Evanston businesses close for ‘day without immigrants’


File photo by Susan Du

Customers drink a beer at Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St. The management of the pub decided to close down on Thursday for the “day without immigrants” protest.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

At least two Evanston business owners closed up shop Thursday to participate in “a day without immigrants,” a nationwide protest aiming to bring awareness to the vital roles immigrants play in American society.

Stores and businesses across the country closed Thursday in solidarity with the movement. In Chicago, restaurant-owner Rick Bayless closed four of his restaurants, and crowds met and rallied in Union Park in support of the protest. The event comes after reports of ICE raids across the country and a now-stalled executive order signed by President Donald Trump last month barring people with citizenship in seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country.

The management of Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St., announced their decision to close in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon “to show our solidarity with immigrants of all kinds, many of whom make up our devoted, hardworking, valued staff.”

Debbie Evans, the executive chef and owner of the restaurant, said they made the decision to close the restaurant after hearing that a lot of her staff was hoping to take the day off. Evans is from Liverpool, England, and said a lot of her staff are also immigrants.

It was her experience as an immigrant that led them to make the decision, Evans said.

“We know what kind of struggle it is to actually survive as an immigrant in a foreign country,” she said.

Evanston architect Omar Gutiérrez said he decided not to work or buy anything on Thursday for similar reasons. Gutiérrez, who is originally from Colombia, has lived in Evanston for 17 years. Before he became a citizen, Gutiérrez said he received “less than stellar” treatment at the hands of immigration officials.

Gutiérrez said in the past he has been separated from the people he was traveling with by immigration officials and questioned.

“Being Colombian there is some history there, and people search you a little extra. And having an Arabic name, it was a double whammy,” he said. “I have experienced a small taste of what some immigrants are experiencing today, and it worries me. It worries me because immigrants are an integral part of this country.”

Gutiérrez said he notified his clients he would be taking the day off, and received positive responses from them. He hoped the day would send a signal to the country.

“We are part of this country; we are not some sort of appendix,” he said. “As people refuse to buy things or go out and work, then we remind them that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Evans said she hoped the president would take notice of the protest.

“I hope he realizes that … America is built on immigrants, and you need to listen to the people of this country,” she said. “I hope there was enough people standing in solidarity that he is going to take notice.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly