Since mid-June, a determined group of Evanstonians has staked out the corner of Lake Street and Elmwood to call attention to what it believes is the misallocation of community resources. The group, Defund the EPD, makes its presence known by signs and voices.
Passing drivers honk in support, and the Police Department blocks northbound traffic on Elmwood at Lake Street, giving the protestors the corner in front of the 1454 Elmwood Ave./909 Lake St. building that houses the Police Department and Fire Department headquarters.
The weekly protests are hosted by various groups that support Defund the EPD. The Aug. 30 protest was organized by Evanston Fight for Black Lives. Protestors held signs saying “Wake Up, Evanston”; EPD, the Second-Most Overfunded Department in Illinois”; “EPD Overfunded, Community Underfunded”; “Black Lives Matter”; and “Honk 4 Justice.”
“There’s always people protesting here from 1-2 p.m. every Sunday. This is the fourth time that we’ve hosted. We call them ‘Reclaim the Block’ parties. We bring chalk, and usually we’re painting ‘Defund EPD,’ but it has stayed up for the past few weeks. So we’re here chalking and community building,” said Maia Robinson, a founding member of Evanston Fight for Black Lives.
Like many groups rallying and protesting across the nation, Defund the EPD calls for re-imagining public safety by reducing the scope and responsibility of traditional policing, and reallocating resources to social services to address many of the root causes of crime – poverty, addiction and mental illness, for example.
Defund the EPD identifies itself on The Action Network as follows:
We are a group of Evanston young people hoping to change the current Evanston budget by diverting funds from the police to other areas of the community…through petition, social media outreach, and more (potentially protests). The 2021 budget will be revised this summer, and an updated version will be presented for consideration to City Council this fall.
The protests are open to everyone. Melissa Arkin and Sean Peck-Collier stood on the south side of Lake Avenue. He came as a supportive community member, and she as a supporter of Evanston Fight for Black Lives. Nearby was Northwestern University Professor Jessica Winegar, a sociocultural anthropologist who specializes in cultural politics. She said she comes to the protests – this was her second time – through the FaceBook White Anti-Racism Affinity Group. Across the street, longtime Evanston resident Kim Erwin, who was participating for the first time held a sign aloft in each hand to alert passing cars to her messages: “Honk 4 Justice” and “Defund EPD.”