On August 22, demonstrators gathered near Chicago’s historic Water Tower for Slutwalk, a march against what demonstrator Dani Osha called “rape culture,” the idea that society condones the rape of women, and blames them for being raped.
The first Slutwalk was organized in 2011 in response to comments made by a Toronto police constable while speaking at a safety forum on a college campus. The constable said, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
While Slutwalk participants held signs, listened to speakers, and prepared to march, counter-demonstrators across the street made their displeasure known. “You deserve rape, you whores,” called out counter-protester Dean Saxton. “God is gonna laugh at you when you get raped.” Using a bullhorn, he went on to call Slutwalk participants “the scum of the earth,” and compared them to “zoo-like animals.” When asked if this were the sort of thing that Christ himself might say, fellow counter-demonstrator David Sain stated, “I believe the Spirit is leading him to say that.”
A group of students from suburban Wheaton College, a Christian university, happened upon the competing protests and vehemently disagreed with Saxton. “Rape is never okay. Nobody has the right to rape,” one said. Another student added, “Even without a Christian culture context, you shouldn’t judge people.” The students declined to provide their names.
Escorted by officers of the Chicago Police Department, the march proceeded down Michigan Avenue and into the Loop. Saxton and his fellow counter-demonstrators followed at a distance. Marchers blocked traffic several times but remained peaceful. The march stopped in Daley Plaza, where some demonstrators chalked anti-rape slogans on the ground. One demonstrator was taken into police custody after chalking “Black lives matter” on the Picasso sculpture.
There in the plaza, demonstrators held a speak-in. Participants took turns sharing their experiences of rape, abuse, strength and survival. Nearby, members of the Chicago Fire Department arrived with firehoses to wash away the chalked slogans.