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Photo Essay: Chicago Immigrant Rally

Photo Essay: Chicago Immigrant Rally

by Charles Shaw
May 5, 2006

The worm, as they say, is turning. Last Monday witnessed the largest political demonstration in Chicago's history, and the second march of 400,000 or more people I have participated in within the last two years. The spirit was high, and the people were alive, an explosion of color and culture and language and rage and civic pride, all that which a real democracy must be based upon. All peoples must rise up and fight for their rights because power concedes nothing without a demand. Our ancestors came to this country as immigrants -- some of them legal, some of them not -- and they stayed and they worked and they lived, they built this nation and they fought its wars: first the Germans, then the Irish, then the Italians and Poles and the Swedes and the Chinese, and then all the rest. And each in turn was despised for it by the ruling order. But they persevered and they earned their respect and moved their way up into the middle class to become part of the inextricable fabric of the nation, to become Americans. Two generations later, to maintain economic hegemony, we opened the borders again and called for all the best talent in the world to come and be part of the American dream. They came, they helped us become the richest nation on earth, and now they want what is theirs: a chance to pursue what all previous generations got to pursue. Their time has come. We must acknowledge these Latin and Asian tigers as a part of us, the extended zoology of American society. They have proven their worth. They deserve it.

A man on the radio last Monday decried the plan to build a wall across the Mexican border saying, “all fading Empires build walls.” We must be wary of the convenient scapegoating of the immigrant as “enemy alien.” We must not fall prey to fatuous propaganda, which says that immigrants are crushing the nation under economic hardship, that your “tax dollars” go to support “deadbeat immigrants on welfare.” Do not be so naïve. Of every tax dollar you spend, half goes to the Pentagon, and nearly $.30 goes to pay off the national debt, money none of us borrowed, but we and our children and our children’s children are stuck paying for. The remaining $.20 or so of every dollar goes for all the other Federal programs put together, which is why the US needs to borrow $2 billion a day to keep the government afloat. The biggest recipients of “welfare” in America are transnational corporations worth billions of dollars.

Lastly, let us remember that unless you are like my adopted sister, who is Ojibway, we are all immigrants to this land, and none of us possesses the moral high ground on this issue. To deny the immigrant is to deny yourself; to impugn the immigrant is to impugn yourself. So let their voices be heard! Let those chickens in to roost, let the great social experiment continue, let America evolve. It may be the only interesting, and in the end, redeeming, thing left about us.

Charles Shaw
Chicago, Illinois

“African and Puerto Rican teenagers lead a chant of “Si se puedes!”

“Two Brothers”

“Everywhere was the spirit of Che”

“Old and New Culture sharing the same message”

“The Real Message of the Day”

“Patriot. Immigrant”

“Mother and her two sons”


“The Ladies of Senegal”

“Si se puedes!”


“If for no other reason…”


Charles Shaw is a writer and political activist whose work is featured in Alternet, Alternative Press Review, Clamor, Guerilla News Network, In These Times, Scoop NZ, Newtopia, Punk Planet, Conscious Choice, 3am Magazine, The Witness, The Next American City, Orb Standard, Lumpen, and ZNet. A former political writer for Reality Check Radio, he was the founder and publisher of Newtopia Magazine, and now serves as Development Editor for The Next American City, and as a regular correspondent for Alternet, GNN, and Deadline Live. He was formerly an official with the Green Party of the US and IDEAL Reform (Illinois Drug Education and Legislation). In 2006 he served as the Media Director for BioEthics 2006 in Chicago, as a judge in the AltWeekly Awards , and as an editor for the Media Awareness Project. He lives in Chicago, and can be reached at: chuckville @

Copyright (C) 2006 Charles Shaw.

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