Chicago – Pro-immigrant activists and students blocked traffic on Monday in front of Chicago city hall in a noisy demonstration of civil disobedience to demand the end of deportations and the associated separation of families.
Several protesters eluded the police cordon and blocked traffic by laying down in the street for several minutes until they were removed, but not before resisting and struggling with the cops.
Several arrests were made, but apart from the shouting, sirens, applause and boos from some curious passersby at the site, the situation did not escalate.
To the sound of drums and chanting "Obama escucha, estamos en la lucha" (Listen, Obama: We're in the struggle), some 600 people gathered on the esplanade of the James R. Thompson Center, which houses Illinois state government offices.
The protesters' aim was to form a human chain surrounding city hall, but they were prevented from crossing the street by police and kept at a distance.
In the earlier incident, students making up the so-called Fuerza Juventud (Youth Force) and members of the organization Familia Latina Unida/Centro Sin Fronteras announced the creation of a resistance movement against deportations that "break up our families and destroy the future of the youth."
Students from several Hispanic-majority high schools, who carried posters asking "Obama, where's the reform?" and "What happened to change?" issued a declaration stating that "our families are trying to survive in an exploitative and corrupt system."
"We can't stay with our armed crossed. We're going to resist the separation of our families," they added.
Among the first protesters to stop traffic were Salvadoran pastor Jose Landaverde and the president of Centro Sin Fronteras, Emma Lozano.
Lozano called upon President Barack Obama to use his authority to grant temporary legal status or "parole in place" to undocumented immigrants who have U.S.-born children.
Obama, she said, "deceived the Latinos to get their vote" in the 2008 presidential election and afterwards "blamed the Republicans" for not moving forward with his promised immigration reform.
In the declaration, the protests said that Obama "has the moral obligation to fulfill his promises" of immigration reform and to halt the most massive deportations in the country's history.
The demonstrators also directed their message to incoming Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who on May 16 will replace Richard M. Daley.
"If the new mayor does not join with the City Council in a unanimous decision not to cooperate with the abusive programs of the federal government, we're going to resist," they added.
An executive order signed by Daley prevails in Chicago prohibiting the police from "cooperating with and acting like immigration agents."
Chicago and Cook County, where the city is located, have declared themselves to be sanctuaries for more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants living in the area, most of them of Mexican origin.
Emanuel has declared his support for the sanctuary and promised that he will keep in place the ordinance that established it.