Forest Park resident Julianne Bonwit is used to sticking with large groups of women for a common goal — running around the neighborhood and forging friendships with fellow female neighbors.
However, this past Saturday, Bonwit’s local runners circle merged with even greater numbers as she and several of the women she regularly exercises with joined forces with their children and friends and headed down on the CTA Blue Line to the Women’s March on Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 21.
The Chicago march, organized by local and national activists in downtown Chicago, was just one of several being held across the United States and the world in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington, a rally held in Washington D.C. in response to Donald Trump’s election as a way to show opposition and advocate for the rights of women, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights and racial justice issues.
Bonwit said she and over 30 women and their families walked together to catch the el to the march downtown as a way to stand in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of others who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to assemble against what they consider the hateful rhetoric and dangerous policy proposals of Trump’s administration.
“There’s so much that I feel like has happened over the last eight years that have been wonderful things — so many wonderful things that so many of us have been proud to have been a part of,” she explained.
Bonwit said some of the main issues she and her friends rallied for included health care, education and immigration.
“A lot of us are social workers or doctors and see firsthand what happens when people don’t have insurance or when medicines aren’t given to people,” she said. “The education piece is a huge thing. We have some teachers, and many of us have kids as young as newborns and all the way up to adults. [Trump’s] pick for education secretary is really disturbing for many people.”
In order to join forces for attendance, Bonwit said she helped spread the word both on neighborhood runs and through Facebook. The name the women runners attending the march gave themselves was “Running for our Life.”
“We have gone through a lot together over the years,” Bonwit said. “Because we are a group of active women — physically and in our community — I think we also didn’t want to sit back and not do anything about it.”
Bonwit brought her 2- and 5-year-old to the march with her and said many other moms were getting their kids involved in march preparations.
“I think most of [the kids] are pretty aware of what’s happening and definitely we included them in a lot of the organizing,” she said. “Making signs was a fun way to have them be aware.”
While the women’s marches nationwide have drawn both praise and criticism, Bonwit hopes that if anything, people understand that she and others were doing nothing more than exercising their rights as citizens to stand up for ideals they believe in.
“[This] is exactly what our country is about,” she said. “Activism and speaking your mind is what we were founded on. They [right wingers] had their eight years to protest on whatever Obama had done and said, and they had a right to do that. And, we have a right to do this as well. Especially doing it in an organized way, I think is safer and I don’t think any of us are trying to shove it down anybody’s throat.”
In regards to where local women can go from here, Bonwit suggests that women call their congressional representatives and local politicians and get involved in local causes.
“[We want to make sure] we’re much more aware on a local level of what’s happening,” she said. “This is something that we’re committing to.”