By Elizabeth Beyer
The 300,000-strong show of force to get-out-the-vote for women and progressive candidates energized marchers gathered in downtown Chicago on Saturday for the Women’s March to the Polls.
Organizers estimated that attendance was up 50,000 compared to last year’s march, as participants joined the call for high voter turnout in upcoming local and national elections to counter policies of President Donald Trump on the one-year anniversary of his presidency.
Candidates for office and their supporters united with the marchers, including Sol Flores, a democrat seeking to fill Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s (D) seat. Flores rallied with supporters in Pritzker Park prior to the march on Saturday morning. She will run against Cook County Board Member Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the 2018 midterm election for a chance to represent Illinois’ 4th Congressional District in Chicago.
During her speech Flores noted that, if she wins, she’ll be the first woman elected to represent the district in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is currently the sole woman running for Gutierrez’s position amid a fluctuating number of men. Gutierrez claims he is retiring and has endorsed Garcia.
But, during the rally, marchers, speakers and public officials called on constituents to support women in their bids for elected office. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle noted the number of women seeking office in upcoming elections has increased significantly over the past 12 months.
“Emily’s List, an organization that supports women running for office, reports that since President Trump’s election they were contacted by more than 26,000 women across the country interested in running for office,” Preckwinkle said.
“But if we don’t register to vote, register our friends and neighbors, knock on doors, support other women who run for office and run for office ourselves, we’ll continue to be marginalized.”
Celina Villanueva, youth engagement manager for the New Americans Democracy Project at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, passionately called for civic engagement to support marginalized communities.
“I need everyone here to call their members of congress and demand that we pass a clean Dream Act,” Villanueva said.
“Ladies, this fight did not start yesterday, it didn’t start last year, and it won’t end tomorrow. This fight is a long struggle against oppression.”
“This is the moment where we must decide which side of history we’re going to be on,” Villanueva said. She challenged the attendees to stay engaged for the March 20 primaries and to vote again in the November midterms.