Organizers announce plans for Women’s March at Grant Park in January, says it’s 'back and better than ever’ after 2019 hiatus December 18 2019 Chicago Tribune Women’s March Chicago announced plans for the revival of its January march in Grant Park after a hiatus in 2019, a period of much strife and controversy among leaders of the national movement. The local march — which in two past years drew hundreds of thousands of supporters and shut down parts of the Loop — is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Jan. 18, and will be held in concert with various other women’s marches scheduled in Washington, D.C., and other cities across the globe. “Women’s March Chicago is back and better than ever,” said Graciela Guzman, Women’s March Chicago board member, at a news conference Wednesday at City Hall. “Once again, Chicago-area women and our allies will gather en masse and raise their voices for the causes that matter to them most.” The upcoming event will “honor its marchers with disabilities” by having those participants lead the procession to Federal Plaza, organizers said in a news release. Volunteers also will be on hand to accompany and direct any marchers needing assistance. They will clear paths, walk alongside participants with disabilities and escort them to transportation hubs or meeting points. The 2020 march will feature a new format, which organizers dubbed the “Gallery of Issues.” Women’s March Chicago selected five central topics to focus on: the 2020 census, climate change, gun violence prevention, women’s health rights and access, and encouraging voting in the 2020 elections. Each block of the five-block march route will be dedicated to a different cause, organizers said. “During this lively and interactive experience, Women’s March Chicago and other partner organizations will cheer on marchers, display banners and signage, engage in text message campaigns, hand out branded swag and more,” the group said in a news release. In January 2017, the first local Women’s March unexpectedly brought an estimated quarter-million supporters to Grant Park, shutting down parts of downtown. The event was held in solidarity with hundreds of similar marches nationally and internationally, amid a groundswell of backlash following the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Then an anniversary march in January 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, drew a crowd of 300,000; that event was also held in concert with various other women’s marches across the globe. Women’s March Chicago organizers said they decided to forgo the annual anniversary march at Grant Park on Jan. 19, 2019 — a day when many other marches were held in other cities — citing costs and limited resources. The Chicago group had held a much smaller, solely local march in October 2018 designed to spur midterm election voting, and organizers said two events in such a short period would be too much of a burden. Around the same time, several leaders of a national women’s march group faced backlash over accusations of anti-Semitism and infighting, in part over connections to Louis Farrakhan, whose Chicago-based Nation of Islam is considered to be an anti-Semitic hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Those national leaders who were embroiled in the controversy have since stepped down, and a new board was recently established that “consists of leaders from a wide variety of communities, disciplines, ethnicities, religious beliefs, gender identities and experiences,” the national organization said a September statement. Women’s March Chicago organizers have said they represent a grassroots group not directly affiliated with the national organization. While the local group said acrimony on the national level wasn’t the basis for forgoing a January 2019 march, one organizer described the opportunity to further distance Women’s March Chicago from the national controversy as a “side benefit.” About two dozen supporters were at Wednesday’s news conference, representing various local groups including She Votes Illinois, Access Living and the Chicago Foundation for Women. Beth Najberg, who is on the board of the Chicago North Shore section of the National Council of Jewish Women, said she is concerned about past accusations of anti-Semitism at the national level, as well as the national group’s prior support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. But she noted that the Chicago group is distinct from the national organization, and many of the causes Women’s March Chicago embraces “are things we support, and we want our voice at the table,” she said after the news conference. She added that Women’s March Chicago is dedicated to issues that “help America, not just Chicago, but the whole country.” Instead of one centralized march in January 2019, Women’s March Chicago had encouraged supporters to host their own events scattered across the Chicagoland area. Yet some supporters on social media had lamented the lack of a unified Grant Park anniversary march. While organizers won’t give a crowd estimate for the January 2020 event, Women’s March Chicago board member Sara Kurensky believes supporters are energized and eager to march again. The group is also planning another local event in October. “I think right now people want to protect our democracy and Constitution,” she said after the news conference. Read the original article here.