Niles West Students March on Chicago for Human Rights

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Niles West Students March on Chicago for Human Rights

By Grace Geraghty

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An estimated crowd of 250,000 people attended the Women’s March rally in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 21 to advocate for issues ranging from women’s rights and racial equality to immigration in the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration the previous day.

The rally was a sister-event to the Women’s March on Washington D.C. held the same day; similar events were held across the country, as well as internationally, with at least one related event on every continent. After the crowd surpassed the initial estimate of 75,000, the Chicago march was canceled, with the rally becoming the main event. Despite this, protesters ended up spilling out of Grant Park, eventually blocking traffic on Michigan Avenue.

Many Niles West students participated in the Chicago Women’s March, citing various reasons for throwing their support behind the cause.

“I believe that everyone should be accepted and loved no matter what religion, gender, sexual orientation, or race they belong to. I marched to make sure that any justice that has been undermined was heard,” junior Simone Perrin said. “We should be a nation that embraces everyone’s differences.”

“We’re here to stand up for our rights,” senior and Feminist Club cofounder Rida Yousuf said. Yousuf carried a hand made sign that read, “Respect our existence or expect resistance.”

Reproductive rights were among the various issues protesters are supporting in the wake of Trump issuing an executive order that officially makes it his administration’s policy to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, currently protects women’s access to affordable reproductive care.

“I’m here to protest for women’s reproductive rights and to raise awareness against the harassment against women,” junior Maureen Khoshaba said. “It’s important because women should have a voice, and they shouldn’t be silenced by the president.”

Some students walked in part to support the important women in their lives.

“I’m marching on behalf of my mom for equal pay,” senior Robbie Merkel said. Merkel made a double-sided sign representing many crucial causes, including immigration rights, women’s rights, and transgender rights.

One main motivator for a lot of the student protesters was the fulfillment of their constitutional right to assemble peacefully for the issues they believe in.

“I think it’s important that everybody has the right to speak about what they believe in, and I think it’s a good form of activism,” senior Soretti Donka said.

“Especially now with the new head of our government, it’s imperative that we’re all exercising our constitutional right to speak out about what we believe in and fighting for what we all need as a country and as a people,” senior Jessye Gassel said.

Participating in the protest left junior Nicole Cardona with renewed hope following Trump’s ascension to the presidency.

“Oddly enough, this past Saturday was one of the best days of my life. We were told not to march, so we danced,” she said. “Seeing so many people come together to spread love gave me so much hope for the future. The fact that it turned from a nationwide movement to a worldwide movement moves my heart; I love humanity.”

Many protest signs mocked Trump directly, referencing his infamous comments about women and immigrants that were showcased during his presidential campaign. Marchers also led and took part in cheers supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, reproductive rights, open immigration policies, and equality.

In response to the trail of Women’s Marches held across the globe, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on ABC News on Sunday, Jan 22. to reveal the Trump administration’s thoughts.

“I frankly didn’t see the point. I mean you have a day after [Trump] is uplifting and unifying, and you have folks here being on a diatribe where I think they could have requested a dialogue,” Conway said.

The Washington D.C. march is estimated to have drawn more than 500,000 protesters, with global estimations reaching over one million people.

Video by Jackie Bajric