Sandra Whitmore attended her first protest in 1968. Then 30, she joined others in San Francisco to publicly burn their bras, she said.
The experience was so intoxicating, Whitmore said, that she’s attended dozens of protests in the five decades since. On Saturday, the mother of four, now 80, attended Chicago’s Women’s March. So did all of her kids, joining the thousands expected to attend the event. Her sign read “My arms are getting tired from hold’n this sign since the 1960s.”
“I’ve been doing this for so many years,” said the Northbrook resident. “And though women have seen a lot of progress, it has started to erode. But people are waking up.”
A lot of people; more than a quarter of a million.
Organizers about 11:30 a.m. said the city informed them they’ve exceeded last year’s crowd of 250,000.
“I have just been informed that we are as big as last year,” said organizer Ann Scholhamer, over the cheering crowd and the whir of a helicopter overhead. “And people are still coming.”
Around 1 p.m. they adjusted it to 300,000 people.
For women like Whitmore and others, participation was an intergenerational affair.
“I’m out here for my daughter and myself,” said Vikki Ford, a Chicago native.
She and her daughter Christina, 27, didn’t go to the March last year, but after President Trump’s first year in office, a year they considered politically tumultuous, they planned to participate.
For others, Saturday’s march was an opportunity to express their displeasure with the president’s rhetoric on immigration. Some referenced Trump’s alleged “s–thole countries” comment, a label he purportedly used to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and other nations in Africa early this month.
Saturday’s event, March to the Polls, began at 9 a.m. Saturday with recorded videos and music in Grant Park, with an entrance at Congress Parkway and Columbus Drive. It is being held in solidarity with hundreds of similar events in Washington, D.C., and across the globe this weekend.
Speeches will begin at 11 a.m., with a lineup that includes cast members from “Hamilton” and Second City’s “She the People” as well as speakers from the Chicago Foundation of Women, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Emily’s List. Tom Steyer, a billionaire Democratic activist running a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump, is also to address the crowd.
The march portion of the event is expected to begin at 12:30 p.m., starting at Jackson Street and Columbus Drive. The march route will continue west on Jackson Street to Clark Street and then north on Clark Street to Federal Plaza. The march will end at Federal Plaza, and organizers are asking participants to then disperse immediately to avoid a bottleneck. A portion of Michigan Avenue, from Harrison to Randolph, also was closed.
If the big question in your mind is whether those pink hats will make an appearance again this year, the answer is a resounding yes.
Crowds of marchers – many in signature pink knit hats – began lining the perimeter of Grant Park about an hour before the Woman’s March was scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m.
The weather was chilly but sunny with clear skies as music pulsed from the stage.
“I think the energy is really good,” said organizer Liz Radford. “Have a great day. Use today to center yourself and get ready for 2018 and the actions we’ll need to take to champion women’s rights.”