What an exhilarating day Saturday was. After 10½ weeks of postelection shock, sadness, and despair, the Women’s March on Chicago left me feeling hopeful again.
Grant Park was so jammed my five friends and I, perched on Columbus Drive just north of Congress, never figured out where the speakers’ platform was. I couldn’t hear every rallying call coursing from the loud speakers. It didn’t matter. The point was to be together and demonstrate strength. People have different priorities, it was clear from the mostly handmade signs, but the common theme is that we will resist efforts of the new administration to turn back progress toward a more inclusive, caring country.
Maybe God really is a woman who sent us spring weather on January 21, I joked as people shed coats in the 60-degree temperature.
How often demonstrations descend into angry shouting between protestors and foes or protestors and police. Saturday’s demonstrators were so peaceful. If there were counter-protesters, I didn’t notice. I didn’t even notice a heavy police presence, but it wasn’t needed. This was a crowd so well-behaved that we walked around the grass in Grant Park rather than disturb it.
After the speeches ended, we didn’t realize at first that the march portion had been called off because the whole march route to the Federal Center was flooded with people. Not sure where we were headed, we followed the crowd, chanting “This is what democracy looks like.” Once we left Grant Park and protestors scattered in all directions, we went with the group moving down the original parade route on Jackson after all. It looked like the whole Loop was given over to the rally. I didn’t see anyone carrying shopping bags, only signs.
With the turnout estimated at 250,000, three times the number predicted, and rallies across the country likewise crushing expectations, I felt that we can get through the next four years. Not sure how yet. What next, how to continue the effort, we need to figure out.
As we discussed what ordinary people with little political experience could do, we reminded ourselves of how the Chicago march took root: Three ordinary women put up a Facebook page for a march on Chicago after they heard about plans for the Women’s March on Washington. I hope for the inspiration to do something even a tiny fraction as impactful.
A couple of experiences at the McDonald’s I stopped into on the way home to rest my feet and have a drink reinforced my sense that a community had been created on Saturday.
The line for the bathrooms was 20 deep, stretching the length of the McDonald’s, and was overwhelmingly female. “We should make them unisex,” I said to the woman behind me, and the next thing I knew, the people in front had the same idea. A man walked past to go to the men’s room and then realized what was happening. He smiled and went to the back of the line.
There were no empty tables, so I asked a Hispanic family if I could sit with them. A sign lying on the table, written in Spanish, told me they’d been at the rally. Speaking little English, they weren’t able to translate it, but their broad smiles and pats on my arms spoke of solidarity.
None of us is alone.