PEORIA — Jack Rutherford of Peoria and his daughter Amara, who is 2, wore matching pink hats that he crocheted himself. Despite Saturday morning's sketchy weather, he had no hesitation to join a couple of hundred others to show support for a smorgasbord of women's issues during the third annual Women's Rally and March at the Gateway Building on the Peoria riverfront.
"She is my motivation to be here," Rutherford said, glancing at his daughter, who perched on his hip and clutched a stuffed Mickey Mouse against her winter coat. "Women are making great strides these days. It's in (Amara's) interest to make sure it keeps getting better."
Optimism mixed with activism as a list of speakers, addressing a variety of topics, exhorted the sign-carrying crowd to keep vigilant and vocal, but even more important, perhaps, keep signing up to run for public office.
"Are you ready to change this community?" said an energized state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth from the podium.
The crowd, a diverse mix of men, women and children, shouted in the affirmative.
Speakers included local activist Chama St. Louis; Nicole Livse, the president of Peoria Proud; Sara Sefried of the Center for Prevention of Abuse; Joyce Harant, a trustee of the Peoria Park District board; Dr. Rahmat Na'Allah, health care equity and universal health care advocate; Katie Jones, gun safety advocate; and Cataline Zavala, project director with Peoria Friendship House, where she has spent 40 years helping immigrants deal with legal, social, financial, health and educational issues.
The speaker roster spoke to the breadth of the topics that fell beneath the women's issues umbrella.
"We will continue to speak our truth to power," said local activist Sherry Cannon, who emceed the morning's program, before it got started. "We're feeding off the great momentum off the 100 women who were elected to the (United States) House of Representatives. It is a very exciting time for change and for women in roles of leadership. This group represents the change we've all been waiting for."
Pink hats, shirts, umbrellas, coats, pants and fake kitty cat ears were prevalent. White scarves were available to cover heads in support of the new Minnesota congresswoman who is Muslim. Rutherford handed out the 13 other pink hats he crocheted. And judging by the multitude of signs in the crowd, there were nearly as many reasons for attending the women's rally as there were people who attended. For example:
Climate change:"Stop Denying the Earth is Dying."
LGBTQ rights: "Proud Parent of a Trans Son."
Vagueness: "50 Years I've Protested This Same Crap."
Everything: "We Believe Black Lives Matter." "No Human Is Illegal." "Love Is Love." "Women's Rights Are Human Rights." "Science Is Real." "Water Is Life." "Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere."
"Good morning, resisters," Cannon said as she took to the microphone and shook a defiant fist at the spectacularly miserable March downpour that swirled and poured just outside the protective ceiling of the Gateway ceiling. "We've got to speak out whether it is convenient or not."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.