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Photos: Chicago's May Day Marches Honor History, Mock Political Leaders

By aaroncynic in News on May 2, 2017 4:10PM

Thousands converged on Union Park and later marched to Daley Plaza in the Loop Monday to celebrate International Worker’s Day, also known as May Day.

Rallies began early in the morning at multiple locations across the city. In Logan Square, neighborhood residents and students convened for a dedication ceremony designating the stretch of Kedzie Avenue from Emmett Street to Addison Street to labor organizer, firebrand, and anarchist Lucy Parsons, who marched in the first May Day demonstration in 1886.

May Day, which sees millions of workers and others march worldwide, has deep roots in Chicago. Workers in the late 19th century—many of them immigrants—built a movement demanding an eight-hour workday, and calls that sound all too familiar today for better working conditions, and changes in the larger political and economic structure of the country at the time, rampant with racism, the brutal repression of workers and income inequality. May Day marks a large general strike in Chicago which led to the Haymarket bombing, which resulted in the execution of anarchists and labor organizers tried in a kangaroo court.

"The conditions Lucy and other workers were facing that day are not too different from the conditions we're facing now," Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa told a crowd in Logan Square.

The rallies citywide—which converged on Union Park in the early afternoon—highlighted the intersections of issues facing marginalized communities across America.

“Donald Trump and the billionaire class have once again forced us out of our schools, homes, and workplaces and onto the streets to fight for our communities and loved ones,” said Juan Carlos of the Socialist Alternative at a rally in Pilsen. “Today in Pilsen, capitalism is showing its true colors through the gentrification and displacement of our community. How can we call ourselves a sanctuary city if those that need the sanctuary the most can’t afford to live here because rents are rising and our wages are not increasing with them?”

Hundreds also gathered outside the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center on Ogden and Roosevelt to call for an end to mass incarceration, alternatives to traditional policing and reimagining of conflict resolution in communities.

“The so called temporary juvenile detention center is not a temporary factor in these young people’s lives, it is a permanent factor,” said Charlene Carruthers of BYP100. “It can become a nonexistent factor if we resist, reimagine and rebuild....we can reimagine how we relate to one another. Reimagine how we deal with conflict and harm outside of institutions like that one across the street.”

The thousands of activists that converged in the park and later marched to Daley Plaza, undeterred by spats of rain and high winds, were joined by labor leaders and elected officials, among them Senator Dick Durbin, State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy, Alderman Rosa, and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Given President Donald Trump, his policies, and his supporters attitudes towards marginalized people has been a flashpoint across America it’s no surprise he was frequently called out by speakers.

"The election of Donald Trump is a challenge to all of us, whether we will stand up and speak up for our values,” said Durbin. “We’ve seen people coming together. The question is whether we will take this energy and emotion and translate it into political action to elect men and women who will stand up for the values of America.”

"We're all in this hot mess together," Lewis told the crowd in Daley Plaza. "We have to stand with one another, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder, back to back. I got yours and you got mine. No two ways around it."