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Teens study ‘democracy in action’ at May Day protest

May Day rallies in Chicago on May 1, 2017.

Chicago Public Schools teacher Hector Sanchez brought 20 of his students to the May Day protest Monday across from the juvenile detention center.

The trip came as part of a "democracy in action" program for political science students at the Social Justice High School in Lawndale, where they learn about government. In class, Sanchez taught students about lobbying Congress, but some wanted to know: "How do regular people lobby?"

"This is part of that," Sanchez said, as dozens of protesters holding signs gathered on an empty lot at Roosevelt and Ogden.

Around the world, union members have traditionally marched May 1 for workers’ rights.

In the United States, the event became a rallying point for immigrants in 2006 when more than 1 million people marched against a proposed immigration enforcement bill during President George W. Bush’s second term.

Activists expected a surge in participation this year, partly because immigrant rights groups have worked with Women’s March participants, Black Lives Matter and Muslim civil rights groups who are united by their opposition to President Donald Trump.

Those diverse constituencies were represented at the Ogden protest as demonstrators called for minimum wage hikes, police accountability and "economic, racial and immigrant justice."

Ongoing controversies took center stage from the beginning of the rally. A rapper took the microphone to warm up the crowd and said, "Let me hear you say ‘stop the wall.’"

"Stop the wall!" people shouted back, in reference to a Trump proposal to build a border wall to prevent unauthorized immigration.

The rally’s theme could best be characterized as "resist, reimagine, rebuild," a phrase splayed across large banners and reiterated by several speakers.

"No more jails for young people, like that one," said Rosie Carrasco, gesturing to the juvenile detention center across the street.

The protesters focused on global issues also. Palestinian flags flew and a folk singer paid homage to Berta Caceres, an Honduran activist who was murdered in her home country.

Before the 11 a.m. program started, some of the CPS students were confused, Sanchez said, by what was initially low turnout and sporadic honking by passing drivers. The teacher told them "these movements take time."

"An avalanche starts with one snowflake," Sanchez said.

Associated Press contributed.

Twitter @royalpratt