Less than a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, hundreds of Evanstonians joined marches in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Of the millions of marchers and the nearly 1,000 demonstrations across the globe, some went to protest the election of Mr. Trump. Some went to protest his words and actions that seem to provoke – not merely evoke – racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, among other things. Some went to protest his vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, the arts, and other organizations. Some went to protest the people he would appoint to government positions. Some went to protest his stated belief that climate change is not caused or exacerbated by humans. Some went to stand in solidarity with the progressive values exemplified by the Obama administration.
The Day Of
For some or all of these reasons – and more – Evanston residents joined the Women’s March. On Jan. 20, four buses carrying about 200 passengers departed from the Evanston Township High School parking lot. Many of them wore “pussy hats,” pink (for the most part) caps with cat ears, alluding to Mr. Trump’s assertion that he enjoyed grabbing women by the genitals and kissing them without their consent.
Kathleen Long, Evan Finamore, and Nina Kavin organized the bus trip – provisions, entertainment and focused conversation for those on the 1,200-mile round trip from Evanston to Washington, D.C.
Ms. Kavin, founder of the website Dear Evanston, said she was motivated to organize the trip because “Trump’s words and actions during the campaign and his proposed policies directly attack and endanger so many different people in our society. Trump’s key approach to his presidency is to divide and marginalize, demean, and destroy. … I was also compelled to go to the march with a diverse group of people from Evanston – as a way to bring us together, get to know each other better, and come home to address issues that we face right here, together.”
District 202 School Board member Gretchen Livingston, who knitted 10 of the 100 or so pussy hats, said, “I was looking forward to connecting with members of my community and was so proud to have so many from Evanston participate, including women of all colors, older and younger women and girls, and even a few boys and men. … Showing up, raising your voice in support of what is right and good seemed to be the most important thing.”
Mary Mumbrue, a retired elementary school teacher who works at the RoundTable and traveled to New York City, said, “What I observed was an enormous group of people who were peaceful and cooperative – many families, all ethnic groups represented, people in wheelchairs, as well as people of all types of sexual orientation. This and other marches were certainly in opposition to the new president. To me, it was a statement by women and the men who marched – and there were tons – that they demand to be heard, that rights be protected and interests prioritized by our government.
“I felt that the women who marched with me and around me for as long as the eye could see had a single positive focus: care. Perhaps women look at America as their family and the world as their community.”
Wynn Graham, who traveled by train from Evanston to Washington, D.C., said, as she neared the end of her rail journey, “The purpose of the march is coming clear: bonding with other women who are going to work for issues we care about.”
“The electricity was in the air as soon as I woke up,” said Kate Brown, who went with her mother and some high school friends to the Chicago march. “I was scurrying to get my sign finished, and the kids helped me. That added to the excitement, because it felt like they were part of the day and what it stood for. … Mom went out to Hewn to buy some croissants about 7:30 a.m. and reported to me that she saw groups with signs and pink hats already headed to the train. That was really when I started to think this march was going to be something big.
“And wasn’t it? Truly it was something that I will never forget – all those people coming together peacefully and powerfully. And as these gray days continue, Saturday shines out like a diamond, all blue sky and sunshine.”
Even before the buses reached Washington, Ms. Kavin said, the momentousness of the marches hit her. “The moment I realized the enormity of the march was actually at 3 a.m. in Breezewood, Penn., when our buses stopped for a rest break. I got out of the bus all bleary-eyed, and it was very foggy. And there in the fog stretching way down was a long line of bus after bus after bus after bus from all over the country. And inside the rest area were hundreds and hundreds of weary travelers all with their pink pussy hats on. But it was the kind of buses that took my breath away and made me realize that I was a part of history,” she said.
Lindsay Percival, Director of the Child Care Center of Evanston, told the RoundTable, “Ever since I woke up to find that Donald Trump won the election I have had this feeling of anger and frustration. Daily Donald Trump shows that he is unfit to govern.”
Many from Evanston, including this writer, were unable to get into Chicago’s Grant Park but stood packed together on the Adams or Jackson street bridges or continued to gather on Michigan Avenue and the side streets.
Ms. Mumbrue said she and her friend spent six hours waiting and marching in New York City. Marchers in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, however were not able to proceed because the streets were so packed. The number of people in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March was greater than the number of people who attended the inauguration of Donald Trump on the previous day.
The Day After
Asked what their next steps would be, Ms. Livingston and Ms. Kavin both said they planned to continue their commitments.
Ms. Livingston said, “I think this is the important question, and one that I am not sure I can answer just yet, except to say that I will personally continue the important work of the School Board and seek re-election to my Board seat, and continue my work on the executive board of our school district advocacy organization, ED-RED. … The dysfunction of our state threatens education very directly, especially in how education is funded. … I am also doing what I can to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos, the pick for education secretary, who is singularly unqualified for that position.”
Ms. Percival said she is going to read more and not rely on social media. “Trump will play his games with the press while the Republican house and senate will dismantle safety nets for low-income people. I have joined an advocacy group and I will call and write to my representatives even though I know they are already think the same as I do because they need numbers to show what the people want.”
Ms. Kavin said, “My next step is to keep focused on my Dear Evanston project, to work locally to build bridges between the diverse people in our own community. I think that the biggest contribution I can make is to work to encourage Evanstonians from different backgrounds to learn more about each other by meeting together, eating together, working together, and supporting and celebrating each other right here in our own back yard. We can really change the world by pushing our own boundaries and getting uncomfortable where we live.”
Ms. Mumbrue said she felt emotions were “stoked last Friday [Jan. 20], when Mr. Trump gave a speech that he showed he intends to turn America into a version of himself. As I thought about what I could do and can do: I realized that persistence is the best resistance. We need to move from the marches to everyday politics – the politics of care: communicating care, teaching care and putting pressure on our officials by making phone calls and working on campaigns.
Karen Singer, CEO of YWCA Evanston/North Shore said, “The marches were only the beginning. We know many have expressed concern that not all voices felt heard equally, and we will explore that at our racial justice and women’s empowerment programming. What comes next? We are working to accelerate our advocacy initiatives so that we may better monitor and analyze the impact that proposed legislation may have on women’s and civil rights. And we invite all community members to get engaged in working for justice.” She invited everyone to join the YWCA in it discussions of race and racism in its “Let’s Talk @ Lunch,” to join AfterWords, its Racial Justice Book Discussion Group, to attend the International Women’s Day commemoration, the annual Racial Justice Summit and the annual Stand Against Racism.