Families of Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor lead unity march


Photo by Linus Hoeller

Peaceful protesters march down Emerson St. The families of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor linked arms to lead the demonstration.

Maia Spoto, Development and Recruitment Editor

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Family members of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor led a march and rally in Evanston Saturday to condemn systemic police brutality and urge people to vote in the upcoming election.


Hundreds of participants shouted chants, including “No justice, no peace,” “Say his name” and “Say her name,” as they marched from the Jacob Blake Manor to the Ebenezer-Primm Towers. State and local leaders, including longtime civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), called for reform in the criminal justice system.


“There’s a pattern that’s around the country,” said Jackson, whose advocacy organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, helped sponsor the event. “And we as a nation must stop it.”

Jackson also led the crowd in chanting “I am somebody.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Schakowsky extended her gratitude to activists fighting centuries of racial injustice. She called on residents to vote as volunteers passed around fliers with QR codes directing people to voter registration information.

Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle said people need to “push at every door and corner” to get justice for those affected by police brutality.


“We’re about unity,” Justin Blake said. “We’re about solidarity. We’re about peace. We’re about pressure. And we’re about justice, and getting justice done for little Jake, and Breonna Taylor and all those other ones.”

The event took place a week after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor’s death, and over a month after police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Police were stationed along the route, though the event was a peaceful protest. A video from Twitter shows over 70 police gathered outside Evanston Police Department prior to the march.

Speakers said the White House and key lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have “obstructed justice” by passing legislation that infringes on human rights. To usher in change, speakers charged those in attendance to vote.


“We gon’ take our protesting to the polls,” Bianca Austin, Breonna Taylor’s aunt, said. “And we gon’ show them that our voices count… we gon’ go to the end of the world, not the road. We gon’ go to the end of the world. And then when the world ends, give us a spaceship.”

Evanston Fight for Black Lives organizer Nia Williams shared an original poem and spoke on the importance of collective action. She said EFBL is pushing the city to defund Evanston Police Department’s $56 million budget by 75 percent and reinvest those funds in community resources.

Evanston’s 2020 adopted budget for policing is double the budgets for parks and recreation, health and libraries combined. Another EFBL organizer, Katia Bell, said divesting from EPD and investing in education, health and other services will strengthen and support — rather than control — the Evanston community.

Williams said reimagining public safety will foster an environment of “radical and intentional love.”

“The revolution will not be televised because the revolution begins in our own communities,” she said. “The revolution is guided under the premise that we will not let our community starve. We will not allow the world to erase our lives, and we will not allow our Black lives to not matter.”

Bell said while voting is “extremely important,” Evanston residents also need to organize off the ballot. She said she hopes her neighbors will get involved with local organizations like EFBL, join together as a community and call out everyday racism, sexism and homophobia.

Additionally, Bell said hearing Jackson speak and witnessing generations of activism converge were the most compelling parts of the rally.


“Our people never settle for less,” she said. “They always continue the fight. After all these years, they’re still going… even if they’re not seeing change, that doesn’t stop them from continuing to want to see change.”

Jacob Blake, who spent years of his childhood in Evanston, attended Evanston Township High School. His late grandfather, a former pastor at the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, championed a push for affordable housing that culminated in the construction of facilities like the Ebenezer-Primm Towers, the destination of Saturday’s march.

Toward the end of their speeches, family members video called Jacob Blake and turned his face to the rally. The crowd erupted in cheers.

His father, Jacob Blake Sr., said Jacob Blake is currently in “incredible pain.” However, Jacob Blake is attending physical therapy up to four times each day and “working hard” to heal.


“Now I have no choice but to stand for my son, because he cannot stand,” Jacob Blake Sr. said. “To walk for my son, because he cannot walk. To understand that we need to change laws. And if we do not change laws, we kick in the door, and change some laws.”

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Twitter: @maia_spoto

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