2016 Olympic games in Chicago, we want it now," Daley said.

From Antonio Olivo


3:34 PM: On the corner of Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard, there was dueling signage.

Englewood resident Brett Hardy, 38, carried a sign stating "I support all immigrants who come here the right way, but …" On the back of the sign, it continued, "no illegal immigrants should claim a right to stay."

Standing to his right was Orlando Camacho, 20. His sign read, "He's misinformed" with an arrow pointing to Hardy.

Hardy, a construction worker, said he felt compelled to make a statement. He also passed out a poem called "Pardon Me?" that he wrote. Parts of the poem read, "If you sneak into this country, YOU'RE A CRIMINAL" and "Can the U.S. claim to be among the world's elite with illegal aliens protesting in the street?"

"I'm just saying what I feel," said Hardy, whose aunt has been trying unsuccessfully for 18 months to come to the U.S. from Senegal. "I'm not racist by any means."

Camacho, an Art Institute of Chicago student, was supposed to be working on his etchings and water colors in preparation for an exhibit. He said after he saw Hardy he found some cardboard and made a sign.

"I was just too upset to let that go," said Camacho, a 20-year-old Mexican American.

From Johnathon E. Briggs


3:15 PM: Dominick Taldone watched the march by default. The 38-year-old owner of Transmission Specialists and three co-workers stood outside the shop doors at 840 W. Washington Blvd., smack in the middle of the route to Grant Park.

"We anticipated that work would stop," due to the marchers keeping customers away, he said, his arms folded across his chest. "I don't have a choice."

The son of Italian immigrants, Taldone said he supports the marchers' right to demonstrate but said he draws the line at illegal entry to the country.

"I don't think it's too hard to file the paperwork," he said. "The law is the law."

From Sara Olkon


3:07 PM: As marchers continued to stream into Grant Park, Chicago Police spokeswoman Monique Bond estimated the total crowd, including those still en route to the rally, as 100,000 to 150,000.

From Angela Rozas


1:51 PM: As marchers walked eastbound on Washington Boulevard, business owners poked their heads out in curiosity.

At the Donald Young Gallery near Sangamon Street, employees Brennan Wadlington and Tiffany Tummalla came outside to watch the parade.

"I'm surprised at the number of people this year," Wadlington said. "I heard it was going to be less, but it looks like the same amount of people (as last year) if not more."

Tummalla said the march had sparked a conversation between them about immigration. "I've been looking it up on the Internet and getting more details on the issue," she said.

From Johnathon E. Briggs


1:41 PM: Tens of thousands of protesters—many of them waving American flags—streamed out of Union Park this afternoon to start the three-and-a-half mile trek through downtown Chicago.

From Associated Press


1:37 PM: The rally in Union Park is over and the main march is about to begin. The crowd is assembling in the southeast corner of Union Park. The crowd appears smaller than at the two biggest rallies last year, with several thousand demonstrators present. But marchers are still pouring in.

From Antonio Olivo


1:30 PM: About 20,000 to 25,000 people are in Union Park, according to Harrison Area Police Commander Christine Kolman.

Marchers from Benito Juarez High School have arrived at the park, but marchers from the other meeting point have yet to arrive.

Kolman said she expects that even more people will skip Union Park and go directly to Hutchinson Field in Grant Park, where a rally is scheduled.

From Angela Rozas


1:29 PM: Traffic was backed up for three to four blocks at about 1 p.m. near Ashland Avenue and Lake Street as people flooded out of the Ashland Green Line train stop and headed toward Union Park.

Koe Rada was sitting in his Chevrolet pick-up truck on Lake Street as he waited for cars to move. He said he didn't expect the back-ups due to the march.

Nonetheless, the pet cemetery employee said "I hope this works out for them, we're all immigrants."

From Johnathon E. Briggs


1:10 PM: Gerardo Flores was helping unload 16 pallets of bottled water for marchers near the intersection of Racine Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

Flores estimated the truck held some 17,000 bottles that would be handed out for free. Flores, 38, said he came from Mexico 18 years ago. Now the father of four young kids, he is supporting his family on $300 a week he makes doing odd jobs: "Anything — sweeping, cleaning, whatever," he said.

He said he often feels powerless to negotiate better pay. "They tell us, 'You have no papers, you have no rights,'" Flores said.

From Sara Olkon


1:07 PM: As hundreds of people walked north along Ashland Avenue toward Union Park, police were shutting down intersections to traffic to allow the marchers to pass. The procession was relegated to the sidewalk because the marchers did not have a permit to be in the street.

The procession was causing some traffic tie-ups at major intersections, frustrating some motorists.

Sitting in his van at the corner of Ashland and Roosevelt Road, Joseph Johnson complained he had been waiting for more than 10 minutes for the crowd to go by.

"Why are they stopping traffic?" Johnson said. "They could let the traffic go awhile, let the march go awhile."

Others were more patient. Melbalenia Evans, who was sitting in her car about two vehicles ahead of Johnson, said she had no problem waiting.

"I think the people who are marching are marching for the right to remain in this country and have a way of life," Evans said. "They have every right to make their voices heard."

From Angela Rozas


12:59 PM: As of about noon, crowds were streaming into Union Park, where people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder and searching for spots in the grass.

Andy Thayer, 47, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, was painting a huge blue-cloth banner in preparation for the march. Thayer said gays and lesbians are in a unique position to understand the immigration issue.

"We know what it's like to be discriminated against," Thayer said. "We can't ask for solidarity if we don't extend it to others."

Thayer said a lot of gay and lesbian couples are bi-national, and have to go to other countries to naturalize their partners. He said a good friend of his had to go to Denmark to do just that.

"As she put it, 'I can bring my dog into the country but I can't bring my partner,'" Thayer said.

Alie Kabba, president of United African Organization, said the city's African immigrant community was mobilized for the cause, including two large African cab driver associations.

Dressed in spectacles and a tie-dyed African dashiki, Kabba, of Sierra Leone, stood out among the Latinos as he took the stage at Union Park, but said all people should be united on this issue.

"We stand together to send a clear message, end all raids and deportations now," Kabba said, drawing a cheerful roar from the crowd. "We call upon all people of conscience to support this new civil rights of the 21st Century."

Among those listening to Kabba was Rafal Jasiak, 30, a fishmonger at a local grocery store who was spending his only day off attending the rally.

"We came to stand with other ethnic groups, we came to stand for the American dream," said Jasiak, wearing a White Sox shirt draped with a red-and-white Polish flag. "We are doing jobs that Americans won't do. We want to stay so we can be part of American society."

From Johnathon E. Briggs


12:43 PM: In Union Park, Chicago resident Glahira Diaz, 49, said she believes that the march will spark important debate about immigration.

"Before it wasn't talked about," said Diaz as she waited for the march to begin. "This is done so there can be change … The marches work. We are a force and we want things to get better."

Factory worker Cruz Canales, 32, said he came out to show support fair immigration laws.

"I come to support the people," Canales said. "The people unite to bring legality for all."

From Ofelia Casillas


12:15 PM: Some marchers opted out of going to the meeting points early today and skipped ahead to Union Park to get a good spot in the march line. The march is slated to start at Union Park and finish in Grant Park.

Armando Rivera, 33, and his friends met up at the Benito Juarez High School meeting point. But they decided at about noon to take the Ashland No. 9 bus directly to Union Park to ensure they get a spot in the front of the march line.

"We just don't want to wait," said Rivera, a Belize native from Kenosha, Wis., who has been in the U.S. for 15 years. "We want to get there ahead of the crowd. We don't want to be in the back."

From Angela Rozas


12:00 PM: Cow bells clanged on mini-ice cream trucks and ranchero music blasted over loudspeakers. Several young men wrapped themselves in American flags.

Hornorio Ramirez, 50, fashioned his own political message, taking a black Sharpie to a white T-shirt. He wrote on the front side: "I came to work." On the back: "In God we trust."

He and his wife and three sons came from Mexico 10 years ago, "to make a better life," Ramirez said.

A construction worker, he specializes in window installation and lives on the South side. He said he is hopeful there will be change for the better. "We can speak out and we can vote."

Josh Noehrenberg, 25, of Lombard, showed up carrying a red and black anarchy flag, a skateboard and the book "The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism" by Todd May. "These people are being exploited in a very real way," said Noehrenberg, a political science major at Roosevelt University, referring to low-income workers.

From Sara Olkon


11:54 AM: Buses from surrounding schools began arriving outside Benito Juarez High School this morning, including one with a group of African-American students who were joining the march as a field trip.

Shika Johnson, 14, a freshman at Little Village World Language school on the Southwest Side, said she supported the marchers.

"It's a good cause to support all the people," Johnson said. "Most of all of our friends are from different places … if there weren't immigrants here then Chicago wouldn't be the same."

From Angela Rozas


11:50 AM: The festival-like atmosphere continues at Union Park as average people start taking the stage to talk about the importance of fair immigration laws.

In the middle of all this, Capt. Sailor Pants—a woman dressed as a clown pirate—watches the festivities as she smokes a cigarette. The woman—wearing stripped leggings, a sailor's cap and clown make-up—said she represented "Clowns in Action."

"I'm here because I am unhappy with the raids," said Capt. Sailor Pants, who declined to give her real name. "There is a whole community of clowns who are unhappy. We like to celebrate, but at times like this, it doesn't feel like as much of a possibility to celebrate."

Flag seller Maria Cuevas, 56, of Chicago, came to march but brought some American and Mexican flags to sell. She said she's a legal resident, who works temporarily cleaning offices and homes, and has been in the U.S. for 30 years.

"I came to march, but while I'm here why not sell," she said. "When they go, Ill put these away and go to walk."

From Antonio Olivio


11:28 AM: Guadalupe Vazquez, 80, came to Union Park in a wheelchair, with help from her son. A U.S. citizen since 1967, the Mexican native brought a corn tortilla filled with beans and fried eggs, water and an orange. She planned to make a day of it.

"It's important for me because I am Latina and I want to support my brothers and sisters," Vazquez said in Spanish. "They are suffering. Their families are being separated over paper."

She wore a large gold Cross necklace and walking shoes. She said she hoped to walk at least part of the march. "More than anything I feel it in my heart," she said of her desire to demonstrate for immigrants' rights.

From Sara Olkon


11:18 AM: Near Benito Juarez High School in the Pilsen neighborhood, groups of people were lining up along Ashland Avenue, waiting to march north to Union Park, many wearing homemade T-shirts and waving American and Mexican flags.

Carmen Montes, 17, of Berwyn, was readying to march with her two brothers and her mom. She said her family came to the U.S. legally from Chihuahua, Mexico, when she was 2, but her visa has since expired.

"We came to let the people out there know that we want amnesty, we want equal rights for the Mexicans," said Montes, wearing a T-shirt with hand-painted red and blue letters reading, "They can't deport us all."

Montes said her family is hardworking and avoids trouble, but she still is afraid of being sent back to Mexico.

"It's like fear, it's scary knowing that one of these days they might come for us," Montes said. "This is my life here. I've grown up here. Staying in America is freedom for me, you can do what you want, you can live the American dream, have a job."

Ignacio Puentes, 15, who planned to march with friends, said he had to convince his parents to let him take the day off of school.

"I'm here to support our people first of all," Puentes said. "I'm here to support the families. How can they separate families between here and Mexico? They're just breaking up families by taking their parents."

From Angela Rozas


11:12 AM: About 500 people have already gathered at Union Park waiting for the 12:30 activities to begin there. In a festival-like atmosphere, people ate ice cream and listened to the Spanish-language radio show, "El Pistolero," which was broadcasting live and encouraging folks to come out.

Vendors sold $1 American flags. A guy strummed his guitar with friends. People enjoyed the sun. Signs declared: "No families separated. No child left behind," "Legalization for everyone," and "We may not have it all together but all together we can have it all. "

Many folks said they skipped the two marches and came directly to Union Park.

Samuel Salgabo, 46, came from Elgin and brought an American flag with the words, "United We Stand" at the bottom. It was made by the flag-making company he works for after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Born in Mexico, Salgabo is in the United State legally, but has been waiting for more than 20 years for citizenship.

"Its' frustrating," he said. "I don't know why it's taking so long."

He predicting this year's march would be big because of the Little Village raids. He said people "have nothing to be afraid of to come out."

Palmiera Garcia, 17, came with her sister, Brisa Garcia, 19, and her niece, Natalie. Palmiera Garcia, who attends Morton East High School in Cicero, said she skipped school to attend the rally. She said Morton East students staged a walk-out to attend the march.

"A lot of people have been talking about this," Palmiera Garcia said as sat on a bench near the fieldhouse.

From Antonio Olivo


11:07 AM: Four yellow school buses from Waukegan's Holy Family Church pulled up at the corner of Washington Street and Ashland Avenue and unloaded more than 200 marchers, many of them entire families.

They came out carrying red, white and blue banners that read: "Justice & dignity for all U.S. immigrants."

Ricky Garfias, 30, a truck driver who said he is undocumented, said he came out because he wanted "people to know that we are all together and to stop the separation of families."

He said he participated in last year's rally as well.

From Johnathon E. Briggs


10:59 AM: Armando Rios, 53, is doing a brisk business in American flags. He arrived in Union Park at 7 a.m., and by 10:30 he had sold $300 worth, ($1 for tiny flags, $5 for medium, $10 for large.)

A native of Mexico, he normally drives an ambulance. "Banderas! Banderas" he yelled over the sound of a beating drum, a news helicopter, someone playing "Taps" and the chant, "Si se puede!" (Yes we can)

Cab driver Derege Abebe, 37, dropped a passenger off at Union Park but vowed to return to march later this afternoon. "People who work very hard all their life -- just because they don't have no paper? They should have a chance. They deserve to live and work in peace," said Abebe, a native of Ethiopia, who said he has lived in Chicago 21 years.

From Sara Olkon


10:30 a.m.: Union Park was getting crowded with about 1,000 people already there. More were arriving every minute by CTA buses, trains and school buses. Signs reading "Let families stay families" and "America, can you do without us?" were being held high.

Vendors selling flags, bottled water, cotton candy and ice cream were doing an active business. One of them was Jasmine Landa, 23, who said she is an undocumented immigrant from Los Angeles who was visiting her sister. The pair of them decided they could make some money by selling flags, and Landa had a shopping cart filled with 40 large and small U.S. flags and a few Mexican ones, selling at two for $5 for the small ones, $10 for the large ones.

"I think it's a good thing to do," she said. "They're not like terrorists like some people say." She said she hoped to use her share to go to college and become a medical technician.

From Johnathon E. Briggs


9:09 AM: Police officers have also begun setting up crowd control barricades along the demonstration route, which is expected to draw thousands of marchers.

The event will begin with two feeder marches, one departing from Pilsen and another from Humboldt Park, to Union Park on the Near West Side.

From there, around 1:30 p.m., demonstrators will head toward Grant Park via Washington Street, Desplaines Street and Jackson Boulevard, police officials said.

Organizers say people are coming from Joliet, Rockford and northern Indiana.

Organizers are hoping to mimic last year's rally when 400,000 flag-waving, chanting participants gathered in theheart of downtown.

Chicago police, anticipating today's march will be larger than first expected, announced Monday that demonstrators will be rerouted to Grant Park instead of Daley Plaza, where the rally had been scheduled to take place.

Police attributed the 11th-hour switch to public safety concerns, after anger over a bust at an alleged fake-ID business in Little Village last week stirred up emotions surrounding the march.

From Tribune reporters and AP

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