Graffiti A.C.A.B, an expression in current use standing for "All Cops Are B.....ds" Photo from City of Evanston

A crowd of about 150 people gathered last night at Clark Street and Sheridan Road, the southern edge of the Northwestern University campus and headed into downtown Evanston. The protest turned violent there, as some spray-painted graffiti, threw rocks and lighted fireworks.

This was Day 20 of a series of protests by the group, NU Community, Not Cops, which calls for abolition of the Northwestern University Police Department and other police departments around the globe. Their overall protest, according to some members, is of state-sanctioned violence. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro has said the University will not abolish its Police Department, which is composed of sworn Illinois Police Officers.

It is not clear whether it was this group, another group or other protesters that took part in the vandalism and violence.

Most protests by NU Community, Not Cops have begun on or near the Northwestern campus – some at Mr. Schapiro’s house – and ended in or near downtown, where they temporarily block traffic. Some, like last night’s, ended in downtown Evanston; others have ended as far west as Asbury Avenue, in front of the Northwestern Police headquarters.

Evanston Police have monitored these protests, tweeting where traffic was blocked and when the streets were clear.

This Halloween protest was more aggressive than those by previous Northwestern protest groups. According to information from City Manager Erika Storlie, members of the group came with umbrellas, fireworks, spray-paint cans and laser pointers. Some threw rocks or lit fireworks in the direction of police officers; others shined the laser pointers in the eyes of the officers.

Ms. Storlie’s information said it was “difficult to see who was doing what, because all were advised to bring umbrellas and used them to shield people so specific people could not be identified/associated with a specific crime which would lead to arrest.”  

Police from other jurisdictions were called to help manage the crowd. Police arrested only one person, a female Northwestern student who kicked a police officer; she was released from custody this morning. So far only one officer was reported injured; the officer was taken to a hospital with eye injury from the fireworks.

Evanston Chief of Police Demitrous Cook said police officers “got a lot of the other fireworks in the face. They had green lasers in officers’ eyes and a lot of dangerous stuff.”

A statement from the University this morning said, “Late Saturday night, protesters that started a demonstration on the Northwestern campus marched into downtown Evanston. According to the Evanston Police Department (EPD), some protesters threw bricks at police officers, shined high-powered lasers into their eyes, and threw lit fireworks and smoke bombs at the officers. In response, the officers deployed pepper spray and arrested one Northwestern student, according to EPD. The student was released from EPD custody early this morning. We are awaiting additional information. The Northwestern University Police Department was not involved in the incident once it moved beyond the University’s jurisdiction.”

The University also said, “As we have stated before, Northwestern strongly supports the free expression of ideas and vigorous debate, abiding principles that are fundamental to our University. Northwestern protects the right to protest, but we do not condone breaking the law. Should members of the Northwestern community be found in violation of University policies, state or federal laws, they will be held accountable through our processes.”

Northwestern officials knew that the protests would continue; at the outset NU Community, Not Cops had vowed 30 days of protest.

In an Oct. 19 letter to members of the Northwestern community, President Schapiro acknowledged the wish of the protesters to abolish the Northwestern Police Department but said that would not occur, condemned the violence, and suggested that the aggressors could be “outside activists.”

The group originally vowed a 30-day protest. Today, Nov. 1, is Day 21, and as yet City officials have not learned of the time of today’s protest.

Update: Statement From the City of Evanston

This afternoon, the City issued the following statement concerning its response to the Oct. 31 protest:

“On Saturday night, October 31, a group of approximately 150 protesters, including Northwestern students, gathered in downtown Evanston at Sheridan Road and Clark Street as part of a series of organized protests. The crowd marched into downtown Evanston, with some protesters throwing rocks and bricks at police officers, lighting fireworks in the direction of officers, pointing lasers at police officers’ eyes, and using umbrellas to cover individuals graffitiing streets, stop signs, and electric boxes, and damaging property. 

“When it was clear the event had transitioned from a peaceful protest to that of intentional destruction, officers deployed pepper spray to prevent injury to bystanders and police officers. Contrary to misinformation being circulated on social media, no tear gas was used. Smoke seen in any photos is from fireworks used by the protesters, not tear gas. 

“One officer from the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS), which was called in to assist, was injured and transported to a local hospital with an eye injury from a firework. One arrest was made of a female Northwestern student who hit a police officer. There have been 18 reports of criminal damage to property.

“This morning, Mayor Stephen Hagerty sent a letter to Northwestern President Morton Schapiro regarding the ongoing student protests in Evanston. The City of Evanston and the Evanston Police Department support and respect the rights of all individuals to protest peacefully and safely in Evanston. However, those harming the health and safety of officers and the public, damaging property, or otherwise violating the law will be arrested.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...