Sunday, January 19, 2020

Women’s March/Women Rising 2020 Photo Essay

The crowd gathers in the snow on Woodstock Square for the 2020 McHenry County Women's March/Women Rising.  Carol Hamlin Faure  photo.
Once again despite terrible weather across much of the county the Women’s March in Washington and sister marches across the nation displayed renewed dedication and commitment as tens of thousands took to the streets.  Predictably, the national media were largely bored and dismissive blaming reduced crowds to a movement that is petering out and running out of steam instead of the weather.  It is no longer the latest shiny thing for them and they have impeachment drama, Trump blathering, and the Prince Harry and Meghan soap opera to keep them occupied.  But feminist activists are not alone—earthquake ravaged Puerto Rico and armed neo-Nazi marchers in Richmond, Virginia also got the short shift.
Over 25,000 people signed up online to attend the D.C. march and even more showed up.  Other big city marches including New York and Chicago posted similar results.  

2020 Women's March in Washington, D.C.
With the theme Women Rising the marches emphasized grass roots activism and recognition of intersectionality in key areas—reproductive rights and health care access; anti-violence including domestic abuse, sexual assault, hate crimes, police violence against racial, ethnic, LGBTQ minorities;  immigration rights, and end to mass detentions and family separations with a clear path to citizenship; urgent climate change and eco-justice issued;  and civil rights and liberties for all including opposition to voter suppression and in favor of voting rights.
In Chicago march organizers eschewed the usual rally and speeches instead departing a Grant Park staging area directly for a parade to the Federal Plaza led by marchers with disabilities.  Top female office holders including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford marched with the rank and file.

Women's March 2020 in Chicago. Photo by Luke H. Duong.
Here in McHenry County, Illinois more than 250 turned out in the aftermath of a serious snow storm followed by freezing rain for a rally and march on Woodstock Square sponsored by Women’s March McHenry County and the McHenry County NOW Chapter with the support of other organizations including the AAUW (American Association of University Women), McHenry County Democrats, McHenry County Progressives, Medicare for All, and the National Immigration Justice Center.
Ruth Scifo, chair of Women’s March McHenry County and other speakers emphasized the centennial celebration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote.  She noted that win came only after 80 years of activism and the sacrifices of suffragists who were often jailed and abused and also cited the battle of second wave feminists in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s for equal pay and opportunities and to win passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  This generation, she said, must honor the sacrifices of their grandmothers and mothers with an equal commitment to preserving and extending those gains in the face of Trumpism and reactionary backlash.

McHenry County Democratic Party Chair Kristine Zahoic with McHenry County March co-chair and program host Ruth Scifo.
Other speakers included Mayor Brian Sager of Woodstock who is also a Democratic candidate for 63rd Illinois House of Representatives, Representative Sean Casten of the 6th Congressional District, county and state leaders of the National Organization for Women, Meredith Sarkees of the AAUW, and Amanda Garcia of the National Immigration Justice Center who also provide legal services to immigration detainees in McHenry County Jail in co-operation with the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI). 
Representative Lauren Underwood (D-14) was slated to speak but road conditions made it impossible for her to arrive on time from another Women’s March event.  The multi-hatted Kristina Zahoric who is McHenry County Democratic Party chair, Chair of the Illinois Democratic County Chair Organization, and 14th Congressional District Chair for the Illinois Democratic Party ably pitch hit for Lauren.
Cassandra Vohs-Demann, Director of the Woodstock Community Choir and the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation Choir, roused and inspired the crowd with a great original song written expressly for the occasion.

The view from the Woodstock Square Gazebo stage--the crowd spread out along sidewalks around the Square.
Other political official and candidates were on hand but did not speak including Democrat Paula Yensen, District 5 County Board member; District 2 County Board member and candidate for Illinois House District 66; Jeanie Ridings, candidate for Circuit Court Judge, 3rd Judicial Sub-District; Peter Janko, candidate for Illinois House District 63 and a leader of the McHenry County Medicare for All campaign; and incumbent Republican McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools who is running for re-election and facing a push from County Board Chair Jack Franks to have her office eliminated.
After an hour long program, participants were eager to begin a one lap march around the Square in high spirits and at a brisk pace.  Everyone went home energized and ready for an intense year of activism ahead.

Tree of Life UU Congregation was well represented with at least 22 members and friends in attendance in Woodstock.  Our Side with Love banner was a rally point as the crowd gathered early.  Seen are Judy Stettner, Dr. Lisa Messinger, Sandy Eckert, and the Old Man.   Member Paula Yensen, County Board District 5 member  in her bright red coat and hat and votes for women sash was busy with arrangements on stage and our Choir Director Casandra Vohs-Demann roused the crowd with an original song.

Ruth Scifo at the rally microphone.

Ever busy Missy Funk, a leader of the McHenry County Progressives and Woodstock Pride, marched with the Medicare for All contingent.

NOW members in Woodstock.  Missy Funk photo

The head of the march passes the historic Old McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock.  Event co-chair Catherin Johnson at right

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