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Small but spirited Women’s March crowd weathers snow, controversy

Demonstrators gather at Federal Plaza for the Young Women’s March and Rally on January 19, 2019. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Those who made the trek Saturday morning to Chicago’s latest Women’s March event didn’t let the snow or the national organization’s recent controversial divisions dampen their spirits.

More than 200 people, mostly women, huddled at a snowy Federal Plaza for the third annual rally meant to empower women and girls and spur social equality.

“We’re probably the only ones protesting in the snow,” Kina Collins, one of the organizers, told the crowd as the rally kicked off.

Beyond the blustery conditions, Saturday’s event also contrasted with national-affiliated marches in years past due to a crowd measured in the hundreds, rather than tens of thousands.

A last-minute effort was made to resurrect the city’s Women’s March after local organizers said last month they had no plans to hold the usual large-scale, mid-January rally in conjunction with the national organization that sponsors similar marches around the world.

MORE: Women’s March returns to DC amid shutdown and controversy

Though the march here drew thousands to Grant Park the past two years, organizers cited high costs and limited volunteers as reasons for discontinuing their participation.

But that decision only came after the organization’s Chicago chapter condemned and distanced itself from the national Women’s March leadership for its ties to anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ statements from Minister Louis Farrakhan.

That wasn’t on the minds of many of the hundreds who still braved the weather for a smaller version of the rally organized by a new group called the Young Women’s March.

Video by Max Herman | Organizer Jazmine-Marie Cruz leads the Young Women's March and Rally at Federal Plaza on January 19, 2019.

Jazmine-Marie Cruz, 19, led the push in the past two weeks to keep the event alive with help from the Women’s March national and state leaders — including Collins, who’s a board member with the Illinois chapter.

“It’s been a journey,” Cruz said. “It’s been very fast. This is my first rally to organize, and I’m very proud of what it’s become.”

Two of the women who weren’t deterred by the snow journeyed to the Loop from the northern suburbs.

Andrea Nosek and Donna McDonald said the weather couldn’t keep them from fighting for their cause.

“Women’s issues and equality are going backwards,” said McDonald, a 64-year-old Evanston resident. “I’m an avid believer that you need feet on the ground to create change.”

Nosek, of Highland Park, went to the past two Women’s Marches in Chicago, but she noticed a difference this year — and it wasn’t the snow or the smaller crowd.

“I’m so proud to see so many young women here,” the 62-year-old said. “Today is about empowering people everywhere.”

Several hundred more rallied in west suburban Geneva.

Hundreds take part in a Women’s March in Geneva on Saturday. | Brian Hill/Daily Herald
Hundreds take part in a Women’s March in Geneva on Saturday. | Brian Hill/Daily Herald

Weather was no issue for sisters Anna, Laura and Nadya Reusche and mom, Leigh Ann, as well as family friend Allie Bransky, all of St. Charles.

“We were coming no matter what. We kind of decided we were going to do this every year, somewhere in the world,” said Leigh Ann.

“It’s really cool how many people showed up regardless of the weather. A lot of generations,” Bransky said.

That included three generations of the Temple family of Geneva.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said 82-year-old Nancy Temple as the march began. “We’ll see change for my granddaughter.”

Contributing: Mick Zawislak, Daily Herald