News Local/State

An Estimated 5,000 Attend Women’s March In Downtown Champaign

Participants in Saturday's Women's March in downtown Champaign make their way down Park Avenue.

Participants in Saturday's Women's March in downtown Champaign make their way down Park Avenue. Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

On a day that has seen huge crowds in cities across the country, the Champaign County Young Democrats brought out an estimated 5,000 people to protest Friday's inauguration of President Donald Trump. Following a series of speeches in Westside Park Saturday, the group made its way through downtown Champaign. The event was touted as an official sister march to the national Women's March on Washington.

What started as a few hundred filtering into the park Saturday quickly grew by the thousands as the crowd prepared for a diverse set of guest speakers.

Donna Hudson came up from Charleston. She represents PFLAG Charleston, an advocacy group for family, friends and allies of the LGBT community.

“I think that we need to see our diversity in this country as a strength and a blessed value and not something that needs to be marginalized,” Hudson said.  “There are so many marginalized groups in this country, I think, who are very worried about their human rights being trampled, or being minimized.  And we need to stand up for people who don’t already have the power in this country.”

Hudson also said she’s concerned is that Trump is “kind of a marketing genius.”

“I don’t want him to set a precedent for our politics, that that’s how you get elected," she said.

Dave Gaumer of Champaign attended the rally because he’s disturbed by a number of Trump’s policies, but the president's comments on global warming stand out for him. 

"That’s something that we can’t put off for four years, we can’t wait for him to decide that’s a good idea,” he said. “His daughter (Ivanka Trump) thinks it’s a good idea, hopefully she can change him. But that’s a critical issue.”

State Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana speaks at West Side Park in Champaign Saturday.

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) opened the schedule of guest speakers by saying there was a "contradiction" with the  U.S. electoral process, citing the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

"There is an attempt to sell us an oppressive regime," she said. "The regime of a Donald Trump that fills his cabinet with racists, and homophobes, and haters, and people that want to turn back the hands of time."

University of Illinois sophomore Sanaa Khan also spoke at the rally. She is a member of the campus Muslim Students Association.

University of Illinois sophomore Sanaa Khan, a member of the UIUC Muslim Students Association, speaks on Saturday at West Side Park in Champaign

Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

"Whether it’s by accepting hateful speech, or tolerance of hateful crimes, we come dangerously close to repeating some of this nation’s darkest times in history," Khan said. "We can’t change our history, but we can change our future.”

Khan says when one's whole identity is reduced to one facet of who they are (religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender), it compels a person to stay strong.

“Though there are those who would like us to believe otherwise, it’s not that which others use to do define you, but that what you do that defines your character," she said. "But it isn't easy in the face of adversity. But now more than ever, it’s a time for Muslims, for minorities, and for Americans to speak up. To have open and honest dialogues."

A portion of the crowd at West Side Park listens to guest speakers at Saturday's rally.

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

The event moved downtown later in the afternoon, marching through the streets of dowtown Champaign, concluding its slate of guest speakers at Cowboy Monkey.

Drone footage courtesy of Mike Bolhmann, Assistant Dean of Technology, U of I College of Media

The list of twenty guest speakers also included Claudia Lennhoff, Executive Director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers; Evelyn Reynolds with Black Lives Matter CU; and former state representative Naomi Jakobsson, who preceded Ammons to her 103rd District seat.