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The bitter campaign that rocked the country and ended with the election of Donald Trump reverberated within the blue bubble that comprises much of Evanston. Rallies at Fountain Square and the Unitarian Church of Evanston on Nov. 20 – one convened by clergy, the other by politicians – had in common a concern for immigrants, women, persons of color, and others targeted during the campaign season.
Well before the opening remarks of the 2 p.m. rally at Fountain Square, residents of all ages, including families with children, were hurrying to the plaza to stand in solidarity with others who had fears or concerns about a Trump presidency. The several hundred people who attended the rally were responding to the invitation and statement by the clergy of Interfaith Action of Evanston, which read in part: “We understand that many in our midst have experienced those common ideals being placed at risk over the last 18 months and in the days following the 2016 elections, regardless of their political affiliations or preferences. We stand in solidarity with those in our midst who are frightened, feel marginalized or disrespected. We who are representatives of faith communities in Evanston are resolved to stand in mutual solidarity with those groups who may be exposed to undue suffering as we move into a new season in our nation.
“We will stand, lock arms, listen to and speak with, struggle and, if need be, suffer to protect the rights of those in our community and nation. …We are committed to making Evanston a safe and welcoming place for all people. We not only respect our differences in how we exercise our religious beliefs, but we embrace the diversity of religious beliefs and customs present in all who live, work, study, pray/worship or serve in Evanston. … We call on all of Evanston to treat one another with respect, to recognize the dignity in all fellow human beings, to speak and act from a foundation of love for neighbor, and to bring out the best in one another. We commit to act with courage, to stand up to hatred, bigotry, violence, and irrational fear, and to build bridges across and find common ground despite our country’s deep divisions and the divisions in our own community. We commit to providing protection and safe space for those who are targeted because of their religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identify, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, skin tone, language, culture, or health. We commit to living and working so that justice, peace, and love prevail for all people in Evanston and our country.”
Those who attended the rally were invited to sign a copy of the statement, which had been enlarged and set up in the plaza. The signed statement would be given to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.
Scarcely an hour later, the Unitarian Church was at full capacity – 400 people – and another 200 remained outside. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who spoke at the Fountain Square rally, deliberately delayed the meeting of Democrats and other concerned citizens at the church to talk with and listen to those who had been turned away because of lack of space.
Within, the speakers set a tone of resistance to and defiance of any proposals or actions by the new administration that they felt would threaten their progressive values.
“Welcome to the Ninth Congressional District’s first community meeting of this brave new world,” said Carol Ronen, former State senator and current Democratic State Central Committeewoman. She said she was “brokenhearted that Hillary will not be the next president or the first woman president and horrified by the hatred and fear that have been unleashed by this election.” She quoted Ms. Clinton’s recent words: “America is worth it. Our children are worth it. Fight for our values and never, ever give up.”
State Representative Laura Fine (D-17th District, said she is “proud to be part of a community that is so concerned, so progressive, and a community that is inclusive and equal. I want to make sure we don’t turn the clock back.”
State Senator Dan Biss said, “On election night about 3 in the morning, I went into my children’s bedroom and looked at my children’s faces and asked, ‘What have we done to you?’” He said with Mr. Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, “I asked myself, ‘Do I laugh or do I cry or do I give up?’ We never give up. We have to leave room for defiance and resistance. … This is not just a question of political power. It is a question of moral power. ”
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said, “It is local units of government that protect the rights of the people. At Cook County, we are fighting for Obamacare, to keep 250,000 people insured, fighting to get health care for the undocumented, and not top allow ICE to tell our sheriff to detain people.”
“’The righteous do not complain of the darkness, but increase the light,’” said Rep. Schakowsky quoting Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. “Welcome to the resistance.”