MAY DAY HISTORY: Chicago public school student walkouts helped galvanize March 10, 2006 immigrant rights march in Chicago. That march paved the way for the largest May Day march in Chicago, the city that gave birth to the International Workers' Holiday

The archives of Substance contain part of the untold history of Chicago's public schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. One of the most important moments in that history came in 2006, when two marches for immigrant rights galvanized Chicago and helped give birth to the movement that elected Barack Obama President of the United States. The first of those marches, on March 10, 2006, was largely ignored by America's corporate media (The New York Times didn't even report the event) — despite the fact that more than 200,000 people participated in Chicago. Even so-called "progressive" publications, such at The Nation, based their reports on what happened on what appeared in the corporate press, and because the news was largely blacked out in Chicago, Chicago's news didn't become part of the historical record.

Substance reporters counted the more than 200,000 people who took part in the March 2006 march.

Below is part of that story, as reprinted here from, our old website, from the April 2006 edition of Substance.

La Marcha’ empties schools, businesses By George N. Schmidt

It began in Chicago on March 10, 2006. The invisible suddenly became visible. By the time it had worked its way across the country in early April, more than two million Americans had taken to the streets from New York to Los Angeles. But it began in Chicago on March 10, 2006.

They left school by the tens of thousands, knowing they had to do something important but also knowing it would be fun. In response to the growing call from the communities that have always created and re-created the United States, children and teenagers whose families came from more than 30 countries left their homes on the morning of March 10, reported to public schools with names like Benito Juarez and Roberto Clemente, and then, within an hour after attendance was taken around 10:00 that morning, disappeared into Chicago’s streets.

In all, at least 30 Chicago elementary and high schools reported their students had left in large numbers that morning. Some went out from as far away as Senn High School (eight miles from the Loop) on the north and Gage Park High School (nine miles southwest of the rally site) on the south, but nobody got an accurate count.

Photo from the April 2006 edition of Substance is available at (back issues, archives), the "old" Substance website.By noon, the students reappeared in a sea of people numbering at least a quarter million that flowed from Ashland Ave. past Whitney Young High School and Skinner Elementary School into Chicago’s Loop. There the march and rally shut down the central business district of one of the largest and most powerful cities in the history of the world.

As tens of thousands of marchers moved slowly and peacefully into the Loop, Chicago’s police (who handled the event with as much restraint as the marchers showed in their ranks) funneled the march from Jackson Blvd. north to Adams St. The march then moved east again five blocks and into the Federal Plaza at Adams and Dearborn.

Many of the organizers of the March 10, 2006 march in Chicago were working for the trade unions. Above, George Schmidt (Substance editor), Bill Silver, and Jose Arreola were all working at the time for SEIU Local 73. Substance photo by Dan Schmidt. Just beore the march had finally ‘ended’ after 4:00 p.m. Substance tooks photographs was taken from an upper floor of Chicago Public Schools headquarters at the northeast corner of Adams and Clark streets. Several photographs taken looking west from Clark to LaSalle (the heart of Chicago’s financial district, which was closed by the event), enabled Substance to estimate the crowd's size. Substance editor George Schmidt and Sports editor Dan Schmidt did a rough calculation based on several actual counts of the number of people filling each linear block and estimated that the total number of marchers was between 180,000 and 250,000.

Additional thousands joined the rally in the Loop itself. Police estimates said “in excess of 100,000,” but the careful estimate by Substance indicated that the march had drawn more than double that number.

“My father is not a criminal,” read one sign among thousands.

As the month wore on, similar rallies took place in cities as diverse as Los Angeles (where a half million people filled downtown and finally topped Chicago’s total) to tiny places like Alvin, Texas, where a couple of hundred left school in late March.

More than two million had taken to the streets by month’s end.

Organization for the rally was done by hundreds of people, but several were given major credit for the event. Among those was SEIU Local 73 executive board member Jose Arreola (above, right) with fellow SEIU people. The most important organizing for both the March and May Day 2006 events was done by SEIU vice president Cynthia Rodriguez. Substance Editor George Schmidt, SEIU Rep Bill Silver, and Jose Artemio Arreola celebrated at federal plaza at the end of the March 10 march.


March 18, 2021 at 9:37 AM

By: Angel Tenez

Permission to use photo(s)

The Substance photo taken by George N. Schmidt on March 10, 2006 is of great historic importance. It set the impetus for the largest protest in U.S. history to occur on March 25, 2006 in Los Angeles, CA. I'm writing an educational pamphlet about these immigration protest marches in 2006. I would like to include the above photo in the first chapter of this pamphlet discussing the importance of Chicago in these developments. May I please get a clean copy of the photo seen above and permission to use for educational purposes?

May 29, 2022 at 11:23 PM

By: JasonHasia

Republican politicians all over the country have repeated

Republican politicians all over the country have repeated the Great Replacement theory

A century-old racist theory reentered the political discourse around immigration and has become commonplace on the campaign trail as Republicans hope to retake control of Congress in November.

May 30, 2022 at 5:27 PM

By: John Kugler

Who was the Catalyst for this Extreme Polarization?

the only peopel to blame are neo-liberals who have taken over the democratic party with extremist views. Like they destroyed the ISO they will destroy every institution with their extremist agenda.

CTU is on their second security scandale, they allowed a another banned empoloyee to have contact with teachers and staff. First one they let a sexual predator to have contact with staff and students.

I wonder if the people creating this chaos are part of the "movement" or government agents.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 4 =