Chicagoans marched weeks before ‘most crucial election of our lifetime’

Anti-Trump Protest Photo
Protest signs abound as rally and march participants gathered at the Dirksen Building’s plaza Saturday. (Allison Schatz/MEDILL)

By Allison Schatz
Medill Reports

From handmaidens cloaked in red to dogs sporting protest signs, energized crowds gathered in downtown Chicago on Saturday as part of the fourth annual Women’s March, just two weeks prior to the general election.

The Chicago rally, named “Vote. March. Dissent.,” comes mere days before the Senate holds its first vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett has been nominated as a successor to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon and frequent voice of dissent on the increasingly conservative court.

Protest Dog
A protesting pooch stands at the foot of a handmaid at Saturday’s rally and
march for women. (Allison Schatz/MEDILL)

Opponents of the nomination argue the successful appointment of Barrett would secure a conservative court for the indefinite future, a point of contention expressed throughout Saturday’s rally and march.

“We must be examples for our children,” 24-year-old elementary school teacher Lillian Puicha told the crowds. “Tell them you are marching. We are all teachers to someone.”

The rally began at the Dirkson Federal building and included speakers such as Puicha, who brought myriad women’s issues front and center — from reproductive rights to a fair living wage and beyond.

Women's March Protestors
Crowds of energized women stand listening to speakers at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. (Allison Schatz/MEDILL)

“As women of color, we are not just essential workers — we are essential,” said one Latinx organizer speaking on behalf of One Fair Wage, an organization whose aim is to raise minimum wage workers out of poverty by mandating fair pay and full minimum wage with tips to workers. A majority of these employees are women of color.

Organized as one of over 400 women’s marches happening simultaneously across the country, Chicago hosted a virtual rally via Zoom, called “Zoom to the Polls.” Designed to energize women to vote Nov. 3, the virtual event included Illinois politicians and community activists. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was among Saturday’s Zoom speakers. Lightfoot spoke to the urgency of voting during this year’s election and urged women to show up to the polls to ensure representation.

RBG Sign
Emotions surrounding the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were on high Saturday among protestors. (Allison Schatz/MEDILL)

“We deserve a city government that is indeed inclusive, equitable and transparent, a government driven by commitments to gender and racial equality − and people across the nation deserve exactly the same thing,” Lightfoot emphasized. “Look what the last four years has brought us − not just at the national scale, but across the country. When we don’t vote, we give up our seat at the table. … We can’t afford to do that.”

Chicago’s downtown event, organized by Gianna Gizzi, emphasized the power and importance of mobilizing women voters, who make up a majority of the national vote. Since 1984, more women than men have voted in the general election, according to the Pew Research Center.

A group of handmaids marches in protest of policies viewed as restrictive to women. (Allison Schatz/MEDILL)

“This is the most crucial election in our lifetime, and we need to stand in solidarity in this era of divisiveness to show that women will decide this election,” Gizzi said. “And with the current administration flouting the democratic process, we need to show that we will not allow that.”

Allison Schatz is a Social Justice & Investigative Reporter who covers Mental Health at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @AllisonSchatz8