This is what democracy looks like: My day at The Women’s March


photo by Catherine Turco -ABC7 Chicago

by Marisa Barranco, Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, I heard that there was going to be a second annual Women’s March occuring on January 20th. I didn’t even know at the time what exactly it was for, but I knew that I had to go.

Here’s a recap of the day of the march, told from my own experience:

9:00 AM: Waking up, I was tired, excited, and a little bit wary. This would be my first time participating in a political rally and march, and I had no idea what to expect. Would there be a lot of people? What if violence broke out? And of course, I was hoping I wouldn’t miss my train.

10:14 AM: Thankfully, I didn’t miss my train. As I boarded, I could sense that pink was going to be a color I would see a lot during the day. Women and men, young and old, of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds were on my train car, wearing pink paraphernalia with their homemade signs beside them, ready to march. I had debated making a sign the night before, but ultimately decided not to since I didn’t have the materials, which I would regret later.

For a morning train, it was surprisingly buzzing with chatter.  From what I could hear, people were making plans for what they would get for lunch after and what train they would catch later.

All of these conversations motivated me to make conversation with my seat partner, who was actually going downtown for a birthday brunch, and she was incredibly nice. I would say that it’s typical for me to get on the train and just drown out the world with my music, but it was something about the energy of that day that made me decide to step out of my comfort zone, and I’m happy I did. The women’s march was already taking its hold on me.

10:40 AM: Arriving ahead of schedule to Union Station, I made my way off the train and onto the platform, and was shocked by the sheer number of people coming off my train seemingly on their way to the Women’s March. I could now see the many groups of friends and families together, supporting each other, and it was beautiful.

10:55 AM: After buying my return ticket, I made my way to the Jackson Street exit and towards the rally, which was about to start. I had come alone and considered asking to join one of the many excited groups making their way to Grant Park, but opted to go alone so I wouldn’t have to make small talk.

11:15 AM: The closer I got to Grant Park, the more packed the streets became. Clark, Dearborn, State Street, and Michigan Avenue soon were filled to the brim with marchers crossing the street with police sanctioned cross guards to ensure safety.

When I made it the Barnes & Noble on State Street, I saw two enthusiastic 20-somethings wearing bright colors, holding tablets and asking marchers to give them a second of their time. I decided to approach them, and had a conversation with a well-spoken, heart-headband-adorned young man, but it was such a whirlwind of commotion that I forgot what group they represented. I do remember that they were pushing to get the Equality Act for LGBTQ+ community approved in Congress: a noble pursuit.

I continued on to Michigan Avenue, and when I did, thousands of signs were being held by hundreds of thousands of marchers with a variety of sayings plastered across them. Some were directed at President Trump, others aligned on the women’s rights and sexual assault spectrum, with many others tying in their personal communities and why they supported the movement. Not all of them were artistically brilliant or eloquent, but each one got their message across in its own unique way, and I regretted not making my own.

Despite the insane amount of people, I had a somewhat easy time navigating through the crowd and getting ahead due to the politeness of the people there and the maneuverability of the area.

12:00 PM: At this point, I’ve made it to the rally and have listened to a few of the speakers after trying to find a good spot for 20-minutes. I debated attending the rally part of the march, but I thought it would be a important to hear from the speakers themselves about why they were marching and what their problems with the current government were. All of the speaker’s were motivational, but I didn’t necessarily hear anything new. However, I would still recommend for anyone to listen to just a regular person speak a large platform about an issue, because it’s such a different atmosphere from a newscast or debate on TV since you can feel how resolutely they believe in what they’re saying.

12:40 PM: The march was supposed to officially start 10 minutes ago, but the last few speakers were still going. This didn’t stop the marchers, though. Once safety regulations were reviewed, everyone started slowly but surely making their way to Federal Plaza. I wasn’t particularly interested in hearing the rest of the speakers, so I made my way down Congress Parkway.

1:00 PM: The march was slow going, but full of energy all at the same time. Chants were echoing through the crowd, and participating in them made me feel like my single voice was adding something to the larger message. One of my favorites was the call: “What does democracy look like?” and response: “This is what democracy looks like!” This was perhaps the most empowering part of the march for me because I felt like a part of a larger whole doing something for the greater good.

Since I’m 17, I haven’t been able to vote or participate in the government much, but marching gave me a taste of what enacting change looks and feels like in our democratic society.

1:30 PM: After making it to Federal Plaza, I made my way back to Union Station to head home. My legs and throat hurt, I was tired, and I wanted to collapse. Just getting to Union Station was a challenge, so standing and waiting for my train was something else entirely. In spite of this, I didn’t feel absolutely horrible because of the hundreds of other marchers in a similar situation to me, feeling tired but happy as they waited.

2:20 PM: Finally home, I laid on my bed and thought about the day. Despite my exhaustion, it was even better than I had expected. I was fairly cautious starting the day, but as I progressed through the rally and the march I became more passionate than ever. Having your voice heard is one thing, but raising it up with along with hundreds of thousands of others is another matter entirely. It’s a cacophony of sound, breaking through all barriers in that moment that you decide to take a stand. It was simply liberating.

My experience at the Women’s March is one of many and unique to me. I was fortunate enough to have a life-changing experience while there, and hopefully others had a positive time, too. But if I learned anything from the Women’s March, it is that our culture and government has a long path ahead before equality is reached and justice is found, and it will require consistent effort towards change from conscious and demanding citizens to achieve this.