Chicago women's march draws huge crowd day after inauguration

On an unusually warm January morning, peaceful protesters of Donald Trump's presidency decorated major stretches of downtown Chicago with slogans of anger, fear and hope to turn up the heat on an administration just 24 hours old.

The demonstration coincided with similar rallies held across the nation and around the globe. In Chicago, a larger-than-expected crowd that numbered as many 250,000 according to some estimates packed city streets. There were no arrests associated with the gathering, Chicago police said.

A bus stop shelter with "Die Fascist Scum" spray-painted on the side characterized the angry aspect of the spectrum of protesters. Just down Congress Parkway, a picket sign attached to a stroller for two read "Love Not Hate Makes America Great."

Carolyn Shannon, of St. Charles, dressed in the pink color that characterized the garb of many in a crowd that was mostly female but decidedly representative of many gender identities.

"I feel a responsibility to speak out when I see injustice," Shannon said. "And right now I see a president who doesn't seem interested in protecting everyone's rights. And that's contrary to what I believe this country stands for."

In the days leading up the march, organizers anticipated about 50,000 would participate. But thousands more showed up, forcing organizers to cancel the marching portion of The Women's March on Chicago, but the majority of protesters went along the route anyway.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter at around 11:30 a.m. that the Women's March on Chicago had transitioned into a support rally at Grant Park. But it was right about that same time that a segment of the attendees broke off and walked the preplanned route.

The segment was large enough to stretch several city blocks as they marched and chanted past the Chicago Board of Trade, federal building and Cook County offices in a loop that concluded back at Grant Park. Volunteer marshals associated with the rally, with the help and cooperation of Chicago police, herded the swarm west down Van Buren and other main streets, blocking traffic but meeting few honks in protest.

Jeannie Cormier Scown, of Geneva, did not partake in the spontaneous march. But she did attend the rally as a show of what progressives can do when properly motivated. Scown said it's imperative to keep the momentum going into both local and national elections. Electing progressive Democrats to buffer the Trump agenda is the only way to make it through the next four years, she said.

"What this rally is doing is not scaring Trump one bit," Scown said. "But it is scaring the Republican representatives in our state and in other states. This is a wake-up call to people who are comfortable to start showing up at our county boards and city councils. If those people don't start turning out, they are going to find no comfort in this next four years."

In November, it was Trump supporters who turned out. But there were few signs of any counter protests in support of Trump Saturday. At the corner of Dearborn and Washington, a man chanted, "Let's go, Donald," as the tip of the largest throng of marchers approached. When the marchers reached his spot, he stopped chanting and walked away, refusing to identify himself.

The event began with a rally at 10 a.m. in and around Grant Park, and the protesters were supposed to start marching at 11:30 a.m.

At the rally, which was hosted along Grant Park at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard, thousands listened to speakers including politicians Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and several aldermen. Members of the Chicago cast of "Hamilton" spoke and then sang "Let it Be," according to ABC 7 Chicago.

Diane Kenney Handler, of Elgin, said she could not even bring herself to watch Trump's inauguration speech because she feared it would be laced with "hateful language." She said the upbeat vibe of Saturday's rally helped soothe her lingering frustration about Trump's victory.

"I'm trying to remain open and hopeful," she said. "Where we agree, and we can work together with this administration, I hope to do that. But if they keep up the stuff they've been saying, they are going to have a fight. I'm here for my daughters. They are young. But I'm older."

• Daily Herald staff writers Doug T. Graham and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.

Images: Women's marches across the country

This is a helicopter view of the crowd at The Women's March on Chicago Saturday morning. Organizers said it was the largest women's march outside Washington. courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago
The Chicago women's march stretched several city blocks on Saturday. Associated Press
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