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May 1st March: "We Will Continue"

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May 1st March: "We Will Continue"

More than 150,000 people turned out for Chicago’s immigration rally Tuesday.

It was the biggest turnout in the country, dwarfing rallies in New York and LA.

Even so, it was much smaller than last year’s march here that drew about half a million people.

Chicago Public Radio’s Catrin Einhorn reports.
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The message this year was the same: legalization for undocumented immigrants and a moratorium on raids and deportations.

The mostly Latino crowd looked the same, too: whole families wearing white to symbolize peace and unity, groups of men who work together and all got—or took—the day off.

People carried US flags and wore flag bandanas.

One flag was carefully draped over a stroller to shield the baby inside from the sun.

TAPE: VIOLIN AND SINGING

Maria McCollough and Jillian Hicks were there with a pair of violins. They say they met Irma Contreras and her 19 year old daughter on the train on they way to the march.

The group ended up walking and singing together.

TAPE: POST SINGING

CONTRERAS: I’m American citizen, but I do support all the immigrants, because they deserve the right thing, they deserve a legalization.

Contreras says she marched last year.

Massive marches across the country in 2006 failed to convince lawmakers to act on demands to legalize undocumented people.

Immigrants and their supporters at yesterday’s march said they would keep fighting.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s speech in Grant Park was short but passionate.

DALEY: We are going to keep our families united, will you please stop dividing our families! Our nation is one of compassion and understanding, and we have to understand that this country was built by immigrants! Our past, our present, and future! We will not be deterred!

But the crowd Daley spoke to was smaller than last year’s by half or more.

Rigoberto Morales and his wife came to the rally from Indiana. They’re originally from Mexico.

MORALES: Me decepcioné un poquito porque esperaba ver todavia mas gente que el año pasado. Y no estoy viendo lo que yo esperaba ver, que mas gente vinera a participar.

Morales says he’s a little disappointed because he wanted there to be even more people than last year.

He says he’s not seeing what he hoped for.

Morales and his wife blame the smaller number on raids.

Last year, Homeland Security officials announced they were stepping up enforcement against illegal immigration.

Morales and other immigrants at the march say people are scared to come out.

But others say raids HELPED the march—particularly a raid on a strip mall in Little Village last week.

It turned out that federal agents were after an alleged fake document ring, but news spread quickly of officers with rifles locking down the mall in the middle of the day.

Jorge Mujica is with the March 10th Movement, a group that was born out of the march on that day last year.

MUJICA: The military-style action by immigration last Tuesday in Little Village I think doubled the size of the demonstration today.

Mujica says this march was smaller than last year’s because fewer organizations helped plan it.

He says some groups want to focus on getting what they can out of a Congress now controlled by Democrats.

MUJICA: This year there’s many activities, different activities. There are organizations that are lobbying, organizations that are putting up billboards by the expressway, organizations dedicated all the time to citizenship or voter registration. So there are several battlefronts this year.

Another organizer wonders if more people came last year because the movement felt so new and exciting then.

He says people—both organizers and marchers—may have been more willing to drop everything for it.

But even at half the size, onlookers were moved by the demonstration.

Chris Hogan is a technician at A and A Auto Service.

HOGAN: I think what they’re doing is a great thing. Look at them. They had a sign up there that said One Nation Under God. What do you think? EINHORN: So you support what they’re asking for?
HOGAN: 110 percent.

Down the street, Vev Edwards was also watching marchers during a work break.

EDWARDS: Outstanding.
EINHORN: Why?
EDWARDS: Outstanding, I just think it shows a great unity. Just unbelievable. It reminds me of the civil rights days. And I’m like, wow, look at them.

But as impressed as she was by the march, Edwards doesn’t support its demands.

She says she believes in the law, and thinks everyone should have to follow it.

I’m Catrin Einhorn…Chicago Public Radio.

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