Chicago’s May Day Takes the Streets

May Day(Photos: Mario Garcia-Baeza)The birthplace of May Day celebrated the workers’ holiday Tuesday with an Occupy-led action against Bank of America and a thousand-strong march chanting for immigrant rights and justicia for the 99 percent.

“Unionize, Organize, Papeles Para Todos [Papers for All]” was the slogan of this year’s May Day, bringing together two traditional strongholds of the march in Chicago – immigrant rights and labor.

The morning started out with an Occupy-led action, small in numbers but big in ambition, which attempted to block the entrance of a Bank of America branch in downtown Chicago.

A number of activists tried to enter the bank before they were stopped by police on bikes, and while the police surrounded the entrance, between five and eight protesters sat on the ground chanting “Bank of America, Bad for America,” and “Hey, let’s face it, these banks are f-ing racist.”

As other Occupy Chicago members attempted to enter the bank, protesters yelled sarcastically: “we’re trying to vote with our money.”

May Day

Many movement-watchers were speculating how the May Day march would play out considering the combination of anticipation for the NATO summits, the Adbusters call for 50,000 strong to come to Chicago and Emanuel’s “Sit Down and Shut Up” protest ordinance.

Observers told Truthout they were pleased with the breadth of the march, which included Occupy activists, immigrant rights groups, student and foreclosure activists and groups focusing on particular struggles in Chicago.

Anthony Rayson, who is working against the building of an immigration detention center on the south side of Chicago, said that “immigrant rights are workers rights, and it is the right of workers to live their life and not be struck in prison and away from your loved ones. That is why we are marching.”

Martin Cervantes, a car wash worker organizing with the Arise Chicago workers center, said he came out for the same reason: “I’m here with my comrades, fighting for the cause. We are looking for an immigration proposal.”

The Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education was marching for students as workers.

May Day

“Grad students now have a higher workload than most tenured professors,” said Tim Aumiller, a graduate of DePaul University and Occupy Chicago activists, “but they are not recognized as workers by the National Labor Relations Board.”

And for undergrads, said Arielle Amiri, an undergraduate at DePaul, it’s important to remember “students are workers too,” especially consider that many students work their way through university.

Arielle Amiri, an undergraduate at DePaul, said that it’s important to remember “students are workers too,” especially considering that many students work their way through university.

The police presence was not noticeably larger than during other May Day protests, though the march was dogged by two helicopters overhead.

May Day

Whether the militarized red zone, which some reports said was going to begin on May 1st, while others denied it, would interfere with the march was not apparent as of this writing.

Andy Thayer, an organizer with CANG8, speaking during the initial speakers, told the assembled crowd that it was important to connect the NATO summits with the goals of May Day marches.

“We reject a president that has deported millions of our brethren,” said Thayer, “and who is fighting imperial wars abroad.”

Last but not least, Chicago’s May Day march took a moment to remember the history of May Day, kneeling ( for the memory of those who lost their lives fighting for the 8-hour day.