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Hundreds turn out for May Day rally, march in downtown Chicago

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Nearly 1,000 people turned out for a big May Day march in downtown Chicago calling for workers' rights and the rights of immigrants.

May 1 is traditionally a day of celebration of workers' rights and justice for immigrants. In recent years, the day has evolved into a platform to push for a variety of causes that can be best described as "giving voice to those who are sometimes voiceless."

"For me, it's very important, that family unity," said marcher Yolanda Villadomec. "That's the point that I always look at: family unity. We want the mother, the father, the children together as a family."

"I am 'Fighting for 15,' because I make $8.25 and that's not enough," said marcher Victor Guzman.

The first rally started at 2 p.m. in Union Park at Ashland and Lake. There was also a rally and march at the Haymarket monument on Randolph. The crowd eventually made its way to Federal Plaza for a rally that last from 4 until about 5:30 p.m.

Senator Dick Durbin addressed the crowd. He said Americans must stand together to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

Durbin told rally attendees that this is the best chance in 25 years to pass immigration legislation. He calls it "a once-in-a lifetime opportunity."

Earlier in the day, one person was apparently arrested after refusing to get out of the street and back onto the sidewalk.

"Today people are just marching around the Loop and downtown," said Occupy Chicago spokesperson Rachael Perrotta. "It's a celebratory day. We did have one arrest earlier on Michigan Avenue as the cops were sort of violently moving people out of the streets and onto the sidewalk."

May Day rallies were being held around the world and in some cases turned violent.

In Istanbul, Turkey, riot police used tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators. The marchers were trying to reach a public square that is off limits to protesters because of a renovation project.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, tens of thousands of workers gathered at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, a city landmark. A crowd estimated at more than 50,000 workers then marched towards the city's parliament building. Protests focused on demanding wage increases and the elimination of outsourcing.

Cuba has traditionally marked Workers' Day with huge parades and pro-government demonstrations. But this year things are slightly different. Political leaders are asking workers to do something they have not done since Cuba's revolution: pay taxes.

And, back in the U.S., May Day rallies caused a traffic nightmare for folks in downtown Los Angeles. Tens of thousands of demonstrators were out pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Dozens of streets were shut down and transit buses had to be rerouted. The annual march comes as Congress considers sweeping immigration legislation.

Activists also planned rallies in Bloomington and Peoria.

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