On Sunday, May 31, more than 5,000 Evanston residents streamed to the intersection of Church and Ridge to begin a march and rally to protest the murder of George Floyd, 46, at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers.
The event, Evanston Fight For Black Lives, organized by Evanston youth leaders, also protested the recent murders of other Black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and drew attention to a recent EPD use-of-force incident during which Evanston Police Department officers chased and tackled 20-year-old Trent Hunt to the ground when he attempted to film the arrest of his friend.
Carrying signs and chanting "Black lives matter," "I can't breathe," "No justice, no peace," and "Say his name," marchers of all ages, Black, brown, and white, wove through Evanston neighborhoods, ending the march at the Evanston Township High School (ETHS) parking lot on Dodge Street to rally and hear from a variety of powerful and passionate speakers.
Evanston Police Department Commander Jason Garner, who was assisting with traffic management, told me he had never such such a crowed at this type of event in Evanston.
"Of all the comparable gatherings I’ve attended, this was the largest," he said. "When I looked down Dempster from Dodge, I couldn’t see the end of the participants. I lost track of time, but it took over a half hour for the group to walk through the intersection."
After the march and rally, I asked Liana Wallace one of the organizers, how the event came about and how she thought it went.
"All of us organizers identify as women, and five out of the eight of us identify as Black. Women and women of color know how to get stuff done," she said.
"We sat down and just started talking and brainstorming and soon we were all hands on deck trying to transform an idea into reality. On the day of the event, we were blown away with the amount of people that showed up to stand in solidarity with Black lives and the outrage that is taking place across the country.
"Myself and the other organizers want to address the extreme privilege we had in being able to march without violent police intervention, which many protesters across the US are not being afforded. In no way was our ability to march without police intervention an example of how to march and show solidarity 'the right way.' People have the right to be outraged and upset. We also want to recognize that many organizers across the country today are organizing with little time or resources and aren't being recognized."
As for how it went, Liana said, "Me and the other organizers are not satisfied yet. We want Mayor Steve Hagerty to deliver on what he told the public. We want a seat at the table. We want to start working immediately on changing laws and policies in Evanston in regards to policing. We will not be satisfied until Mayor Hagerty's words turn into consistent action."
Liana was joined by Nia Williams, Mollie Hartenstein, Maia Robinson, Sinobia Aiden, Phoebe Liccardo, Julia Shoaf, and Amalia Loiseau, who took on the gargantuan task of organizing the march and rally during the Covid-19 pandemic. They mandated that all participants wear masks and worked hard to encourage marchers to maintain a six-foot distance.
The result was a peaceful, powerful, angry, loving, poignant ... and necessary ... statement of solidarity.
Now the work for racial justice in Evanson must continue with intention and intensity and change.
Get involved. More to come.
The video covers the march and all the speakers at the rally. Some speeches were edited for length.