Photo By: Jade Yan
Photo By: Jade Yan

What Does Your Ideal America Look Like?

A selection of the “dream Americas” envisioned by demonstrators who marched as a preemptive response to the possibility that Trump would suppress votes by mail.

On Wednesday, November 4, a demonstration at Daley Plaza drew more than 1,000 people, including representatives from labor unions, environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement, and racial justice organizations including the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Despite the wide range of organizations and their different goals, on Wednesday they all had one aim: to make sure every vote is properly counted in the 2020 election. 

The demonstration was a preemptive response to the possibility that President Donald Trump would suppress votes from people who voted by mail in states including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, and particularly amongst Black and brown populations. On Thursday, the lame-duck president tweeted calls to “STOP THE COUNT.” On Saturday, the Associated Press called Pennsylvania, and thus the election, for president-elect Joseph R. Biden.

“There are efforts right now to stop votes that were sent in by the mail from being counted,” said Erica Bland-Durosinmi, executive vice president of the healthcare union SEIU HCII, in an interview. “We want every vote counted.”

Bland-Durosinmi was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd from a stage opposite the Picasso. After the speakers concluded, people began to march, filling the street and walking from Daley Plaza to Michigan Avenue, flanked by bike marshals in DayGlo vests on either side. A line of police on bikes mirrored the bike marshals, and police cars, marked and unmarked, trailed the crowd as it left Daley Plaza.

The march headed north and then west on Wacker, passing the Trump International Hotel and Tower and the Wabash Avenue bridge, still raised to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the river. Police took photos of the march and directed traffic. The march then headed back down Clark Street and returned to Daley Plaza, where it dispersed. The rally was peaceful, with no significant altercations between demonstrators and the police.  

“My only intention at the rally was to peacefully say that my vote should be counted,” said Dian Palmer, President of SEIU Local 73 in a phone interview afterward.

The Weekly asked demonstrators, including Palmer, what their ideal America would look like.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Suzanne Wagner, fifty-nine

“The environment is my most important thing, so that’s what I’m really looking for for the future. I don’t know if it’s the Green New Deal or something else, but we need to do something. I feel like a Democratic president is more likely to get us back on track with climate change and get us back into the Paris Accord, which we officially left [on November 4].”

Erica Bland-Durosinmi, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare

“We’re dealing with a lot—we’re in a pandemic, there are racial injustices, and America needs to heal. So I hope that once we are clear on who the winner is, no matter who it is, that we are on a path to healing and moving forward, because a lot of people are losing their homes, people have lost their jobs in this pandemic, and those people need help. {I hope} we start to have conversations about what is really going wrong in this country, [such as] acknowledging that there is a wealth gap. Hand workers what they actually deserve to earn—a living wage—and acknowledge the work that they do to provide for companies that get rich off their labor and their backs.” 

“JPEG,” mid-thirties (carrying a fake guillotine)

“A whole lot less billionaires, a whole lot less control and oligarchy of the racist right. {I want a} change to the white supremacist belief state we have going on here. These are just a few of my grab bags: I’d like to see ICE completely abolished, I’d like to see more open border policies, I’d like to see vengeance on the one percent to be honest, don’t we all want a little bit of that? That’s why I got the guillotine.” 

Keerti Gopal, twenty-one, Sunrise Movement organizer

“I would want to see us with a Biden presidency, and him taking aggressive action on climate change right away. I want to see us taking steps towards defunding the police, shutting down border camps and {creating} bolder federal legislation in favor of addressing climate change, addressing justice inequity, taking these crises as seriously as they merit. I would love to see the pandemic under control, and us to be able to leave our houses safely … I’m here because I think that that future is possible, and it’s really within our hands to fight for it and make it happen. People who are here today represent so many different sub-movements that are all coming together and saying we all want the same thing, which is a just fair election and for the people’s votes and voices to be acknowledged, which is a basic tenet of democracy.” 

“T,” thirty-five (there with Chicago Democratic Socialists of America) 

“I want us to still be here, just democratic and functioning at the very least. Hopefully the U.S. will have Biden as president, but {what matters} is getting a functioning democracy. {My most ideal America is} one where there is justice for all, where people have similar opportunities, where people aren’t oppressed, where people aren’t exploited, no war, where people have the basic necessities.”

“Bingo,” thirty

“A better change for the community and environment, Black Lives Matter, No Justice No Peace—I’d like to see {that} change in the community and the country. [Change looks like] more jobs, more opportunities.”

Anonymous 

“{An America} with a lot less racism.”

Claire

“No America.”

Anonymous, seventy-eight 

“{An America that is} truly democratic, lacking in racist caste system [with a] decent social net, decent education, policy that deals with the climate crisis. The reason I’m here is because I’m a German immigrant; I came over in 1951 after the war. I was born during war … I read a lot about Hitler and his rise to power in Germany. I hate to see this—Trump, the way he doesn’t uphold the law. He’s impeached but won’t allow people to testify. He breaks the law everyday. He supports people who are white supremacists and who are … Nazis, actually.”

Andrea Cañizares-Fernandez, twenty-four, organizer with Sunrise Movement

“My ideal America would look like prioritizing the voices of marginalized communities, and having a system and economy and a government that uplifts the needs of poor, working class, Black and brown communities, instead of the wealthy, the one-percent corporations. {I want us to} move away from capitalism and neoliberalism and find a more sustainable way of life that actually represents the needs of this country and not the vocal minority. As a proud member of Sunrise Movement, I think that that can be accomplished through something like the Green New Deal, which really puts climate action at the forefront but at the same time makes it clear that marginalized communities need to be at the forefront of major change, in order to save this earth and prevent mass death, mass migration and severe natural disasters. 

“Lots of things can be done in the next three months that will be steps towards this ideal future: one is listening to all of the mass protests that have been going on for the past several months. {Another is} moving away from the police system that we have, and defunding the police—that is an ask that Black and brown communities have been asking for for a long time, and it’s time this country listens. {I hope Biden will} emulate the first one hundred days that FDR had, but make it the Green New Deal, and make it less oppressive {than FDR’s New Deal was to Black Americans} and more just and equal. I think that something we need to prioritize is lifting the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour across the country, and focusing on public transport that is accessible to all, and ideally is free.”

Dian Palmer, President of SEIU Local 73

“Racial justice, economic justice, climate justice, leadership—meaning the president and political leaders—that actually cares about its citizens. And not so much that they just do what the citizens want, but the things they do, they do from a place of caring and consideration. I would like to live in harmony with my neighbors. I believe that folks should not stoke the fears and anxieties of others. Words matter, and what we say to folks that feeds into their fears and angers —there’s no good that comes out of it. {I would also like to see} more love in our society, [without] cell phones and busy this, busy that.”

Rebecca Martinez, Chicago Teachers Union organizer

“As a woman of color, as a Latinx woman, my ideal America looks like an America built on the ideals of equity, racial justice, education justice, transparency. {It is a} society that respects working-class people and meets the aspiration of people of color and Black people. And it’s an America that seeks to reconcile its history of white supremacy. I think I want to see an America that is reflective, reflecting on how people have been behaving. I can see that we can have a better society here, but it has to be rooted in love and racial justice and the dignity and humanity of all people, especially those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed. {This} sounds very lofty, but right now it’s kind of hard to explain where people are at—it’s painful to say that 67, 68 million people voted for a racist, fascist, awful human being. And it’s hard to recognize that. I believe that we can be a better country—we are who we’ve been waiting for and we need to step into that.

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Jade Yan is a staff reporter for the Weekly. She focuses on covering politics and police reform, and last wrote about mask use during the pandemic.

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