CHICAGO — Thousands of activists and teachers marched and rallied on Monday for May Day, using the holiday created by organized labor to decry policies led by President Trump as well as state and local pols.
The May Day festivities began Monday morning with rallies at four public schools across the city. Chicago Fight for 15 and Black Youth Project 100, among other activist groups, led a rally for youth justice at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Immigrant rights groups rallied in Union Park before a citywide march to the Daley Center for a closing rally.
At the rally, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis spoke, as did a variety of leaders representing labor, pro-immigrant, LGBTQ and environmental groups.
"What matters is that we are all human beings," said Lewis. "I don't care what your country of origin is. You're here now. So let's work together now."
After the rally, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council led marchers along Clark and Wacker Streets where they reconvened outside Trump Tower.
"The people united will never be defeated," some chanted.
"We're a neighborhood of immigrants and we've come together today to show solidarity between workers and immigrants," Patrick Brosnan, executive director of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said. "Immigrants are the backbone of this country and so we need to be able to protect them."
Earlier, the CTU said in a statement that a "May Day Coalition" comprised of more than 100 activist groups would speak out against "the rise of racist attacks" in Chicago as well as defend immigrants against threats of deportation, call for more investment in public education and "fair housing."
"We have an opportunity to not just resist policies of oligarchs like Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner, but to build a stronger labor movement ... a movement that doesn't just include organized labor, but a broader coalition that will fight for social and economic justice," Bob Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said in a statement last month.
The teachers previously decided not to officially walk out of work Monday due to a mid-year budget crisis that threatened to close schools three weeks early. Any teachers who participate in the rallies are using personal or sick time off, the teachers' union says.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised Friday that schools would finish out the school year as scheduled, but has yet to reveal a specific plan.
The first day of May has been associated with the labor movement since the 1880s, when the deadly 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago shined a light on workers' rights. Police broke up a meeting of the eight-hour-workday movement on May 4, 1886 in the area now known as the West Loop. At least 11 people including seven police were killed after a bomb was thrown and officers started shooting at the crowd. The bombing was blamed on anarchists not affiliated with either side.
May Day has shared a date with International Workers' Day since.
Trump's ascent to the White House as well as the "persistent budget crisis in Illinois, the continued lack of police accountability and the crisis of public education in Chicago disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx youth," is driving Monday's protests, the May Day Coalition says.