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Spectators along the Fourth of July parade route sitting near the reviewing stand on Central Street at McDaniel Avenue were quietly talking in the sweltering heat when four Evanston police officers approached a woman dressed in black, holding a black parasol and walking in the middle of the street.
They spoke briefly to her, and one of them told her she could walk on the side of the street but not in the middle. The police motorcade, which was leading the parade down Central Street from Lincolnwood Avenue, was advancing toward them about 100 feet away.
“The sergeant in the motorcade detail called the police officers assigned to the area around the reviewing stand and said, ‘There’s a woman in the street you have to move. The motorcade is closing in faster than she is walking,’” Police Chief Richard Eddington told the RoundTable.
The woman, Michelle Hayes, remained in the middle of Central Street just west of McDaniel Avenue, and when the police officers moved to escort her off the street, she “went limp,” in her words, deliberately collapsing onto the pavement.
Ms. Hayes contacted the RoundTable by email to tell her story and responded by email to several questions from the RoundTable.
“While I was being dragged away – if I am recalling correctly, as things are a little blurry – I was screaming at the bystanders to get up and do something. I think I screamed, ‘Is this the Evanston you want?’”
Ms. Hayes also wrote, “I told the officers if they allowed me to walk to the reviewing stand [about 150 feet to the east] without trying to stop me, I would not stop them from arresting me there, but that if they tried to stop me, I would go limp (which I began by sitting down as soon as they touched me.) They tried to stop me, so I did what I had told them I would do. If they had not done so, I’d have walked in front of the reviewing stand and then discussed next steps with the officers.”
Ms. Hayes concedes that, even though she was in the parade route, she was not an official part of the parade. “My plan was to walk peacefully in protest ahead of the parade. I wouldn’t say I was trying to lead it; I was trying to be enough distance in front so as not to disturb the parade, nor to appear to be connected to it.” She said she was trying to stay about a block and a half ahead of the parade and believes she kept that distance. She did not respond to the RoundTable’s question of why she did not follow the officer’s suggestion to walk along the side of the street
The writing on the parasol was “Grieving a just democracy” on one side, and “I really care, do U” on the other. Her goal, Ms. Hayes said, “was only to express that our democracy is in grave danger, and that we are mere moments away from atrocities like the Argentine Dirty War of the 1970s, and that perhaps we should consider the ramifications of celebrating a country whose government’s purpose appears to be degrading our freedoms.”
Several entries in the parade expressed alarm about the state of this country and the actions of the present administration.
The police issued two c-tickets, which are issued for violations of a City ordinance: one because Ms. Hayes allegedly “without lawful authority, knowingly obstructed the flow of traffic by walking down the middle of the street during the Evanston Fourth of July Parade and sat down on the ground,” the other for alleged “disobedience to police in a public place.” She said her intent was not to obstruct the parade but to stage a peaceful protest. The tickets are long-form tickets, Chief Eddington said, requiring Ms. Hayes to appear in the Skokie Court House.