Marchers in Geneva braved snow and cold for the Fox Valley Women’s March Saturday.
Organizers estimate around 750 attendees packed into downtown Geneva for the march, undeterred by the snow, wind, and 25-degree temperatures.
Speeches and signs carried by marchers touched on topics like sexual misconduct, gun violence, abortion rights, student debt, and the government shutdown. Some attendees even stood on cardboard to keep their feet warm while they cheered and listened to speeches from politicians and activists.
Illinois State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia spoke at the rally. She recognized attendees for coming out to march even in the harsh weather.
Chapa LaVia said, “Mother Nature thank you for bestowing your snowflakes on us, ‘cause we love you too. You showed up!”
Illinois State Representative Karina Villa also spoke. She took a moment to celebrate and encourage newly elected officials and those running for the first time.
She said, “Who has their names on a ballot? Raise your hand. Raise your hand all of those who have put their names on a ballot. I want all of you to remember, on the worst days of your campaign trail I want you to remember this moment. All these people right here. You are not alone!”
Other speakers were U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Sean Casten. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and Michelle Meyer, Executive Director of Mutual Ground, also spoke. Mutual Ground is a Fox Valley area domestic violence and sexual abuse center.
Rockford Women's March
The Rockford Women’s March was smaller than expected Saturday, thanks to six inches of snow and bone-chilling winds. But the group was loud and enthusiastic as it made its half-mile trek through Rockford’s downtown. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17) said she was there because it’s important for elected officials to remember they need to stand up for all people. She said the record number of women elected to Congress will work hard to pass legislation that helps families and children.
“Things like equal pay for equal work, making sure people can earn leave if they are having children, if they need to take care of parents," Bustos said. "Just policies that are helpful to families, especially families that are doing everything they can to get ahead but are still struggling.”
Bustos encouraged Democrats interested in getting into politics to apply for her “Build the Bench” bootcamp, where they can learn how to run a campaign. She says the idea is to attract more diverse candidates at every level.
Alicia Neubauer has been one of the organizers of the Rockford Women’s March since 2017. She says they are in the process of becoming a not-for-profit – they want to encourage activism year-round, not just during the annual march.
Neubauer says she’s disappointed the crowd is still mostly white women. She says Rockford has a lot of different social justice groups -- and Rockford Women’s March supporters need to join and listen to them in order to grow into the effective organization she wants it to be.
WNIJ's Claire Buchanan, Sarah Jesmer, Connie Kuntz, and Susan Stephens contributed to this report.