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About 90 people gathered on Church Street just west of Ridge Avenue on July 14, and at 5:30 p.m. they walked into the middle of Ridge Avenue when red lights were stopping north and south bound traffic, and then marched south on Ridge. The march was to protest the killing of black citizens by police in a number of cities throughout the country.
The protest was organized by Sinobia Aiden, an Evanston Township High School student, and several other high school students, but they were joined by many adults. The protestors were a diverse group.
Some of the protestors held signs saying, “Black Lives Matter,” “If you are neutral institutions of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” White silence is violence,” and “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
As they marched, they chanted among other things, “No justice no peace” and “All these racist cops, we don’t need them.”
Police were on the scene in anticipation of the protest, with one officer in a four-wheeler, at least four on bicycles, at least two on foot, and many in squad cars. In an organized fashion, the police blocked traffic on Ridge Avenue behind the marchers, and rerouted northbound traffic on Ridge onto side streets, so for blocks there was no traffic on Ridge Avenue. Police used squad cars, the four-wheeler to block traffic at intersections so that the protestors had a clear route.
At the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Dempster Street, the protestors paused and sat in a circle, while several people spoke. The march then continued west on Dempster, north on Asbury, and then east on Grove into Evanston’s downtown area. The march continued for about one-and one-half hours.
Sinobia Aiden told the RoundTable she went to the protest at Fountain Square on July 9 and said, “I loved the crowd and how peaceful it was, but I thought it was kind of like preaching to the choir. In my opinion the only way to move the Black Lives Matter movement forward is to get people who would ignore the movement in their everyday lives to acknowledge it.”
She said she and co-organizer Cicely Fleming got the idea for the march down Ridge Avenue from protests and demonstrations in Chicago and other cities. ‘”We wanted to disrupt the thoughts of people who have the privilege to ignore the [Black Lives Matter] movement. Disrupting peoples’ daily routines to make them pay attention, even if for five minutes in traffic, is better than having people go through their days ignoring the movement.
“The point of the Black Lives Matter movement is to make people acknowledge that there are institutional problems in our police departments and our judicial system. This is not just a black people problem, but a people problem,” Ms. Aiden added.
Noah Pearson, a 2016 ETHS graduate, who was at the march, told the RoundTable, “I thought yesterday was powerful and inspiring to say the least. I was scared at first but being with my peers in that moment I felt powerful and most importantly I felt visible.
“That brings me to why we stop traffic,” Mr. Pearson added. “It to my knowledge is the most visible way to broadcast a message. People in their homes see us as well as the traffic we stop. It also gives everybody a chance to participate. Rallies are great in that everyone can attend to lend an ear and maybe their voice, but these two actions going hand in hand make sure that nobody is left out of making change. Visibility is also important because many people feel as if these movements (Black Lives Matter) are misguided fads, and this is a way we can show them the exact opposite is true. We want justice, and we will not be moved. This is more than me sharing an article on Facebook, we are willing to stop the flow of Evanston to get our demands met, and I think that message is important.”