Last week, six students from blackyouthproject.com’s high school journalism program traveled downtown to Columbus Drive and Congress for the Women’s March. Their goal: Talk to as many protesters as possible about why they joined the demonstration and what issues were important to them. Here’s what students learned …
Sam Fleming, junior, Lab
Some 250,000 people stormed downtown Chicago to protest against a variety of issues. The Women’s Marches here and elsewhere were originally sparked by President Trump’s controversial comments about women. Racism was also a major concern. Protesters noted the march represented how important it is for Americans to take advantage of their Constitutional right to assemble.
“The most un-American thing in the world is to view protest as wrong,” says one demonstrator.
Unfortunately, the lack of a clear platform for the Women’s March may weaken future impact. Participants wanted to see progress, but the focus of that progress spanned programs and policies as diverse as funding Planned Parenthood to criminal justice reform to the direction of U.S.-Russia relations.
Jason found a common thread among protestors’ concerns. “What’s a threat to one person is a threat to us all,” he says. “It’s important to get your voice heard.”
Chelsea Jackson, junior, UCW
Saturday is a day that will go down in history. Over 250,000 people gathered in Grant Park to stand for or against something or someone. People of different races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations flooded the streets of downtown Chicago chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and “Our bodies, our choice.”
I talked to Hollie, a black woman who brought her two daughters to the march to show them what unity looks like. She says she wants her young girls to know that they, just like men, can be engineers and mathematicians.
I walked with the crowd further onto Michigan Avenue where they pushed past barricades and blocked traffic. I saw a white man walking with a group of women in pink hats. He told me he was marching to stand for equal rights for everyone. “The fact that we still have to march is ridiculous.”
Kelly, a white woman carrying a sign supporting immigrants, expressed solidarity with other marchers in the movement. She explains that she’s already taking classes to learn more about racism so she can become a more effective ally for people of color.
Taylor Bogert, junior, Lab
Saturday’s rally—filled with passionate, angry, empowered people—grew so large that the scheduled march route was closed. United by the event, participants had their own reasons for wanting to protest the new presidential administration.
Even illness was not a barrier. “I woke up sick today, but I knew I couldn’t miss such an important event,” says Susan.
Protesters expressed a range of concerns. Misogyny. Discrimination. LGBT rights.
Eric, a gay Chicagoan, says he feared his rights may be taken away. “These protests will help wake up America.”
Others worry about Russian interference in the election. John says he doesn’t understand how Trump is allowed to be president when it has been proven that the Russians intervened on his behalf. “We are Russia now,” he says.
While anger drove many people to this protest march, some say they are hopeful. Ann, who says she works with Planned Parenthood, predicts, “I believe these protests will inspire the youth of America to change.”
Kiara Hyde, junior, UCW
Pink hats and protest signs swarmed Grant Park Saturday for the Women’s March in Chicago. After the rally, thousands of people of every gender, race and sexual orientation made their way to Michigan Avenue and Congress, blocking traffic on both streets. Their concerns focused on issues related to LGBTQ rights to immigration to healthcare.
Chants rose and fell. This is what Democracy looks like.
Interviews with diverse women protesters found an equally diverse set of issues and concerns.
Nancy, a history teacher, says she is concerned about police violence against Blacks and high incarceration rates. “It hits my heart and core. It’s hard to be at peace while all of this is happening.” She added that she’s a member of Black and Pink Chicago, an LGBTQ prisoner support group.
Michaela, an Afro-Latina social studies teacher, says she has five children and feels like she’s on the frontlines when it comes to educating youth. Motivated by her children, she came to the march to show them that it’s OK to fight for what you believe in.
Perrier DeForneau-Woods, senior, UCW
More than 250,000 people showed up for the Women’s March and rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. So many showed up, organizers canceled the march down Jackson Boulevard to Daley Center for safety reasons. But participants marched anyway, heading down Congress instead and blocking traffic there and on Michigan Avenue.
The crowd stretched nearly to the Air Jordan store on south State Street.
Walking around, I saw some interesting signs. Make America Great Again Without Trump. Black Lives Matter. No Lives Are Illegal. Love not hate.
I also talked to people about why they came out for the March. Martin says he is marching to make sure people’s voices are heard by the new president.
Christian Brookens, junior, Lab
Thousands of men and women gathered in downtown Chicago the day after the presidential inauguration to protest. Their reasons were many: Sexism, capitalism, racism, and women’s rights.
In interviews with protesters, I learned that showing up and speaking out were as important as the issues. “My roommate and I just put together some posters and decided to come out here and protest,” says Bill.
Asked why she was marching, Pam, who was there with her wife and four-year-old daughter, is brief. “Simply to show my presence.”
Pam and Bill were just two of thousands of protesters. The atmosphere was charged with the sound of thousands of strangers coming together to chant—My body, my choice and The women united can never be divided—and share political goals.
“I really just love my country,” says Marla, who was at the march with her daughter. After the protest, she says she will continue to do volunteer work in her community to support the causes she believes in.
Another protester says she plans to educate, advocate and organize after the march. “I support human liberation. I am an anti-capitalist. I fight for sexism, racism.”