The Chicago Women’s March was so large that no one photograph or photographer could have covered the vastness of it (estimated by TV news at a quarter million people, and possibly much more). Above, part of the crowd on Michigan Ave. looking north from the Art Institute (to the right in the photo). Substance photo by Susan Zupan.The Women’s March of January 21, 2017, was too large for anyone to “cover” as a reporter or photographer. This is one participant’s report, view and experience from the streets of Chicago during the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. My report is presented mostly as a snapshot of the people, posters and chants encountered.
I did not hear even one speaker or musical presentation (though I am reading the next day that that was more-or-less canceled due to the size of the crowd?). I must refer the listing of any official program to the organizers’ website(s). To say “Congratulations!” to the organizers is simply not sufficient, with “GREAT JOB!” being a gross understatement.
I walked throughout the downtown “Chicago Loop” area. I started from the LaSalle Street Metra Station, walked north first and then south again toward Jackson Street at Michigan Avenue. [Note: At the Metra Station, someone was handing out pink ribbons to anyone who wanted one.]
Homemade signs made up most of the statements at the Chicago Women’s March. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.I ended up wedged into the crowd on the bridge just south of the Art Institute for what seemed like an hour. I walked throughout the official march to Federal Plaza, at Dearborn and Adams, which was still packed — but not as much due to others in the crowd continually breaking off to head north.
From Federal Plaza I decided to head north as well, continuing on with the march going north on Clark Street. I wanted to see what was happening at the Trump International Hotel and Tower (aka TRUMP Tower) located north of the Chicago River along Wacker at 401 N. Wabash, not on the official march route. I covered a lot of ground, not staying in any one section of the crowd.
At one point toward the beginning of the gathering in the Grant Park area, marshals congratulated nearby crowds that we had over 100,000. Everyone cheered.
A little while later, that number was upped to 150,000. More cheers!
By evening, NBC News Channel 5 was calling it for 250,000. I participated in (and marshaled for) the HUGE 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike March; that was now to be seen as a fraction of this. So was NATO, which I also participated in. Yet, didn’t that teachers’ and school communities’ march as well as the Occupy marches before that plant the seeds for this one, with Civil Rights marches being the renewed inspiration for those?
As one popular sign said: “THE MARCH FOR JUSTICE CONTINUES.”
Waiting and walking at a snail’s pace from Michigan Avenue down Jackson moving toward the EL (elevated) tracks, the crowd periodically cheered loudly at every passing train, with some commuters cheering from inside the trains. As we moved west, it became increasingly clearer that the Loop had been shut down. One marshal’s message to everyone confirmed this.
Creativity and art were everywhere at the Chicago Women’s March. Neither Donald Trump (left) or Mike Pence (right) will survive the satire that will be part of their fate during the coming months. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.Usually marchers are encouraged by cars honking in support; this time, there weren’t really cars there to honk in support, not even on the north-south crossing side streets.
By the time I headed north on Clark (2:00ish), some streets there had the southbound lanes open to still-stuck or slow-moving traffic. That was when the honking in support started to be heard.
As I was heading to Trump Tower, large crowds of people appeared to be coming back in separate swells all over from that direction. I was not there earlier, so I am only reporting what I observed at a later time. When I got to Trump Tower, though Wacker was closed off nearby, there was no rallying-level crowd there.
The one, small youth group I saw set up with microphones along the north sidewalk of Wacker was talking along an “anti-police” theme. Another group was chanting anti-fascism, another anti-KKK. There was no large gathering around them. That was not the focus of this march, and the marchers appeared to be leaving that area in droves.
The focus of this march was on: Women’s rights, inclusive and supportive of the lives of all significant others surrounding them. This march included but did not focus exclusively on Black Lives Matter or other protest marches that have been taking place in Chicago more recently.
DEMOGRAPHICS at a glance:
Donald Trump may have barely won the 2016 Presidential Election despite his Access Hollywood comments about grabbing women’s pussies, but Trump has managed to create a new meme for the next several years, including the knit caps and the new American flag displayed at the Chicago Women’s March. Substance photo by Susan Zupan.I was immediately struck by the fact that virtually half of those in the crowds around me wherever I went were male. I would guestimate from what I witnessed that the female/male percentage was 55% / 45%. I saw many young parents, mothers and fathers (I assume), carrying newborns; other parents/guardians together were carrying toddlers on their shoulders. Not too many baby carriages, a good thing. People of all ages. Groups of friends. Couples. Older couples walking arm-in-arm.
I saw one older woman with a walker, one elderly gentleman being ushered through the slowly parting crowd on the bridge by marshals. I know that this is not going to sound “politically correct,” and I am not claiming to be able to state anything definitively here, so I apologize, but the crowds I saw appeared to be approximately 85% if not more “White.” The 15% minority representation appeared to be more represented by Muslim (judging by signs and clothing) and Latino (judging in part by signs and chants in Spanish) marchers than African-American.
Again, guestimating from by a quick glance of appearance, signs and chants could not ever be completely accurate, and I was obviously not able to observe 250,000 marchers. I overheard the following near Clark and Dearborn by a middle-aged, African-American man on his phone, seated on the sidewalk outside of a store looking all around before the start of the rally: “I’m telling you! They’re everywhere, man! They’re everywhere!”
In one Chicago downtown Wendy’s, a white man in a pink hat thanked a uniformed minority youth (Navy) for his service. The Chicago Police Department was out in droves, but as the crowds grew, they were pretty swallowed-up.
I witnessed nothing negative toward the police (until I got to Trump Tower). I could not keep count how many times I and heard (and also said) “excuse me” and “sorry” for any unintentional bumping within the crowds. There were tons of “knitted pink hats” otherwise openly known as “pussy hats,” as well as lots of hats with cats on them.
Women in one group heading back to the southwest suburbs at the Metra Station were collectively wearing various styles of pink cat ears and tails.
There were chants that began but were left hanging in the air without many others joining in. Other chants were repeated with a little more enthusiasm. Quite a few were very popular, contagiously gathering momentum by more marchers from the original sources. Most anti-Trump chants did not become contagious as the more inclusive chants.
This is what I noted:
There was little to no contagion for: any chants spoken in Spanish. “Black lives matter!” “We shall overcome.” “No means no! Trump must go!”
One man with a megaphone tried to start everyone chanting with: “THANK GOD FOR NASTY WOMEN!” No one really joined him, but when he stopped, paused, then cheered for himself (with a loud but solo “YEAH!”) the crowd laughed with him, all having a good time.
There was little tolerance for youth group chants with f-bombs, which then died down pretty quickly (“I want a president, not a f**king racist!”).
There was a so-so crowd response for: “YES, WE CAN!” and “NOT MY PRESIDENT!”
There was medium enthusiasm for: “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Donald Trump has got to go!”
However, when this chant was changed to “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Misogyny has got to go!” more people joined in. “Pussy – Power!” At one point, after the “PUSSY!” was followed by “POWER!” stopped and there was the briefest pause, one lone guy howled loudly as a werewolf at the moon. The crowd collectively laughed loudly at that.
There was a lot of enthusiasm for: “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and “FIRED UP – READY TO GO!” There was HUGE enthusiasm for: “Tell me what democracy looks like – THIS is what democracy looks like!” “Our bodies! Our Choice!” “My right! My choice!” At Trump Tower, one block of marchers came in from the east as I was heading in from the west – in the lead was a group of males loudly chanting “THEIR BODIES, THEIR CHOICE” followed by a group of females chanting “MY BODY! MY CHOICE!”
One chant that got utmost enthusiasm, the one time I was near it, was done as crowds follow along with cheerleaders and bands for high school and other sports teams: “LET’S GO, SCIENCE!” Everyone joined in and then collectively laughed their heads off on that one.
One original chant from a small group having a lot of fun together, that others could not readily join because of its complication, but the crowd loudly cheered it on was: “No corporatists! No spray tans! We don’t want your tiny hands!”
T-SHIRTS and other articles of body-covering (noting that it is still January, though the temps were in the 40s – 50s): BABY GOT BOOKS. NASTY WOMAN/WOMEN (lots of). Statue of Liberty with head inclined downward, hands cupped over face. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
One (older) man wore: “You can’t scare me. I have two daughters.”
One woman wore a large, rainbow flag cape, bold words across the whole back: F**K YOU, MIKE PENCE!” One young man’s dog wore a pink doggie sweater…
The Chicago Trump Tower was the site of some of the protests, and protesters noted Trump’s alleged behaviors via the signage. Substance photo by Susan Zupan. SIGNS: Note: I personally really love checking out the signs that people carry on marches. These signs represent individuals publicly expressing their strong sentiments, feelings, beliefs, etc., especially the handmade ones. People take time to make these. The list of signs below, an extremely small portion of all that were out there, collectively gives us a glimpse of where we are in Chicago, where we stand in our nation. Below, for readability, I have included a period at the end for signs with lower case wording and an exclamation mark for most signs in all caps, although many signs themselves did not include these.
“LOVE NOT HATE!” and “LOVE TRUMPS HATE!” There were LOTS of these, with others on the theme of inclusion. I noticed these sign themes were especially held by children. Parents/Guardians appeared to have children out there to send a positive message for inclusiveness, against bullying. I overheard a few conversations going on regarding exactly that. With that, there were LOTS of “anti-hate” along with “anti-wall” signs, such as: “Hate has no home here.” TONS of handmade “GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS!” and “MR. TRUMP, OUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING.”
“GIRL POWER!” (See above re children.) “GIRLS BITE BACK!” “I will vote in 2024.” “BABIES AGAINST BULLIES.”
“We are snowflakes. The BLIZZARD is coming!”
Many signs with the symbol for female but with a fist inside of the circle on top of the upside down cross. Many signs with “WE, THE PEOPLE,” with a picture of a female face wrapped in a flag-designed Muslim headscarf.
One 10 x 3 foot pink banner with one word: VAGINA.
“RESIST!” “FEMPIRE!” “TOPPLE THE PATRIACHY!” “Riots Not Diets.” “FACTS MATTER.” Lot of “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE!” Lots of signs with the word “nasty”: “TIME TO GET NASTY!” “PROUD NASTY WOMAN!” “THE FUTURE IS NASTY!” “CAN’T STOP –WON’T STOP THE NASTY WOMAN!” “NASTY WOMEN UNITE!”
“KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY BODY!” “KEEP YOUR TINY HANDS OFF MY PUSSY!” LOTS along this theme, with the two HUGELY popular: “THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK!” and “THIS PUSSY BITES BACK!” “I GOT MY EYE ON YOU, PUSSY GRABBER.” “KEEP YOUR POLICY OUT OF MY PUSSY!” “KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY CUNTRY!”
Note: Women are taking for their own and defining a clear, new meaning of power to the word “pussy,” thanks to Donald Trump. “NOW YOU PISSED OFF GRANDMA.” “WHAT MERYL SAID.” “GRAB THE POWER!”
“KEEP YOUR ROSARIES OFF MY OVARIES!” “PUSSY IN FORMATION” (with many other variations such as “WOMEN” or “LADIES” IN FORMATION). “BOOBS EDUCATE RUBES.” “MIND YOUR OWN UTERUS. THIS PUSSY BITES BACK!” “Hope this doesn’t turn into a Pussy Riot.” (Please google that one for more info related to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.)
“SHE’S SOMEONE’S MOTHER/SISTER/DAUGHTER/WIFE,” lots along this theme with variations.
“I’M WITH HER,” the sign framed by arrows pointing outward all around. “I’M WITH HER,” her being a picture of the Statue of Liberty. One young girl carried: “Make America Smart Again!”
There were quite a few individual signs, written with more words than slogans, with expressions against a “culture of rape.” “NO MEANS NO.” “BECAUSE I LOVE MY DAUGHTER TOO MUCH TO BE SILENT.” “Silence is Violence.” “REAL MEN DON’T GRAB PUSSIES.” “NO GROPE ZONE.” “TO HOLD, NOT TO GRAB.” “DO UNTO OTHERS – READ YOUR BIBLE, MR. PRESIDENT.” “CHICAGO ORDINANCE: NO PUSSY GRABBIN’.”
There was one life-sized cardboard Elvis, with words on his gold suit jacket: “DON’T BE CRUEL!”
One of a kind: “TRUMP IS NUTS,” with Trump’s head used as a replacement for a missing penis between legs on a nude male body shown from mid-stomach to knees. Another: “Don’t PEE on us & tell us it’s raining.”
There was one “GROPEYMAN NO” that shared a laugh with another person with a large blown-up Pokemon Pikachu balloon in the crowd.
One of a kind: “HELP. THIS VIAGRA ELECTION IS LASTING LONGER THAN 4 HOURS!” That got roars of attention and laughter.
“Thanks, Trump. You made me an activist.” “NASTY HOMBRE” and “BAD HOMBRE,” a few of these, some with the wording across an image of Trump’s face.
Lots of “THIS IS NOT NORMAL.” One, just plain “SAD!”
“OUR RACE: HUMAN.” “We are earthlings. S.O.S.” “Hug a tree.” LOTS along the themes of “MEDICARE FOR ALL” and “HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT.” “REPEAL + REPLACE TRUMP NOT OBAMACARE.” Many “KEEP ABORTION LEGAL!” “We will not go back to the kitchen, to the closet, to the coat hanger.” There were quite a few outlines of coat hangers with words written within: “NEVER AGAIN!” “Fight like a Woman!” “IMPEACH TRUMP/ABORT PENCE!” LOTS of “WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS!” “YOU CAN’T COMBOVER SEXISM!” and “YOU CAN’T COMBOVER MISOGYNY!” “SCIENTISTS AGAINST TRUMP.”
“IMPEACH VOLDEMORT!” “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE RESISTANCE” with a picture of Princess Leia. “Rebellions Are Built on Hope” with a picture of Princess Leia with her Stars Wars gun.
Read and see if you can sing this one: “Super callous fragile ego, TRUMP you are atrocious!” A reference to “Putin’s Poodle.” A flag/banner with TRUMP spelled out with the P turned into a hammer and sickle, a Trump head to one side and Putin’s on the other. “NYET TRUMP!” “ILLEGITIMATE RUSSIAN PUPPET!”
“2018” signs taped onto the shirt backs of one group. “Exercising my 1st Amendment rights while I still can.”
Lots of “NOT MY PRESIDENT!” Many “LOCK HIM UP!” A “TRUMP’S AMERIKKKA IS NOT OUR AMERICA!” I only saw one “SHE’S MY PRESIDENT” with a picture of Hillary Clinton on it, but there were other signs referencing the election and Hilary. Clever: “CAN’T MUTE PANTSUIT!” One “Bernie for President” sign (like the one I had in my back car window). One sign: “Democrats Take Over the Democratic Party!”
“Veterans For Peace” flag. “AMERICA HAS ALWAYS BEEN GREAT!”
“Say NO to Betsy DeVos” in reference to Trump’s pro charter school, billionairess choice for Secretary of Education.
Quite a few Rainbow flags. “TRUMP CAN EAT MY GAY ASS!”
One sign that said: “PUNCH NAZIS,” which got a lot of laughs from passers-by.
My own sign showed: A giant red X through “ELECTORAL COLLEGE” on one side; on the other “ONE PERSON ONE VOTE? ALL VOTERS CREATED EQUAL?? NOT IN USA.” I had a few women tell me they loved it, one woman saying we needed to start a petition. One guy wanted to get in a debate about how things could be worse for us without the electoral college, to which I replied: Gore v. Bush and Hillary V. Trump – really? One simple sign, which went along with my theme: “2,864,974.”
We have a country that has again legally handed the power of executive control of its government over for the second time in the new millennium to a President for whom the people did not vote. The United States of America cannot claim to be a legitimate role model for the world regarding voting or democracy. This march demonstrated what democracy looks like. This is what concerned women and supporters look like. I was once told that for every person who shows up to a march, there were ten others who wanted to go but for whatever reasons didn’t. It that is the case here and across the country, if a Trump nominee for the Supreme Court even appears to be anti-choice – all hell, which that hath no fury, is going to break loose.
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