"We won't back down!" sign says. pic.twitter.com/lvJgIfWjsg— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) February 16, 2017
CHICAGO — A rally demonstrating solidarity with immigrants living and working in Chicago shut down city streets during its march from Union Park through the Loop to Federal Plaza as part of a national day of action dubbed "A Day Without Immigrants."
By some estimates, at least 1,000 immigrants and allies were gathered in Union Park on Thursday morning before the rally began its journey Downtown, heading south on Ashland Avenue, then cutting east on Jackson Boulevard, blocking traffic along the way.
The marchers spread throughout the street, carrying banners, flags and signs while chanting. They walked to Federal Plaza, where speakers called on the country's leaders — particularly President Donald Trump — to welcome and help immigrants.
"Let me be very clear: Mr. Trump, we all make America great!" one speaker said to cheers. "If you want us to have papers, give us the papers!"
In neighborhoods across the city, local businesses, including many restaurants, closed their doors for the day so their employees would be free to participate.
Concerned that families would pull their children from school to participate in the rally, Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson sent a memo to schools across the district urging them to alert their students' parents that absences related to the protest would be marked unexcused.
"We commend students and families for supporting the issues they believe in, but hope that all parents will choose to send their children to school tomorrow so that they can continue receiving the education that will prepare them to become our country's next generation of leaders," read the memo distributed Wednesday.
The national Day Without Immigrants movement calls for supporters to boycott businesses to illustrate the financial losses that would be felt nationwide if the contributions of immigrants were excluded from the U.S. economy.
Large crowd of people marching for immigrants headed toward Federal Plaza. pic.twitter.com/e3lovAyobi— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) February 16, 2017
Chef Rick Bayless is perhaps the highest profile participant: He shuttered Frontera Grill, Xoco, Fonda Frontera and Topolobampo, which on Wednesday was the only Chicago restaurant listed as an "outstanding restaurant" semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award.
Other participating small businesses include 5 Rabanitos Restaurante and Taqueria, 1758 W. 18th St., owned by Bayless alumnus Chef Alfonso Sotelo; L'Patron, a popular family-owned Mexican restaurant in Logan Square, and Pete's Fresh Market, a local grocery chain that has several locations in the city.
In total more than 50 Chicago restaurants closed Thursday in solidarity with the protest; Eater has a full list here.