Sunday, March 12, 2006

Friday's Chicago Rally

Last Friday March 10th, as I worked at 33 W. Monroe, I noticed there was a demonstration happening nearby. I managed to catch a bit of what was going on, but I was far from really knowing the details. It turns out our friend Elf was there. I asked him to write a brief report and he sent me the following.

Went out to lunch on Friday and ran into...Freedom. The occasion was a march protesting several competing bills now before Congress regarding immigration. My colleague, Adam, and I wondered about so many uniformed officers as we crossed Jackson, but the Chicago downtown Loop is always filled with a police presence due to, well, it's the Loop.

It was a nice day, so we headed up Wacker to enjoy the sun while lunching on tostadas, perhaps fittingly. We watched the first wave of marchers heading down Jackson on their way to Daley Plaza. The signs and chants immediately revealed the nature of the the protest, but the specifics were still elusive until we spotted a sign with H.R. 4437 on it, one of the aforementioned immigration bills.

Soon the gaggle of marchers turned into a phalanx, then a wall. We turned the corner and saw an unceasing flood of people emerging from Union Station and beyond. Merging into the crowd, we walked several blocks, slowly segueing across Jackson to head back to work. Once safely ensconced back in the office we were regaled with ever increasing spontaneous cheers from the street below. There was a certain timbre to these shouts. They were not angry, though there was certainly \ a hint of defiance. No. This march was as much a celebration as it was a political statement.

Someone in the office mentioned the possibility of violence, not a wholly unreasonable statement given the continued swelling of the streets with, according to some, nearly 40,000 people. Yet this irked me nonetheless. One night years ago I witnessed a seething mob slowly backing away from the boiling point soon after the Rodney King incidents. Anger floated in the air like hydrogen, needing only the slightest spark to explode, which it thankfully did not. Friday was nothing at all like that. Nothing.

The crowd finally began to thin around 4:30 or so. By 5 p.m. the only signs of the event were some scattered debris and the memories, both written and personal. I thought about the angry bitter man we had heard earlier. Just as the march began, he sidled up to us and said, "Look at that: all these illegals, who refuse to speak English, waving the Mexican flag and demanding that we give them rights. Ain't America great." He ambled away, his cynicism firmly intact, as we refused to respond with anything more than quiet nods. (Another mystery here. I am as Anglo as the day is long, but Adam, whose grandparents are from Barcelona is dark-haired, and swarthy, but this man directed most of this attention to Adam. Curious.)

Still, he had a point. America is great because of events like this. Turn the tables for a moment. In what other country could thousands of American citizens, some perhaps illegally in that hypothetical country, march down a major city waving American flags and demand redress of grievances. I can't think of one. That sentiment does not necessarily help immigrants, legal or otherwise. But I think it is revealing that there were more American flags than any other nation by far. Indeed a picture from above might have been mistaken for a July 4th parade. Perhaps in 2020.

Despite the prevailing sentiments in much of this country today, I was, just like many of those marching I am sure, quite proud to be American.

Best sign: Don't Panic, We're only Hispanic.

Trib link. (Requires registration)

My question to Elf: what did the bills say that are going before Congress?

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