COVID-19 Across Chicago: Evanston

About 200 people attended an event Thursday night in Evanston billed as Defunding 101 — a series of discussions inspired by the movement to defund the police, which has gained traction since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis two weeks ago. 

Hosted by Evanston Fight for Black Lives, organizers say while the north suburban city is more progressive in its approach to policing than many neighboring communities, there is still a long way to go. 

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

“There are some communities in Evanston that have grown up and have existed without the presence of police, but the reality of it is there’s a lot of neighborhoods in Evanston that have a high police presence in our communities, and still have a negative type of relationship with police,” said Sinobia Aiden, one of the event’s organizers. “So while Evanston is really forward thinking, there’s still a lot of work to be done.” 

Interactive: More from our series, COVID-19 Across Chicago.

Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook says police by and large agree there are certain types of cases police perhaps shouldn’t handle. 

“If we had more assistance with dealing with mental health issues, domestic violence, those are the things that law enforcement officers respond to a lot, it takes up a lot of our time,” he said. “I do think some of that could be done by a private entity.” 

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty says he’s gotten hundreds of emails from residents about defunding the police in recent days. He says while he doesn’t plan to abolish the city’s police department, he is open to conversations about significant reforms, like whether police should be removed from the city’s public schools.

Video: Watch our interview with Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty.

“We can’t not have the police, there are needs that we have in our community … so, I think it’s about a reimagining of the police and how that’s going to work, and absolutely there’s a commitment in Evanston to look at that,” Hagerty said. 

One organization that’s hoping to provide additional historical context to the current movement is Evanston Present and Future, a local nonprofit. 

The group is organizing Evanston’s first ever Juneteenth parade next Friday — albeit a virtual one because of COVID-19. 

Founder Kemone Hendricks says there’s a direct line between celebrating Juneteenth and the current protests and movement. 

“We’re not only able to celebrate freedom of black people that happened on Juneteenth, but also advocate for Black Lives Matter,” she said. “And that’s why it’s so important to educate the community on what Juneteenth is, and have a parade that is on the same level as the 4th of July. Juneteenth needs to be on everyone’s calendar, the same way July 4 is on everyone’s calendar.”

Video: Paris Schutz speaks with Kemone Hendricks, founder of Evanston Present and Future.

Meanwhile, Evanston businesses and restaurants continue to partially reopen after closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is reporting 747 positive COVID-19 cases and 58 deaths. 

Local organizer Ismalis Nuñez began an aid fund to help residents with groceries and other needs during COVID-19, and says lower-income areas in Evanston have been harder hit by the virus. 

“These racial disparities have always been there, and it’s not just across the nation, it’s in Evanston. So, how can we really elevate —folks have the resources — but how do we start to share that? And it’s not just about throwing money at the problem, but really seeking justice,” she said. 

Follow us on Twitter: @paschutz / @rquinnmyers

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors