Locals use Fourth of July parade as platform for activism


Mona Murhamer/The Daily Northwestern

An abortion rights activist stands on the sides of the Evanston parade to voice her opinions. Some attendees used the parade as an opportunity to advocate for social and political issues.

Mona Murhamer, Reporter

For many Evanston residents, the Fourth of July tradition means donning red, white and blue and setting up a lawn chair in a line on Central Street in anticipation of the annual parade.

However, some attendees use the parade as an opportunity to advocate for social and political issues.

For people like Evanston writer Betsy Storm, 63, the crowd the parade attracts creates a perfect platform for voicing opinions and garnering support. Storm said she became interested in gun safety advocacy after participating in the Million Mom March in 1999.

Since then, she has discovered Moms Demand Action, an organization that advocates for “common-sense” gun reforms. This year, Storm decided to march for her cause at Evanston’s Fourth of July parade.

“We want the government to know what we want and feel we must have — sensible gun laws,” she said. “We’re not trying to do away with the second amendment, we want to help people understand that we need to have more of a dialogue about gun violence to keep our children safe.”

Storm said she has marched for the past 30 years, and that this year, local activists have more passion and causes to march for since the election of President Donald Trump.

“People go two ways,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing we can do, we can’t make a difference,’ but the people I know are like, ‘We have to make a difference, we have to keep doing things’ because if you just lie down and roll over, you’re never going to do anything.”

Like Storm, “proverbial marcher” Leo Gideon, 79, said he has marched in over a dozen parades since moving to Evanston in 1979. Over the years, he has supported the Skokie Indians little league, the YMCA and Barack Obama’s senatorial campaign, among others.

At this year’s parade, he marched with Refuse Fascism, an organization working against Trump’s administration. However, he said Refuse Fascism is wrongly labeled as a communist or socialist organization.

“This whole notion of communism or socialism is a label that needs to be obliterated,” he said. “Humanism — that’s what we are.”

In addition to the activists who march to support their beliefs, others such as Wilmette’s Jeffrey Salvadore, 22, join the scene to endorse political candidates.

Salvadore, a long-time Evanston parade attendee and an intern for State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), marched with Biss’ gubernatorial campaign this year.

“I like to show people I support Biss, and just to get the name out there,” he said. “He’s promised to change the fundamental dynamics of Illinois politics, and I think he will restore honesty and good government.”

Evanston’s annual parade has become a popular platform for activism, regardless of their differing beliefs and causes.

“Marching is one of the freedoms of society,” Gideon said. “Each voice has a platform, and this is the perfect platform —the Fourth of July parade.”

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