Against the national backdrop of the #MeToo movement — and on the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration — thousands of people flooded Grant Park Saturday morning for Chicago’s second annual Women’s March.
More than 300,000 people from across the area had gathered by the time the march stepped off about 1 p.m., organizers said. It was one of scores of demonstrations taking place across the country on Saturday.
The announced turnout exceeded the 250,000 who took to Chicago’s streets for last year’s march, motivated by the start of Trump’s presidency and attended by a number of groups focusing on social issues including equal rights, affordable health care and environmental protections.
This year, looking to propel the movement forward, organizers urged a “March to the Polls” ahead of the midterm elections.
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“You’re powerful,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said during the rally, to raucous applause. “Use your power for progress and we are more powerful together.”
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, quoting Frederick Douglass.
Though the anger of last year’s election had somewhat dissipated, many at the march said they felt they had to come out this year to show the fight against Trump wasn’t over. Focusing on the March primary and the November midterm elections, they said they feel they can protect the rights of women and minorities and create a future that is female.
Arriving downtown Saturday morning, Cheryl Arevalo said that following the 2016 presidential election, she gave Trump a month before mobilizing women in her retirement community.”We marched last year and signed petitions,” Arevalo said. “We have to stop them from steamrolling important issues.”
Celina Villanueva, of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, challenged rally participants to “go further.”
“Encourage young girls to think big and support them in their quest,” Villanueva said. “Now is the time for us to be our own leaders. We have to fight to create a better world for all.”
Elizabeth Palacio and Candy Rolsay said they met at last year’s march and reunited by sheer coincidence on Saturday.
“We have to keep standing up and speaking out against injustice,” Palacio said. “Our voices matter. They always have.”
Maria Haight was among waves of teenagers who made their way downtown to take part.
“I’m marching for equality, especially for trans people, for people of color, and for women of color,” the 17-year-old said. “I came out for equal pay, just for everything, really. Especially with Donald Trump being in office, we just aren’t treated with the respect we deserve.
“It’s inspiring to see so many young people. I love seeing the different age groups, different genders, and different backgrounds.”
Chloe Chiles-Troutman is just 13, but she arrived with some experience from last year’s march: “I’m not sure if more people came — I think they did — but to be with a bunch of people who agree with me and believe in peace and things like that is really amazing.
“It’s great to see young people come out here,” she said. “We really need to understand what’s going on, and we do.”
Parents also brought their children to the march as a lesson on the issues they may face as they grow up. Sara and Joe Tigay brought their infant daughter Talia, who was decked out in a shirt declaring “I am the future.”
“I hope she grows up in an environment where she feels she can speak her mind,” Sara said. “There were many times I felt silenced by the system. I hope she always feels able to share what she’s feeling.”
Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker was among the politicians mingling in the crowd around Grant Park.
“I’m glad to be out here. Look at the amazing day, and more amazing: the crowd,” Pritzker said. “This movement is growing, fighting for women’s rights, making sure that we’re doing the right think for, frankly, taking out Bruce Rauner, taking out Donald Trump.”