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The stillness seemed to grow as the crowd swelled. On Dec. 7, hundreds of Evanstonians, many from local congregations, packed Fountain Square in response to a call from Chicago clergy, to express “righteous discontent regarding the second failure to indict in the Garner case [in Staten Island] by stepping outside of their churches and into the public space,” as stated on the website of the Unitarian Church of Evanston. In two recent incidents, one in Ferguson Missouri, and the other in New York, a unarmed black person met his death at the hands of a white police officer, and in neither case was the police officer indicted.
Many held signs saying “Black Lives Matter.” Others read, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes” and “standing on the side of love.”
Even children carried signs: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” in English and in Hebrew. Another said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. God has anointed me to do great things. My life
“We are standing for peace. We are called as people of faith to lift up voices not only in faith but in activism,” Reverend Karen Mosby, pastor at Second Baptist Church, told the crowd of nearly 500.
Reverend Bret Lortie of the Unitarian Church of Evanston read from the poem Maya Angelou wrote for the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton: Part of the poem reads,
”But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.”
After a moment of silence, singing that seemed spontaneous arose: “We Shall Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” with different voices from the crowd calling out a verse that the others followed.
Several police officers stood by, watchful, and when the crowd decided to march around the square, the officers stopped traffic to let them pass. After about an hour, the crowd dispersed; some stayed to talk in small groups; some returned to their churches; and some went back to the day that might seemed somehow different aft wards.
Rev. Mosby told the RoundTable she was “encouraged that we have a faith community here in Evanston that is willing to make a stand and … to advocate for justice. It is good to see a diverse crowd of people – so it’s hopeful.”
“On this all faiths agree that we stand against injustice,” Pastor Lortie told the RoundTable.
Father Robert Oldershaw, pastor emeritus at St. Nicholas Church told the RoundTable, “What I liked about the gathering today [is] people wanted to come together to pray – just to be together, not to disrupt traffic, just to come together in solidarity and prayer, to strengthen the communities and strengthen the larger Evanston community. …. The theme of advent is ‘waiting for the day of the Lord’. We have to make that come. … Tell your friends, ‘Work for peace.”
Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam said, “The number of people who are getting involved is really good. … We still have to talk about race. It can’t be skirted around.”
“It’s nice,” Betty Ester said “but it’s kind of sad [that there are only this many people]. People should be [lined up] all the way down to Church Street.”
George Mitchell, president of the NAACP Evanston/North Shore told the RoundTable, “It’s important that communities get together to demonstrate that there is a way to handle things – there is so much anger and desperation (CHECK that WORD) and this is a good way to expose those feelings.
Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes said, “To me, this is Evanston. It’s part of who we are.
There’s a problem and we have to own it, work on it. I’m very proud of my community today.”