Op/Ed • In The Age of Trump, Chicago Must Stand Tall

It’s here, it happened, and now with the marches only just begun and the new reality just beginning to sink in, the reign of Donald J Trump is upon us. Leading up to, during and following the Friday morning inauguration of the 45th President of the United States were a series of protests that dotted municipalities from coast to coast. As the lone beacon of blue amidst a sea of confused red on the electoral map that handed the nation’s highest office to a reality TV star and sexual deviant, Chicago and the area directly surrounding it is uniquely positioned as we inch further into unforeseen territory.

A week prior to the inauguration President Obama came home to give his last official declaration as President after a memorable eight-year run. Speaking from the McCormick Center, it seemed obvious that if the country was split, the Second city was front and center. The city has hardly swayed in it’s support for the left since vaulting underdog John F. Kennedy into the White House on a promise from Mayor Richard J Daley. Now, as Obama returns from almost a decade away in Washington, it seems as though the city has been identified as a sort of strong-hold for progressive thought and open-mindedness. 

It was already apparent Chicago wasn’t going, that much was clear when Trump’s campaign stop at the University of Illinois-Chicago was shut down by and overwhelming response from protestors and organizers fed up with his rhetoric which many amounted to hate speech. In that action, the speech was successfully canceled after a shrewd move by those in opposition who diluted the audience inside UIC Pavilion who bought tickets to the events and entered the venue to break into chants and voice their side of the argument that has now reached a fever pitch. 

That sentiment continued over the course of the last week, as demonstrators once again took to the streets in and around the Loop to protest the inauguration both on the day-of and days following. While some frustration manifested itself in some broken windows and dented egos, the overwhelming majority of opposition was peaceful, shutting down major thoroughfares like Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Ave. the same way they did the day following the jaw-dropping election results. The biggest show of force thus far arrived early Saturday, as millions of females took to streets across the country, united in what would be called the ‘Woman’s March’ against the misogynistic agenda of the new Commander-in-chief. The pink-lined mass-protest was absolutely felt locally, where CPD officers who’s union pledged support for the self-described ‘pussy-grabber’ tried to advise against a march, citing the crowd’s size, reportedly over 250,000. Interestingly enough, those same officers seemed to have no issue helping three-day-drunk Cubs fans execute their beer bongs and trust falls across the city’s streets just a few months prior. Regardless, our city’s presence was once again felt, this time in concert with others across the country.

Megan Spain, Member Relations manager at Soho House in Chicago who traveled to Washington Friday teamed up with local artist Don’t Fret to produce a series of tongue-in-cheek signs that dotted marches in both cities. Describing the experience, Spain, a Las Vegas-native was blown away by the sheer number of people who made the decision to come together independently.

“Traveling to the capital was exhausting.  I had to take a flight to NYC from Chicago on Friday. Saturday at 5:30a hopping on a bus to DC to then return the same day.  However, it gave me a lot of time to reflect and realize I was about to be part of something bigger than myself. Sitting on the bus heading to  DC  while listening to speeches by James Baldwin & MLK speeches while seeing and seeing loads of women and men on charter buses driving to DC for the same purpose was incredibly empowering,” said Spain of her trip east. "Marching with 500k + other people fighting for their rights/your rights is unreal. It's kind of hard to describe. You feel so connected. The moment that will stick with me forever is being surrounded by people who didn't look like me as we marched up Indepence Ave. Many white old men & women. One white man starts yelling "black lives matter!" We all start chanting it. Something I have actually never chanted or said before in such a public setting. Next thing you know the white woman grabs my hand and is cheering it with me while her male counterpart is yelling "her (me) life matters!" I started to cry.  If I learned anything from this march is that it's not solely the responsibility of an oppressed group of people to fight for their rights. It takes everyone. I also left DC knowing that there is good in this world and in our country and I do have hope, but the fight is still going, it's been going, and won't be done anytime soon."

As we begin to turn the pages on a Trump presidency and all that mean with it, we as Chicagoans need to come together more than ever. Surrounded on all sides by contempt, misunderstanding and callousness, our city has the opportunity to heal its own problems while proving to the country that resistance to the inevitabilities of the proletariat is possible. There’s no telling really what will come from the next few months and years. If the first few days are any indication, there’s few of us are safe, and those who do feel so are now tasked with making sure their neighbors are as well. While our city can often find itself divided along lines of race, income, privilege and affiliation; we now find ourselves with something larger at stake. 

To this point, the citizens of our city have proven the ability to stand up, show out and make it known that the status quo on Pennsylvania Ave isn’t the same as Michigan Ave. While we have a long way to go, I’m confident in our ability to make sure the country remembers that blue spot in the center of the heartland.