NU students join nation in ‘Day Without’

Libby Nelson

View a slideshow of the protests

Under flags of different countries and signs in Spanish and English, Northwestern students combined their voices in bilingual chants to protest an immigration bill Monday in Chicago’s business district.

The bill, currently in the House of Representatives, would toughen immigration laws and make illegal immigration a federal offense.

The students joined a march and rally that attracted nationwide attention as part of the “Day Without an Immigrant” campaign. Immigrants were encouraged not to attend work or school or make purchases and to join marches calling for immigration reforms.

According to police estimates, the crowd totaled about 400,000. Because students arrived in separate groups, Northwestern participation estimates are inexact and range from 50 students to about 200. Those who went said they were amazed by the size of the crowd.

“It’s almost impossible to comprehend how many people were there,” McCormick junior Kyle Schafer said. “We were early in at the march, and an hour and a half (after arriving at Grant Park), people were still coming and coming. They were still coming when we left.”

The march started at Union Park at about 11 a.m. and continued to Grant Park, Schafer said. Marchers then attended a rally, with speakers including members of Congress and religious leaders. The march remained orderly and no arrests were made, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Alianza co-president Lijia Evariz said Alianza began organizing more than a week ago by passing out flyers to generate interest. The group then held a meeting Sunday night to answer questions about immigration laws and go over plans for Monday’s march.

“There seemed to be a lot of support (on campus),” said Evariz, a Weinberg junior. “People wanted to know more, to be informed. We got responses with questions to our listserv e-mails, which is always a good sign.”

Communication sophomore Angelica Gonzalez went downtown with a friend and marched part of the way before returning to NU for on-campus obligations. Many NU students could not stay for the entire event, which lasted from the beginning of the march at 11 a.m., to about 5 p.m.

“It was my first protest, and it felt like everyone was on the same side, working together,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone was from different backgrounds, but they were all shouting in Spanish and waving signs.”

Schafer said he had been involved with many protests in the past, especially antiwar protests, but the only one that could compare to Monday’s was the March for Women’s Lives in April 2004, an abortion rights march in Washington D.C. that drew more than 750,000 protesters.

“This wasn’t just people who could afford to travel to D.C. for a weekend,” Schafer said. “There were thousands of people who left work, left school to show people that they’re not just going away. It was really powerful to see communities usually marginalized and to be out there standing as an ally with them.”

While many of the NU students marching were Latino, other multicultural groups also distributed information for the march. McCormick senior Ben Hernandez, who led a group from Latino fraternity Omega Delta Phi, said that support on campus was high even among non-marchers.

“It’s incredibly difficult to sacrifice one hour, two hours – let alone a whole day – to march,” Hernandez said.

“If you didn’t go, it’s not always that you don’t care.”

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