Over 250,000 people showed up in Chicago's Grant Park on Saturday to protest Trump. Millions did so in marches worldwide.
The plan was to rally in Grant Park, then march across the heart of downtown, telling the Trump Administration that Chicago, along with hundreds of cities around the world, has a message: We resist.
But by 10 a.m., the crowd was so large that organizers canceled the march and instructed the sea of demonstrators to stay in the park, fearing the Windy City couldn’t handle the 250,000 people who showed up.
Nevertheless, the people marched. They broke off into columns of hundreds and thousands that pulsed through downtown, cheering, chanting, dancing, and bringing traffic to a halt.
Signs with a litany of phrases and slogans bobbed in the air. “Pussy Power” read one laser-printed placard, next to another that said, “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.”
Two teenagers held a cloth banner with a Mexican flag painted next to the phrase, “Small hands can’t handle a big wall.” On another poster, a yellow and orange flame served as a backdrop to the inscription, “Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned.”
Perched on her father’s shoulders, three-year-old Kimberly Sanders chanted along with the crowd, clapping her hands to keep time: “United we fight, divided we fall.” Then someone initiated another chant that slowly spread: “No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA.”
“We called and you came. We have flooded the march route. We have flooded Chicago,” organizer Liz Radford told the cheering crowd at Grant Park, amid a sea of pink hats and signs.
And so it was across the world. Los Angeles, Paris, London, Boston, New York, Madison, cities in more than twenty countries showed solidarity with the Women’s March on the nation’s capital, where just the day before, one of the most divisive and feared figures in American politics became President.
From the ground of Chicago’s rally, there was no end in sight to the crowd. In the morning, standstills were common as throngs of people streamed from all sides to get to the center of the action at Jackson and Columbus Drives.
From above, the grid of intersecting streets that surround Grant Park teemed with hues of pink, blue, red, gray, forming a human blanket of protesters. Aerial shots of Chicago and other cities would later serve as rebuttals to those of Trump’s Inauguration Day relative puny crowd.
“We are more than they are,” said Sarah Jacobson, a history major at suburban Wheaton College. “People recognize what’s going on, and they’re willing to fight.”
In one hand, Jacobson held a sign that said #FightTump!” In the other, she flipped through videos of sister marches on her phone, showing the images to her companions as they marched south on Wabash, an El train rattling overhead.
Jacobson found it particularly fitting that Chicago outdid initial attendance estimates. The city has been a frequent target of Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric, both during the campaign and afterward; at one point, he even compared it to a “war-torn country” because of its crime rate.
For some, the march was a chance to celebrate rather than mourn. On the corner of Wabash and Van Buren, Peter Podlipni and a group of friends set down a large speaker, hooked it up to a playlist, and danced. Others joined in, or simply swayed to the music, a mix of hip-hop, funk, and other genres. Passerbys stopped to take pictures and videos, exchanging compliments about signs and dance moves. Every Thursday, the group holds dance parties geared towards queer folks and allies at a bar in Logan Square. On Inauguration weekend, they thought it especially fitting to bring those vibes here.
“It’s just happy and friendly,” Podlipni said of the atmosphere.
A large contingent marched north on Wabash toward the Chicago River, across which stood Trump International Hotel and Tower, the President’s name appearing like a curse scrawled on a bathroom wall.
Barricades surrounded a roughly two-block block perimeter around Trump’s building, and heavily armed police on Wabash blocked off the bridge leading to the ninety-eight-story building. Protesters congregated on the riverfront opposite, taking pictures holding their homemade signs with the Trump tower in the background.
“It’s funny how, before, it was normal to see his name in huge letters that you could see for miles,” said Ronald Gomez, a construction worker who lives on the Chicago’s southwest side. “Now, it’s like you can’t miss it. It makes me sick. It pisses me off.”
The son of Mexican immigrants, Gomez never fancied himself an activist. But when the Trump campaign dared organize a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago, minutes away from his home, he took his teen brother and a pair of homemades signs to meet the President-elect’s supporters. It was a chaotic day, with clashes between the pro- and anti-trump sides. Ultimately, the rally was cancelled due to security concerns.
What does he hope today’s rally can accomplish? “To get him out after four years,” Gomez said.
Ala Salameh, a first-year law student at Loyola Law School, wore a shirt that read, “Palestinian for Black Liberation.” She expressed conflicting emotions: On the one hand, she found the massive turnout inspiring; on the other, she wondered if many of those who turned out for the women’s march would do so for other groups under attack in Trump’s America.
“We need to be standing by bother communities that have parallel struggles,” said Salameh, a Palestinian-American and a practicing Muslim. “We can only advance our collective causes if we stand together.”