women's march chicago

Significant Turnout Expected at Women’s March Despite Cold Temps in Chicago

The 2020 Census, climate justice, gun violence prevention, health care access, and voting were among critical issues organizers hoped to tackle Saturday

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Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march across the country to participate in the annual Women's March Saturday in over 180 cities—including Chicago.

Organizers said they expect about 100,000 people to march across the country to participate in this year’s Women’s March, with up to 10,000 people expected at the march in Washington, far fewer than the turnout last year, when about 100,000 people held a rally east of the White House. Instead of a single big event, the group has been holding actions in a run-up to the march this week around three key issues: climate change, immigration and reproductive rights.

Despite stormy, wet weather in the Chicago area, Grant Park is set to open up at 9 a.m., with the main entrance located at Ida B. Wells and Columbus Drive (though accessible entrance for persons with disabilities is located at Columbus Dr. and Monroe St.).

The week reflects that the movement is “moving into the next stage,” said director Caitlin Breedlove.

Leaders of MoveOn.org, which organized some of the anti-Iran war protests, agreed. Mobilization manager Kate Alexander said the group and its members pulled together over 370 protests in 46 states in less than 48 hours to show resistance to Trump’s actions. The president ordered airstrikes that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force who has been blamed for deadly attacks on U.S. troops and allies going back decades. Iran pledged retribution, sparking fears of an all-out war.

Alexander noted that the Iran protest is just one of many issues MoveOn members have organized in response to in the past few years.

Saturday’s march, a third of its kind in the Chicago area this year, drew in a crowd of thousands.

“It’s not that there are fewer people mobilizing — it’s that they’re mobilized in different campaigns. There’s more to do,” Alexander said. “I don’t believe people are tuning out. I think people are lying in wait.”

While waiting, many have passed on some major moments in Trump's presidency. Resistance groups rallied on the eve of the House vote for impeachment, but even some of those who participated said they were disappointed more people didn't turn out.

Several organizations also said much of their organizing is done through social media or text message and email programs, which are less visible but have a significant impact. In 2018, the Women’s March had over 24 billion social media impressions, Breedlove said.

Atef Said, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said all social movements evolve over time. He noted the Trump resistance movement is global and will continue regardless of whether Trump is reelected.

“Movements always rise and decline in terms of numbers on the ground," he said.

Andy Koch, a 30-year-old nurse who lives in Chicago, has seen that ebb and flow firsthand. Koch has been active in protesting Trump’s policies even before he took office. When Koch was a student at University of Illinois at Chicago, Trump’s campaign canceled a 2016 speech at the campus following tense student protests.

Koch said the anti-Trump activism swelled when he first took office and again in early 2017 when he announced his first travel ban affecting people from several predominantly Muslim countries.

The Women’s March Chicago won’t be celebrating their anniversary with another march in the city, organizers said. Regina Waldroup has the latest.

Roughly 1,000 people mobilized in Chicago immediately after Trump authorized the attack on the Iranian leader, and then the crowds subsided a few days later after the threat of war seemed to subside following Trump’s address to the nation Jan 8. That day, a few dozen — including Koch — showed up in 20-degree Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius) temperatures outside Trump International Hotel Chicago during rush hour.

Koch understands that masses of people won't show up for every protest. “ What allows those numbers to come out ... is continued organizing going on in between these events,” he said.

According to the Women's March Chicago 2020 Facebook page, organizers will "spotlight several critical issues...in a block-by-block interactive experience," including 2020 Census, climate justice, gun violence prevention, health care access, and voting.

According to Women's March Chicago 2020 official site, the march "will be led by many our top elected women officials," including: Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, City Clerk Anna Valencia, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Chicago's march is expected to commence around 11 a.m. at Grant Park. Participants will step off at Colombus Drive and Jackson Street, and will conclude at Federal Plaza.

Associated Press / NBC Chicago
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