'We want change': Hundreds rally in Geneva for Fox Valley Women's March
During a Saturday afternoon rally to kick off the second annual Fox Valley Women's March, organizer Mary O'Connor challenged the hundreds in attendance with a call to action: Get out and vote.
Going a step further, she asked participants to encourage at least 10 new or disengaged voters to learn about the issues, research the candidates and visit the polls this year. The hope, she says, is that each of those 10 people will spread the message to 10 more people, and so on.
"The 2020 elections may be the most important in our nation's history," O'Connor said. "Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is important that all voices be heard."
Spearheaded by We Can Lead Change-Fox Valley and the Kane County Coalition, the Fox Valley Women's March aims to inspire change, advocate for equality and promote political engagement at the local level.
Organizers estimate 1,200 people braved the cold and blustery weather to participate in this year's "March to the Polls" through downtown Geneva -- a larger crowd than last year when they estimate 700 attended. Many carried handmade signs with phrases ranging from "Equality for Everyone" and "Hear Me Roar" to more specific messages about issues such as health care and immigration reform.
The Geneva event coincided with other Women's March anniversary demonstrations around the world, including a rally and march in Woodstock, and a "march only" event that drew thousands to Chicago.
Elgin residents Michelle Zappia-Eickmeier and her mom, Terry Zappia, have participated in the Women's March in Chicago since the historic inaugural event in 2017. Uncertainty over Saturday's weather forecast brought them to the event closer to home this year, they said, but their mission remains the same.
"We're real frustrated with the direction that the country's going in as far as rights for women (and) rights in general," Zappia-Eickmeier said. "We want change. We want to push the vote ... and get this country going back in the right direction."
Gun control, climate change, the 2020 census and equality for all races, genders, faiths and abilities were among the other key topics addressed by a variety of guest speakers. They included Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, state Rep. Karina Villa, and U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster and Raja Krishnamoorthi.
Michelle Meyer of Aurora-based Mutual Ground also addressed the crowd, as did Geneva residents Hannah Paschke and Karoline Anthony, student representatives of the March for Our Lives movement against gun violence.
Several other activists, political candidates and grass-roots organizations were there, including more than a dozen members of an Indivisible team from DuPage County, said leader Sandra Alexander of Glen Ellyn. She has carried the same sign since participating in the 2017 march in Chicago: "Rise Up, Resist Bigotry."
"We come today for common purposes: To march and to be heard," O'Connor said. "We march because we care. We march for action, empowerment and for a better and more just America. We march for the future generations. And nothing is going to stop us."