DOWNTOWN — More than 100 activists charged down Washington Street Thursday for The March of Civil Rights of Immigrants, calling for unconditional amnesty for undocumented immigrants across the country.
Accompanied by a police escort, the protesters waved banners and chanted anti-deportation slogans aimed at national figures like President Barack Obama and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Starting in Union Park on the Near West Side, the march crossed into the Loop and ended at the Thompson Center, where speakers took turns excoriating leaders who support deporting undocumented immigrants.
The march was planned for the 10-year anniversary of a massive multi-city series of immigrant marches, which saw 300,000 protesters march in Chicago alone. That the event unfolded the day before Donald Trump was scheduled to hold a rally at UIC Pavilion, said organizer Carlos Arango, was an added bonus.
"Today is really about setting an agenda for civil rights, calling on all our leaders to stop deportations and stop the attacks on our families," said Arango, director of the Alianza Por Derechos De Inmigrantes. "But Trump and his racism are really helping put the issue in context, and showing why it's so important for us to stop these forces."
The same group held a major protest the last time Trump was in Chicago, speaking at a City Club luncheon in June.
The billionaire, who announced his candidacy last year by referring to immigrants as criminals and rapists, became a target of Thursday's march and was the subject of multiple chants, like "Trump, racist, you've made our list." But the activists also took aim at President Obama, who kicked off renewed deportation raids earlier this year.
"We have to call on the government to start making real changes, because we're still looking at eight years of broken promises," said Kim Ziyavo, a reverend from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Little Village. "Obama campaigned on immigration reform, and he ended up deporting more people than any other president in history. We don't want it to happen again."
While unconditional amnesty for undocumented immigrants may seem extreme in the context of a heated national debate over immigration, protester Victor Cortes called it a moral imperative.
"We're talking about families, about people who are working and contributing to making this country a better place," Cortes said. "We just think it's fair that those people are given legal status and accepted into society."
"People like to blame immigrants for all of the country's problems, but our message to them is that we're not taking it anymore," he added. "We're not gonna be your scapegoat."
The march culminated in a rally at the Thompson Center, which saw a lineup of local Latino leaders decrying the anti-immigrant sentiment propelled into the national spotlight during this year's presidential election.
"Ten years ago, we marched against a full-frontal attack led by people trying to criminalize immigrants," said organizer Omar Lopez to loud cheers. "Since then, the suffering has continued, and all that hatred has a new name: Donald Trump. Today, we're fighting back."
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