Last year the streets of downtown Chicago were flooded with an estimated quarter million demonstrators for the inaugural Women’s March. This year organizers for Chicago’s march are aiming to do it again.
March to the Polls will happen on Saturday, January 20 at Congress Parkway and Columbus Drive in Millennium Park. The focus this year will be getting people invested in their local elections. While there is no official crowd estimate, organizers are optimistic that the turnout will be strong. And the forecast on Saturday (43 degrees and partly sunny!) is bound to push attendance higher.
“What matters most is connections people make on the ground. The individual stories that came out of last year were amazing,” Claire Shingler, one of the co-organizers, told Curbed Chicago. “Whatever turnout we have doesn’t matter, as long as people are having these impactful moments.”
If you can’t make the event in Chicago, don’t worry—you’ll be able to watch it live online thanks to CAN TV. There are also other ways you can help, such as volunteering the day of or donate to help with expenses. As of Friday morning, Women’s March Chicago had raised $56,436.92 of its $150,000 goal.
Across Illinois, other marches will take place throughout the weekend on January 20 and 21. Nationally, there are more than 300 marches happening and even a handful of international marches in places like Sweden, Zambia, and Italy.
So, with all of that going on, here’s what you need to know about Chicago’s March to the Polls.
Why are people marching?
The second annual Women’s March Chicago will celebrate the effort that was made throughout 2017 and shift focus on the elections in 2018.
“We’re really looking to harness the positive energy and direct it towards outcomes in this year’s elections. We want to make sure women are registered to vote and can act on the issues they care about most,” Shingler said.
Wondering which local elections will be happening in 2018? Find out more information on the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website.
How many people will be there?
No official estimate has been made, but more than 12,600 people have confirmed attendance and nearly 30,000 are “interested,” according to the Facebook event on Friday morning. Last year organizers had planned for 60,000 people to attend, but were greeted by a crowd almost five times as large.
“Estimating the numbers are pretty tricky, and we learned last year we’re not too good at that,” Shingler said. “We do get a sense that people are excited to be there again, and people who missed it or went to Washington want to be there too. There’s a really strong momentum.”
What happens at the event?
March to the Polls in Chicago will begin the intersection of Congress Parkway and Columbus Drive in Millennium Park. At 9 a.m. there will be music and videos then rally will begin at 11 a.m. with a speaking series featuring Chicagoans that tie into the 2018 election theme.
The march will begin at 12:30 p.m. and follow a route to Federal Plaza. Beginning at Columbus and Congress the marching route goes west to Michigan Avenue, then north on Michigan Avenue to Jackson Boulevard, then west on Jackson Boulevard to Clark Street until Federal Plaza is reached.
The Chicago Temple located at Washington and Clark will serve as a meeting point and warming station the day of the event.
What can I bring with me?
Signs! Posters! But no wooden sticks or metal poles should be attached to hold them up. Backpacks are okay for now and organizers said its a good idea to pack a lunch or bring a water bottle. Just make sure your responsible for any trash or wrappers.
Are any speakers planned for the march?
Live performances from Hamilton cast members and Second City are scheduled as well as a speech from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, according an announcement from the organization. Officials from the Chicago Foundation for Women, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Emily’s List and other organizations will speak too.
How are people getting there?
One entrance is located at Congress and Columbus. There is a family zone and access for people with disabilities at Monroe and Columbus. A protected seating area will be provided at this entrance as well.
Closest ‘L’ stops: Blue Line at Jackson and LaSalle; Red Line at Monroe; Green, Brown, Purple, Pink, Orange lines at Adams/Wabash
On Saturday, the CTA will increase service and provide longer trains from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Blue, Brown, Purple, Green and Orange lines. Bus route No. 147 Outer Drive Express will have extra service too.
Bus routes No. 6 Jackson Park Express and No. J14 Jeffrey Jump will be detoured from 10 p.m. Friday until 4 p.m. Saturday.
Other bus routes rerouted from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday include No. 3 King, No. 4 Cottage Grove, No. 20 Madison, No. 22 Clark, No. 29 State, No. 36 Broadway, No. 56 Milwaukee, No. 60 Blue Island/26 St., No. 62 Archer, No. 124 Navy Pier, No. 126 Jackson, No. 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express, No. 147 Outer Drive Express, and No. 151 Sheridan.
Where can I find out about other marches happening?
There are events directly affiliated with March to the Polls and supporting organizations putting together non-affiliated gatherings. All marches are listed on the Women’s March website. There are six registered marches in Illinois.
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.