Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

LOCAL News :: Labor : Protest Activity

Initial Account of 150,000-worker May Day 2007

150,000 Workers March in Chicago’s May Day
Click on image for a larger version

Breaking out of the Loop
Some youth bring a more radical perspective.
Luchador Drum Corps
A great brass-and-drum crew
The only Minuteman to make it
A morning press conference by CAAELII
One of several puppets
In the most recent in a series of national protests for the rights of immigrant workers, Chicagoans organized what was easily the largest May Day march in the country yesterday. This is a second helping of the massive resurgence of International Workers Day in this country, though here protest organizers dubbed it as International Working Families Day to keep their focus on how deportations, raids, and other attacks divide immigrant families. Led by disabled activists in wheelchairs and young children in strollers, the march sent a powerful message of continued resistance and workers solidarity.

An increased concentration on patriotism and families was met by a large concern with raids, including the armed daytime paramilitary actions in Little Village last week. Protesters kept their spirits up, and at one point a series of more than a dozen waves swept a section of tens of thousands of marchers. Rows would all sit down one by one, before standing up with their signs or arms in the air, an amazing activity to watch either from up high or inside.

The focus on U.S. flags and white t-shirts was very apparent, but small pockets took on a different approach, as with several drum circles, including one decked out in Mexican luchador masks, and others backed up by brass sections. These folks felt it was important to bring tradition, dynamism, and flair into a struggle that most of them felt transcended legislation and small reforms. Some, especially among high school-age participants, preferred to cover themselves as a reference to the Zapatistas, or represent Che on t-shirts, flags and banners. But all of this was in the shadow of the much more prevalent attitude of draping people in the symbols of their adopted country.

The Basics

The day began with a more than three hour rally at Union Park, in the heart of a union district full of the headquarters of many of the city’s locals, at ten o’clock in the morning. At half past noon, two feeders from a south side Mexican neighborhood and a north side Puerto Rican neighborhood would march toward this initial rally, and upon their arrival the big march would begin. The main march went a little more than a mile east on Washington to Des Plaines, where the Chicago Federation of Labor’s Haymarket rally fed in, and south on Des Plaines to Jackson. Another turn east on Jackson for a little over a mile took the march to Grant Park for a second three to four hour rally.

By the Numbers

In the middle of the march, pig Commander Ralph Chizewski begins to estimate the crowd around at least thirty to forty thousand, and then fumbles himself up to a total estimate of seventy-five thousand. His estimates are never sharp, and the capitalist news seems to have settles on one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000).


This was perhaps the most patriotic showing yet, worse than some of last year’s increasing tastelessness. The US flags vastly overwhelmed any other flags, with very few Mexican flags and extremely rare red Che flags, red flags and red-and-black flags. One group brought an assortment of national flags from around the world, but their contingent was led by a flag of the Olympics, a sell-out gesture of pride in this city while some Black activists are protesting the very same idea. Much of this was the fruit born of more conservative elements like El Pistolero and other Spanish-language radio show hosts. The flags were complemented by more frequent than usual chants of “U-S-A!” Someone unaware of the date might have thought it was the Fourth of July.

Three feeder marches started in different parts of the city later than last year, when I was able to drop in on what were then two of them. This was an especially poor choice by the Chicago Federation of Labor and other unions that held a rally at the Haymarket statue. Last year they held a smaller rally after the big march, but this year they had publicized a rally there two and a half hours before the march was set to begin, which would have allowed them enough time to march to the initial rallying point of the big march, and allowed folks like myself to participate as well. Only two days before May Day, they contacted their people with the decision that they were moving their Haymarket rally later by another one and a half hours, and would feed into the big march as it passed- missing half of the marching. They did bring out somewhat larger numbers this year, but it was still a feeble effort compared to union strength here.

Finally, the evening before the march, the capitalist news explained that the closing rally point had moved from Daley Plaza (the symbolic heart of the city and the downtown, and surrounding or nearby the city, county, and state government buildings) to Grant Park. Many activists were frustrated by this revelation, but the newspaper the next morning explained it better. The Chicago Tribune accurately reported that the police had made the decision the day before May Day, and the organizers had tried to reject it, holding out for the originally planned Daley Plaza. The police refused to budge, and organizers felt that they had no choice but to give in, though organizer Jorge Mujica was right in the newspapers when he argued it would cause confusion, when thousands of would-be participants showed up at Daley Plaza after the march was supposed to have been over.

Why would Daley Plaza have been better than Grant Park? Firstly, the other two largest demonstrations (both in this movement and in city history) went to Federal Plaza or Grant Park, so the third truly massive march taking people to Daley Plaza would have been different. Daley Plaza offers symbolism, much more visibility, and a greater concentration of protesters. Grant Park lacks all symbolism, is far enough away from pedestrians, traffic and buildings, and in the past many protesters dispersed before reaching the rally, or remained very spread out. Further, while Daley Plaza is surrounded by large buildings, Grant Park offers no respite from the elements, and both a burning sun and strong winds beat down on protesters during that closing rally. Finally, and this can partly be solved by simply shortening the closing rally, the quicker dispersal of protesters meant that musical acts and speakers that were farther back on the roster either went on with a tiny audience or were booted all together.

Also, Daley sucks and shouldn’t have been allowed to speak. He can go to a painful Hell. When I think about smashing the state these days, my first thought is of smashing his stupid nose.

More still to come

I conducted a series of brief interviews with participants, and took many pictures, all of which I will post in coming days. Until then, keep celebrating May Day!



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