An estimated 40,000 people, dogs, cats, and dinosaurs gathered in Grant Park on Saturday—a seasonably appropriate Earth Day—to march to the Field Museum to show their support for science: the belief in it, the funding for it, and its spirit of openness and curiosity, all things that have been denied by members of the current administration. It was also an opportunity to make some excellent protest signs, which, arguably, has become the great public art form of our time. (So thank you, Trump administration, I guess?)
The march itself was more low-key than the Women’s March back in January, either because scientists prefer rationality to anger or because, after just three months, many Americans have begun to experience protest fatigue. As a sign I saw on the el pointed out, there is just so much to protest these days.
The socialists were out in force, as they have been at every march this year. Many scientists, they pointed out, have also been comrades. Representatives for gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss were also out campaigning. They pointed out that as a former U. of C. math professor, he would be uniquely qualified to solve Illinois’s budget issues. It is true, he probably has more experience with imaginary numbers than most.
Unlike at the Women’s March, there was no official science uniform, aside from the march T-shirt, which featured one Chicago star surrounded by atomic rings. In the spirit of the pussy hats, there were a few brain hats (one marcher had knitted hers from vintage 1970s yarn left to her by an aunt), but those appeared to be a more complicated knitting project.
There were also lab coats and goggles, NASA jumpsuits, sweatshirts from Rosalind Franklin University and the U. of C., and T-shirts from high school science competitions. (Incidentally, this is the first march I have been to where complete strangers have bonded over participating in high school science competitions and also over taking AP physics.) Also one microscope helmet.
At times, the march slowed to a shuffle, and bored marchers decided to start up chants: “Hey hey, ho ho! Phony facts have got to go!”; “No ban! No wall! Science for us all!”; and “Get up! Get down! Chicago is a science town!” None of these lasted more than a couple of minutes or so. Science folk are not chanters. Which is totally fine.
At the end of the march there was a science expo at the Field Museum where local organizations and academic programs showed off promotional materials and looked for volunteers and applicants, but many marchers were more interested in exploring the scientific process of digestion.