Thousands of demonstrators braved the sweltering heat to make their way downtown Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Despite the triple-digit heat index, scores of sweat-drenched protesters filled Daley Plaza by 11 a.m. for the “Families Belong Together” march. Chicago police estimated the crowd at more than 50,000.
Attendees spoke out against the recently rescinded policy of separating migrant family members at the U.S. border with Mexico, and others went a step further and called for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Sen. Dick Durbin called the rally “a place I had to be.” He also called for “lopping off heads” at ICE and said November will give Democrats and others urging for policy changes a microphone to do so.
“It’s cruel and incompetent,” Durbin said. “Instead of deporting gangs they’re going after, and deporting, families. The debate [on immigration policy] isn’t over. It’s just starting.”
The march was the culmination of a month of unrest brought on by a Trump administration policy that separated children from their parents and sent them to facilities around the country.
Though the policy was walked back, many at the Saturday march said the policy should never be repeated. Around noon, protesters, toting signs that said “Fire ICE” and “#EndFamilyDetention” among other slogans, took their message to ICE’s regional field office, making their way South on Clark Street to the intersection of Clark and West Congress Parkway.
There, a marching band played “The Imperial March” from “Star Wars” and protesters chanted “shame” before looping around to Daley Plaza via Dearborn Street. But they kept coming — three waves of protesters made their way past ICE offices, their chants a mix of “No justice, no peace,” “Si se puede” and the call of “Show me what America looks like” to the response “This is what America looks like.”
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The rally was among more than 700 planned marches — including some in the Chicago suburbs — that drew hundreds of thousands of people across the country on Saturday, from immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles and New York to cities in the conservative Appalachia region and Wyoming. Organizers of Chicago’s march said they expected theirs to be one of the largest in the country.
For Anel Sancen, who arrived in the United States when she was two, the rally and march were about sending a message to Trump and others in his administration.
“I’m here because I’m an immigrant — I came across the border with my parents,” Sancen said. “It’s hard to see kids separated from their families. We need to send a clear message that this can’t happen and it has to stop.”
For longtime immigrant and labor rights organizer Jorge Mujica, the call to end family separation from non-immigrant sectors of the population is an opportunity to create change at the policy level.
“Today’s march is a reflection of the general disgust at separating families, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We need to retake discussion of immigration reform and take advantage that public opinion is on our side.”
Contributing: Associated Press