Thousands of Chicagoans — including a marching band, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers and retirees — protested President Donald Trump Monday, during his first visit to Chicago since he assumed office. Some protestors also argued with a group of Trump supporters who attended.
About 10,000 people gathered to protest on East Wacker Drive across from Trump Tower, according to Indivisible Chicago, an activist group that led the protest and is “committed to resisting the Trump agenda.”
Susan Gomez, who said she’s also known as “The Button Lady,” sold “anti-Trump” buttons for $1 each at the protest.
“My dream was to do art, teach seniors and relax, and [Trump] has devastated that,” the 63-year-old said. “And part of it is because a lot of us, like me, who refused to talk about politics, refused to participate. And after he got elected I said, ‘No more, I gotta do something.’ And this is what I decided to do.”
Gomez said she’s been making buttons since February 2017.
Charles Borso, a 73-year-old volunteer for Indivisible Chicago, said he never contributed to a political campaign until Trump’s presidency.
“In 2016, I probably spent half my waking hours doing something,” Borso said. “I’m retired. … So I spent every waking moment trying to defeat this man.”
At one point during the protest, tensions rose between anti-Trump protestors and a group of several Trump supporters who attended. A group of Chicago police officers stood between them.
Tony Tran, a freelance writer who’s lived in Chicago for five years, was on the scene as protestors shouted across a body of police officers. He said he wanted to protest Trump’s presence in Chicago.
“With these protests, it can be pretty tense,” Tran, 27, said. “You can see the Trump supporters over there and people were just kind of screaming back and forth. But that’s not the point. We’re not here to get into a shouting match or argue with other people, we’re here to protest and we want to focus on that.”
Isaac Medina, a 17-year-old Chicagoan who said he supports Trump, said although he engaged in what he also described as “screaming back and forth,” he attended the protest to have dialogue with the other side.
“To disagree with me, probably find a common ground, show them that not all Trump supporters are white supremacists, bad people,” Medina said. “To show them that we show love and we accept other ideas. That was my intention, you know?”
He said some anti-Trump protestors called him a white supremacist and a disgrace to his Mexican roots.
“I’m not a disgrace to my Mexican roots,” Medina said. “Because my parents came to the United States of America to live the American dream. And being Mexican-American helps the diversity of the United States of America, and supporting Trump shows that patriotism that I have as a Mexican-American.”
Adrienne Thomas was one of many representing CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union at the protest. CPS teachers have been on strike for over a week now, calling for better pay and resources for students.
“We’re striking at the schools for equity in our city and this directly falls in line with it,” Thomas, a 27-year-old teacher, said. “Trump’s politics hurt black and brown kids, not just in our city but all over the country.”
Thomas said she was there with a group of about 10 teachers from Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School (2022 W. Washington Blvd.).
“I just think it’s important to remember that Trump is a symptom, he’s not the exception,” Thomas said. “This hateful rhetoric has existed in our society for a very long time. … It’s not just a Trump thing, it’s an ‘all of us’ thing.”
Allison Bates, a fifth grade science and social studies teacher at Alcott College Prep Elementary School (2625 N. Orchard St.), held a sign which read, “Why is there always money for war but not for education?”
The Chicago native said her students are negatively impacted by Trump’s rhetoric.
“We have a large population of immigrants in Chicago and he’s been blatantly anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic,” Bates, 43, said. “And I think a lot of communities are scared now because of his rhetoric.”
A marching band, Sousaphones Against Hate, attended and played songs such as “The Imperial March,” Darth Vader’s theme song from the “Star Wars” series.
Ryan Miller, a 51-year-old theater musician in the group, said the group has played at protests all over the state, and even in Dayton, Ohio in an anti-KKK rally.
“We’re not good protestors, you know, but we can do this really well,” he said, pointing at his sousaphone. “And the intent is not really to incite anger, you know. We’re kind of poking fun through sort of trolling tunes. … At times, I know we’ve brought some levity to what would otherwise be an angry, tense crowd and I think that’s important.”