Chicago women call foul on Trump’s ‘Grab ’em’ comments at #GOPHandsOffMe protest

Shanna Shrum rallies crowd
Shanna Shrum leads a rally chant in the shadow of Trump Tower during a #GOPHandsOffMe protest. (Anna Foley/MEDILL)

By Anna Foley and Teresa Manring

Women activists in Chicago want Republicans to take their hands off them–quite literally. Nearly 200 of them chanted their outrage early Tuesday morning outside Trump Tower as part of a national movement: #GOPHandsOffMe.

“The Republican party right now has just kind of gotten so far off. They have absolutely no respect for women, they are taking way too much interest in women’s bodies,” said Lindsay Cogan, who helped organize the event. “Just get away. Let me do my own thing with my body,” Cogan added.

Armed with colorful signs, both in content and hue, protesters gathered at the corner of Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue before marching across the bridge to face Trump International Hotel and Tower. They walked to the rhythm of chants like, “Love trumps hate” to protest Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s behavior toward women.

The protest of mostly women was organized in reaction to “the hostile and basically oppressive comments [that Trump has] made recently about women and specifically women’s bodies,” said Harold Washington College Professor Alicia Swiz, who organized the protest.

The protests responded to the leaked 2005 Access Hollywood videotape, in which Donald Trump made comments about groping women to former Today show host Billy Bush. Since then, several women have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault.

“[He] can just blatantly speak with such vitriol and hatred about women in a way that clearly sees them not as human beings,” Swiz said. “It’s dehumanizing, devaluing and it’s violent.”

The group was met by about five counter-protesters gathered at      Trump Tower. They waved Trump campaign flags, held signs and chanted “Read Wikileaks” and “U-S-A.”

“We’re here to support Trump and America and to counteract their senseless, clueless protest,” said Suzzanne Monk, a Trump supporter who owns a small business in Chicago.

Monk disagreed with the very premise of the #GOPHandsOffMe protest.

“Trump is a champion of women. He is a huge advocate of women,” said Monk, explaining that he hired women for his construction company and that “his policies will put food on the table for women across the country.”

Swiz said that the protest was also organized as a way to show support and be visible for survivors of sexual assault, for whom comments like Trump’s can be damaging to mental health. “That’s triggering. You hear someone say something on TV and now you’re back in your attack moment,” she said.

That’s one of the reasons protester Beverly Weable attended the event.

“I’m a victim of sexual assault, both by a family member and the creepy old guy who lived next door to my dad,” said Weable, adding that she was also protesting in honor of the young women in her life: her nieces and her great nieces.

Weable said there’s more for voters to fear about Trump than just his attitude toward women.

“There’s so much about his mannerisms, his disrespect for other people and not just women, but handicapped, he fat-shames,” Weable said. “We want to make a statement about who we want leading our country and this is not the person.”

 Shanna Shrum leads a rally chant in the shadow of Trump Tower during a #GOPHandsOffMe protest. (Anna Foley/MEDILL)