CARBONDALE — During the clamor of a very rough, loud election cycle, Karen Linduska, of Carbondale, found solace at Mount Rushmore.
She said looking at those faces carved for all time into the side of a mountain and learning about why they were chosen to be there inspired her. She said the theme between the four men was integrity and patriotism, something she wanted to be reminded of Saturday — which is why she wore her hot pink souvenir hat to the Southern Illinois Women’s March in Carbondale.
“I know not all of them were perfect,” Linduska said, but added that she still found parts of their shared story to be inspiring.
Nearly 1,000 people attended the 1.1-mile march through downtown Carbondale, which started at the Carbondale Civic Center, in support of a variety of issues. The weather was warm and the sky was clear as activists marched for more than an hour. Held in solidarity with similar marches around the country, most notably the Women’s March on Washington, participants gathered peacefully together to support not just women’s rights, but those of all minority groups.
For Carmalita Cahill, of Carbondale, said it was about humanizing people.
“We tend to dehumanize in our country. If there is a group we aren’t particularly happy with … we will dehumanize them,” said Cahill, tabling coordinator and chant leader for the march. “I believe if we see each other as human beings all the rest of these issues slide away.”
Cahill, who considers herself a “compassionate conservative,” was discouraged by the campaign and by the results of the election. However, she did now allow that to corrupt her mind, or vilify friends she had that voted for Donald Trump.
“These are still my brothers and sisters whether they believe in this person or they believe in these things or not and that is what I have to look at,” Cahill said.
Briggs Newell, a 20-year-old SIU student from Hartford County, Maryland, is new to protesting, but after the November election, felt compelled to add a voice to the cause.
“I’m here today to not only support the women in my life but to support my queer family,” Newell said.
The reason was simple.
“He scares me,” Newell said of Trump. As someone who identifies as transgendered, Newell is familiar with the fear many experience in the LGBTQ community, but said standing up is important.
“America, for all its flaws in founding itself as a nation, was made to be a place where people could be free to express their opinions or their religion,” Newell said.
LGBTQ rights were also not far from Murphysboro resident Rick Wills’ heart. However, when he went to bed Friday night, he wasn't sure he was going to go march the next day. That morning, though, he woke up at 4 a.m. and saw on social media all of the changes made to the the official White House website. The removal of pages about climate change, LGBTQ rights and military family support angered him.
“I’ve been ticked off since four o’clock,” Wills said.
He then said to himself, “I’m not going to stand still for it. I’m going to come over here and protest.”
The discussion was at times incredibly hard for him. When trying to explain that he was there in part to support LGBTQ friends he has across the country he was overcome with emotion and had end the conversation.
Ages ranged among attendees, some as young at 12 years old. Some were seasoned protestors, others were green. Most expressed fear of Donald Trump’s policies and platform, but keeping things local was important to Cahill.
“Instead of concerning myself with what’s going on in Washington, I want to concern myself with Southern Illinois,” she said of her decision to stay in Carbondale.
While the campaign and election were discouraging, Cahill has taken a page from the lessons she taught her children.
“Don’t complain about something unless you are willing to do something to change it,” Cahill said.
One-time events are great, but demonstrators said it is less about today and more about tomorrow.
“The goal of this is how do we harness that energy and put it towards what we need to do here,” Cahill said.
Linduska knows what she won’t be doing in the near future.
“I’m not going to keep my mouth shut, that’s for sure,” she said.