One of the interesting aspects to the Women’s March on Chicago slated for Saturday, the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, is that it wasn’t organized by the usual suspects.
Not by politicians. Not by labor leaders. Not by the veterans of the women’s rights movement or the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Certainly, all of those forces will be represented in the finished product that expects to draw at least 40,000 marchers downtown in what could prove to be a dress rehearsal for the next four years.
But at the Chicago event’s core are 150 volunteers, most of them self-declared first-time organizers just getting their feet wet.
They met online in the aftermath of Trump’s election in hopes of coming up with a local alternative to the larger Women’s March in Washington on Saturday that is expected to draw 200,000 participants.
And like the marchers in Washington, they hope to be the start of something bigger, a new force in progressive politics or perhaps an old force better focused and re-energized.
The tendency will be to view the marches both here and in Washington, complemented by dozens of other rallies across the country, as “anti-Trump” protests.
But the organizers say it is a call to action in support of protecting women’s rights and civil liberties and that focusing solely on Trump misses the point.
“It’s really so much more,” said Ann Scholhamer, who hosted the first meeting of the group in her North Side home. “He’s the face of it right now, but it’s really about all the sentiment and beliefs and threats that are behind him. He’s not the only one.”
That’s an important point. Even if Trump were out of the picture, the nasty stuff he stirred up in our society would still be there, looking for an outlet.
Back before the election, when so many of us were expecting Trump to lose, we had to realize that somebody else would just pick up where he left off.
At Tuesday’s press conference announcing plans for the march, there was no talk about the legitimacy of Trump’s election, which I appreciated.
Nobody said, “He’s not my president,” even if some of them were thinking it.
In fact, only one person who took the podium Tuesday even mentioned the President-elect by name, most of them preferring to direct their remarks to the “incoming administration.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be speakers and protest signs taking disparaging aim at Trump on Saturday. I’d be disappointed if there weren’t.
But by focusing on the issues they want to protect, whether it’s affordable health care or immigrant rights or gay rights or abortion rights, they’ll have a better chance of attracting the American people to their side.
Busloads of marchers are expected to travel here from downstate, as well as from Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin.
The group is expecting marchers to start gathering at 8:30 a.m. on Jackson Boulevard between Lake Shore Drive and Columbus Avenue with a program of speakers starting at 10 a.m.
The event was moved into the street from Grant Park to avoid tearing up the rain-soaked ground.
Although everyone, including men, are invited to join in the march, only women are scheduled to have speaking roles during the tentative 90-minute program.
The march itself is not scheduled to kick off until 11:30 a.m.
Notably, the route through the Loop takes the marchers nowhere near the Trump International Hotel & Tower on Wabash.
Organizers said going past Trump’s building would have made the march too long, and anyway as previously noted, they said: “It’s not primarily about that.”
They say this march is only the beginning.
It will need to be.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST