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An impassioned but peaceful rally at Fountain Square on March 20 drew a crowd of about 200 people who showed up in solidarity for Muslims and others who have been targeted or harmed because of their religion, race or ethnicity.
The event was sponsored by, among others, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Muslim Community Center of Chicago, Jewish Voices for Peace, the YWCA Evanston North Shore, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, First Congregational Church of Evanston, Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, The Chicago Area Peace Action Committee, St. Matthew’s Church, the Unitarian Church of Evanston and the American Friends Service Committee.
As is always the case with rallies in Fountain Square, the police were on hand but not needed. No hecklers were in the crowd, on the periphery or driving past to disrupt the speeches. The stated purpose of the rally was to oppose Islamophobia, but many speakers took issue with the current political rhetoric that demonizes certain groups and is polarizing the country.
“We are here because once again there comes a Fascist who seeks power … through prejudice, through hatred, through the use of Islamophobia. This rhetoric must be challenged through dignified collaboration,” said Dr. Alia Ammar of the Muslim Center of Chicago.
“We will not go there. We will never be complicit in your vitriol. We will never be controlled by your hatred. … We stand together of all faiths, in contrast to the small number of bigots. We are the greater group, both morally and in numbers,” Dr. Ammar added.
Speaking for Jewish Voice for Peace, Lesley Williams said, “We may not agree on politics or religion. We do agree that no organization should ever use racism or religious bigotry.” She asked that, at the end of the rally, people visit local businesses, offer signs that welcome Muslims and ask that they be displayed.
Rabbi Michael Davis, also of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “We stand against anti-Muslim profiling, against state-sanctioned racist violence, against racial profiling.” He added, “Mr. Trump did not appear out of a vacuum,” and ended with “Shalom, Salaam, Peace.”
Tahera Ahmad, an associate chaplain at Northwestern University, spoke of the recent vandalism of Alice Millar Chapel, where racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and other slurs were spray-painted, allegedly by two Northwestern students. “We stand here together for all of us,” she said.
More than one speaker quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We must come together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Reverend Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church said, “I am disturbed that in 2016 we have to have gatherings like this.” He spoke of several laws enacted by this country against its own residents: the Indian Removal Law of 1880, the Chinese Expulsion Law of 1882, and the Japanese relocations in 1942.
“Donald Trump is reprehensible, but what is more reprehensible is the millions of people who follow him. When you leave here, you ought to go home worried,” Rev. Nabors said.