Another year, another march—300,000 gather downtown

Madeline Moran (left) and Lorelei Glaser, from Western Springs, Illinois, hold signs at the starting point of the second Women’s March Chicago on Jan. 20. The March grew to approximately 300,000 people and congregated at Federal Plaza.

By Eric Bradach

On the day the federal government shut down, approximately 300,000 people went to work and marched Chicago’s streets.

One year after President Donald Trump was inaugurated Jan. 20, his critics rallied and organized marches of protests nationwide. Called March to the Polls, the collection of local women, men and children converged in Grant Park for a rally where several prominent Illinois women spoke, including state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.

“Thank you all for being here today. For standing up and not standing by,” Madigan said, “coming together for justice, fairness and equality. This is what democracy looks like.” 

All the speakers encouraged attendees to voice their opposition to Trump with their vote at the state’s March 20 primary and the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Madigan said women are more powerful when they are united and can change the “terrible policies” in Washington, D.C. She advocated for the marchers to volunteer for candidates who campaign on their values, vote or even run for office themselves because women “can not afford to lose the progress they have made.” 

“Our foremothers fought so that we would have a say in our government, in our lives, over our bodies,” Madigan said. “They gave us the vote. They gave us a voice. They gave us choice.” 

Bonnie Stern—a 51-year-old special education teacher from La Grange, Illinois—said a Trump presidency has turned out worse than she predicted. There has yet to be a policy proposal from Trump that she agrees with, she said. 

“[Trump] is all about himself and persistently lying,” Bonnie Stern said. “He’s basically an entertainer and doesn’t care about other people other than white men.”

As an educator, Bonnie Stern said she is opposed to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ agenda. Bonnie Stern said education should be free all the way through college and is against public funds allocated toward private-religious schools. 

Rachel Stern—Bonnie’s 18-year-old daughter—said she feels obligated as a first-time voter, and it is important for her and her generation to voice their opinion at the polls and support diversity in government. 

Tara Weber, a 48-year-old project coordinator for a law firm from Portage Park, and Laura Permesang, a 49-year-old fundraiser for a nonprofit from West Town, came to the march with a sign saying, “Raising our sons as feminists.”

“Any sort of bigotry, racism, ugliness—it’s a learned behavior,” Weber said. “People are born pure and have to be taught that hatred. Let’s start in the home and show and tell [children] that it’s unacceptable.” 

Weber agreed that a Trump presidency has been worse than she predicted, and she has become a “complete addict” with reading the news. 

While Trump campaigned in the primary, Weber said she dismissed him as a viable candidate because he was a “buffoon.” However, because there was a populist movement and she lives in a liberal city, she said she forgot other Americans’ concerns and so did the Democratic Party. 

She added that she thinks the Democratic Party can reclaim Congress in the November midterm elections, citing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ December 2017 win over Roy Moore in Alabama. 

Weber said Trump is only concerned about winning and hopes the Democratic party can use that to enact popular policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and recreational marijuana. 

Those who attended the Grant Park rally later marched down Jackson Boulevard to Federal Plaza. On the unseasonably warm January day, the marchers did not meet many counter protesters. One man with a megaphone at the Southwest corner of State Street and Jackson Boulevard told the marchers to “reject your sin” and “put down your pornography,” but was met with resistance from marchers booing him. 

Trump did not criticize the marchers but instead responded to the rallies with optimism.

“Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” Trump said in a Jan. 20 tweet. “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months.” 

As an African-American woman, Foxx said she is one of less than 1 percent of elected prosecutors who are women of color, advocating for more representation in government. 

“It is unacceptable that our courthouses, state houses [and] Congress do not have equal representation of women,” Foxx said. “When I look out here today, I know that we can and will do better.”