By Shirin Ali
Thousands of people gathered in Grant Park on Saturday to march for climate change solutions, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and getting out the vote, issues highlighted at the annual Women’s March since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.
Women’s March Chicago organized the event and estimated that 10,000 people participated this year. Despite rain and snow, marchers rallied with enthusiasm and zeal with their, chanting, hoisting homemade signs and wearing pink hats.
Jill Conrad drove more than 80 miles from Ottawa to attend and many people arrived from out of state. Conrad carried a vibrant blue banner that read “Any Functioning Adult 2020,” a message that garnered lots of thumbs up as people snapped picture. Conrad described the experience as one filled with “lots of good ideas.”
Summing up the protest, she said “It was a great day” and the best part was seeing the unity among the marchers, she said. “It’s good to see people out here together, men and women, black, white, all of [us]. That was the high point.”
About 10,000 people gathered in Grant Park for the fourth annual Women’s March on Jan. 18, the anniversary of the first march held in 2017 to protest the election of Donald Trump as president. The march signifies an effort to bring awareness to important issues such as immigration, voting rights and health care as well as reproductive rights. Women’s March Chicago organized the Jan. 18 march, which kicked off in Grant Park, crowding down Adams Street as marchers headed west from the park. During Chicago’s 2017 inaugural Women’s March, an estimated 250,000 people attended. Marchers and other attendees noticed the smaller crowd this year. Shaun Stephan, a vendor who has been selling women’s march merchandise since the movement’s inception, said he felt the cold, snowy weather contributed to the lowered participation. But the passion matched previous years, he said. “It’s still strong, and I think there’s a lot of passion and emotion when it comes to showing everybody’s here for women’s rights.” Despite 20-degree temperatures with a mix of rain and snow in the forecast, marchers came prepared. Dressed in hats, scarves, gloves and snow boots, they walked and chanted, “Donald Trump has got to go!” Marchers made their way to Federal Plaza at Adams and Clark Streets. Women’s March Chicago recognized five major concerns to address during this year’s march: the 2020 census, taking control of climate change, gun violence prevention, women’s health rights and getting out the vote. As marchers moved through the city, these issues along with many others carried their weight with lots of handmade signs, banners and chants. Chicago police lined the route, some riding horses or bikes and some on foot, helping to guide traffic and marchers. Mother-daughter duo Katie and Heidi Ramirez made the trek from the western suburbs to participate in this year’s women’s march. They said they are marching for a host of issues including climate change, female reproductive rights, voting rights and immigration reform. They handmade custom ponchos to match their homemade signs. Chicago native Ellen Pinkham has attended the women’s march since its inception in 2017. She marches with her Trump puppet every year. She said she supports the current impeachment effort against the president and was marching for more change in Washington. “We really need new people in the government, we just have to get rid of these people who do not have the best interests of the large majority of people of the country at heart.” From left to right: Debbie Cavult, of Kildeer; Samantha Saunders, of Elmwood Park; Sheil Davis, of Kildeer, and Marietta Sorendo, of Bloomingdale all marched together and were thrilled to be a part of the movement. They felt the march created a strong sense of community. “Sometimes when you’re alone in the suburbs you think, ‘Oh, everybody’s Republican, everybody likes this idiot.’ But here, you can feel like you’re part of a group.” From right to left: Isabella Murk, 20, Sophie Murk, 24, Rachael Caise, 29, Emma Faith, 22, and Alissa Pienkowski, 30, were all young, first-time marchers at this year’s event. They expressed their excitement at participating in the movement and drawing together with the crowd, Demonstrators from the organization Refuse Fascism wrap up their banner at Federal Plaza as the march comes to a close. Women’s March Chicago has organized four mass marches to date. It’s mission is to advocate for women’s rights, promote intersectional feminism and challenge the political system regarding issues affecting women. Women’s March Chicago is planning its next event in March, to get out the vote for the Illinois primary elections.
Photo at top: Thousands of supporters attended Women’s March Chicago’s annual march on Saturday, January 18, carrying homemade signs that highlighted a variety of issues. (Shirin Ali/MEDILL)