Almost 100 people, the vast majority of whom were African Americans, gathered at Reba Church on Aug. 31, and voiced their frustration and anger about the July 14 arrest of Iain Bady, a 12-year old African American youth. Many African American elected officials and community leaders called for all people of color to unite with white allies and to make a cultural change in Evanston.
On July 14, three youth were on one bike traveling west on Clark Street. One person was sitting on the handlebars, Iain was standing on pegs in the rear of the bike, and a third person was in control of the bike. The bike went through a red light at Sherman Avenue on the way to the Starbucks on Sherman. Two cars had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting the bike and the three youth. A police officer took Iain into custody at Starbucks and had him transported to the Evanston Police Department, where he was released to his parents. No charges were filed.
Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable that Iain had engaged in a dangerous activity, and the detention was more in the nature of a safety intervention. The handling of the incident is being investigated. See sidebar
Rob Bady, the father of Iain, spoke at the Aug. 31 gathering. He said there were three other African American youth who were arrested, and he was speaking not just for his son, but also for the other youth who were arrested, and for the youth who have been stopped as part of the City’s stop and frisk program.
In the period 2014-2016, he said, 420 African American youth were arrested, compared to 80 white youth and 40 Hispanic youth.
“There needs to be a culture change, a shift, and I think we represent that here today,” said Mr. Bady. “We represent a shift from this day forward, whatever it takes.
“I want you to think about process today,” he continued. “This is not just about one day. The process will continue. And there needs to be consequences for what actually happened. There has to be a consequence going forward when a black child or black person is wronged in this town.
“We are going to do what is necessary to help this culture shift. We have enough power in this room right now to change anything we want to.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite (2nd Ward), said, “I think if this was North Evanston or Skokie, this would not have happened. I take this personal position: I will make sure that we change the policies so that this does not happen again, not only to Rob’s child, but to any kid of color, any kid of Evanston, for something that I will call a ‘teachable moment.’”
Ald. Braithwaite asked people to come and express their views at the Human Services Committee meeting on Sept. 6, so their voices would be heard. “The root word is racism, and how it impacts us here in this town that we love and embrace and call diverse, but racism is part of that fabric, people. So it’s important that we hear your voice,” he said.
Roger Williams, President of OPAL and the husband of Pat Savage-Williams, said, “You would think that in a City that prides itself in diversity, a City where nearly everyone says they believe in justice and equity, that we would [not] have a miscarriage of justice that is continually happening. Therefore let us act. We must act and not settle for pleasing, feel-good conversation. We must act and not settle for conflict avoidance. Every now and then, we might have to get in somebody’s face.
“Systemic racism is alive and doing very well in Evanston. I believe that we can overcome it if black and brown people and white allies work together and strive to achieve specific justice and equity goals.”
Pat Savage Williams, President of the District 202 School Board, said, “I’m really feeling a lot of emotional, I will say anger, being here. … There’s this climate of hate in the nation, and my big concern right now is we can fool ourselves and think that that climate is not a part of Evanston. We can think of Evanston as being different because we do have a narrative – I hear people talking a lot about wanting to live in Evanston because of the diversity. But the fact of the matter is this is happening in Evanston and in more places than downtown Evanston. It’s happening all over Evanston.”
Ms. Savage Williams, who lives in Skokie, added that she has had four “Black Lives Matter” signs stolen from her yard, and that Corrie Wallace, an equity consultant to District 65, and Anya Tanyavutti, a District 65 School Board member, have as well. “It’s happening all over Evanston and Skokie. I see this as a very, very trying time for us.
“I believe as people of color and white allies, we have to pull together in solidarity,” said Ms. Savage-Williams. “We have to partner with other people of color and that means African American and Latino, maybe Muslim, Asian. They’re all people of color. We know that one way that white supremacy is sustained is through that fighting between us, fighting among us. That keeps white supremacy going.”
Dr. Michael Nabors, President of the Evanston/North Shore Branch of the NAACP, said, “A 12-year-old should not be arrested for standing on the back of a bicycle in downtown Evanston - ever.
”But we must not allow our vision to be so myopic or narrow that we blame it only on the arresting officers or that we’re blaming it on the Evanston Police Department, or for that matter that we’re blaming it only on the City of Evanston. There is an ethos that has been created within our community, it seems to me, that does not make everybody safe and welcome.
“We’re here because our black children are not being treated correctly. We have to make sure that all of our children are treated with the same degree and the same respect as anyone living on the north end.”
Martha Burns, a former District 202 School Board member and a member of the Board of Trustees of Oakton Community College, said, “My hope tonight is that whatever we decide to do, … that we come together with one voice like the Black Panthers did, like people who operated with the Los Angeles riots, like Malcom X. … Enough is enough. Our children deserve more.
“The police officers need to be suspended without pay. They owe all these kids an apology.”
Monique Parsons, the Chief Operating Officer of the McGaw YMCA, and a member of the District 202 School Board said, “This is very personal to me,” adding that a lot of youngsters were arrested on July 14, and some were handcuffed.
“I also agree that if we’re not serious about change, if we’re not serious about thinking strategically about how we create change, maybe it’s not for all of us. Maybe some of us can’t be in the fight. And I’m willing to stand in the gap for those that can’t come.
“If you’re real about creating change and making sure that we can say we’re proud we’re from this place we call Evanston and that we are counted and that we are seen as having some sort of value, then I’m willing to stand with you, and not as an ally, but in solidarity. Because I don’t need another ally, I need somebody that’s going down to fight. … This is about our children.”
Ms. Parsons added that those who need to be held accountable should be held accountable, recognizing, however, there are many police officers who do good work.
Dr. Gilo Logan, an equity consultant for the Evanston Police Department, said, “It’s important for us to understand that we have allies within the police department, not all police officers are bad. We have good people in the police department. We have to know who they are. We need to identify them. We need to work with them. We need to support them so we can change the system from within.”
Adrian Willoughby summarized that a group has been established to challenge key pillars of institutional racism and look at educational inequity, excessive policing and profiling, affordable housing, local employment, and the City’s hiring of local businesses. He said the group’s email address is email@example.com.