The Weekly: Week Four Recap

Alex Chun and Susanna Kemp

In Evanston, hundreds participated in a unity march led by family members of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor. In a screenshot obtained by The Daily, some Gamma Phi Beta alumnae expressed disapproval of the abolish Greek life movement. And Evanston announced a proposed 2021 city budget; changes include a reduction in funding allocated to the Evanston Police Department and the creation of an alternative emergency response. Check out The Weekly: Week Four Recap to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered The Daily’s most recent top headlines.

ALEX CHUN: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Alex Chun.

SUSANNA KEMP: And I’m Susanna Kemp. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week.

ALEX CHUN: On Oct. 3, family members of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor led a unity march and rally in Evanston.

MARCHERS: What’s his name? Jacob Blake! What’s his name? Jacob Blake! What’s his name? Jacob Blake!

ALEX CHUN: In August, Jacob Blake was shot and seriously injured by a police officer. And in March, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police officers while sleeping in her apartment.

SUSANNA KEMP: And on campus, continued calls for the abolition of Greek life faced backlash from Gamma Phi Beta alumnae. In a screenshot obtained by The Daily, alumni expressed disapproval toward the Abolish Greek Life movement. Comments were made in a private Facebook group named “Save the Epsilon Chapter.” The group’s name has since been changed. Some commenters called the Abolish Greek Life movement “reverse racism.”

ALEX CHUN: And finally, Evanston announced a proposed 2021 budget. Changes include a reduction in funding for the Evanston Police Department and the implementation of an alternative emergency response plan.

SUSANNA KEMP: Stay with us to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered these stories.

ALEX CHUN: On Oct. 3, hundreds marched down Emerson Street from the Jacob Blake Manor to the Ebenezer-Primm Towers. The march was led by family members of Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor. Participants condemned police brutality and stressed the importance of voting.

SUSANNA KEMP: Longtime civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky and co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, Bobby Rush, were among those marching. Development and recruitment editor Maia Spoto covered this story. Maia, could you tell us a bit about the march and what it was calling for?

MAIA SPOTO: Sure. So the advertisement for the march was called “United We Stand,” and that was really the message that they were trying to put across throughout the event. It was really calling for unity among people — intersectionality and activism. And above all, I would say, getting out to vote, to make sure that the government represents the people who elect it. We marched half a mile down Emerson Street and stopped halfway through underneath this bridge and stood there for a little bit and kept chanting. And you heard the echo bouncing off the bridge, and it just seemed so large. And then we got to Ebenezer-Primm Towers, which Jacob Blake Sr. pushed to build. He was very much part of the affordable housing movement in Evanston. And there you had Jesse Jackson and Bobby Rush’s formal speeches, people basically shouting in unison from the crowd saying, “Yes, I’m calling for progress, calling for unity.”

ALEX CHUN: And could you tell us a little bit about who was marching?

MAIA SPOTO: It was a very intergenerational march. The crowd was full of people living both in Evanston and people from out of town, young and old, all genders, all races. It was very full. There were probably 500 people both from Evanston and from out of town. One of my sources, who is an organizer with Evanston Fight for Black Lives, which sponsored the march, told me that she was just amazed to see people like Jesse Jackson, who have been in the work for so many decades, joining basically with newer activists, younger people, calling for the same message that they’ve been calling for just an unfathomably long amount of time, which is really like basic respect and unity.

ALEX CHUN: And you actually got a chance to talk with Jesse Jackson. What were some of his messages?

MAIA SPOTO: He had a couple of main messages. His first one was that of continuing the fight and fighting against a system that unjustly kills so many Americans. And not giving up even when it looks like progress is impossible. His other message, which was a little bit more related to the news cycle, was that he was praying for President Trump in the hospital with coronavirus, because he hoped that Trump would have a “come to Jesus” moment where he would have a change of heart and maybe stop harming people, especially Black Americans. And so that meant some mixed responses from the crowd. Jesse Jackson also led the “I am Somebody” chant, which is a pretty famous chant dating back to his early days in the civil rights movement.

ALEX CHUN: I want to play some of the audio you recorded from that chant.

JESSE JACKSON: I am somebody. Through it all, I will not surrender. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!

ALEX CHUN: Wow. And you also got to speak with Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake. Could you tell us a little bit about that conversation?

MAIA SPOTO: Justin Blake said that he really hopes Northwestern students will take the message from this rally, and really keep putting the pressure on administrators to make the university equitable and accessible, and to also fight for the community. And he said it’s so important to remember how Northwestern interacts with Evanston and that they are two connected beings. I think also the idea that a lot of Northwestern students come to these they come, they protest, they post on social media — but how do you back it up with action was really what Justin was calling and challenging Northwestern students to do. It was put your money and your time where your mouth is.

ALEX CHUN: Maia, thanks so much for chatting with us.

SUSANNA KEMP: On campus, calls to abolish Greek life haven’t stopped, and Northwestern alumni continue to join the conversation. Earlier this fall, Gamma Phi Beta voted to relinquish their charter, which is the official document allowing for a chapter to be created. Relinquishing a charter means that there would never be a chapter of GPhi on campus. However, the International Council moved to suspend the chapter instead. That means that they’re halting all chapter operations indefinitely.

ALEX CHUN: In a screenshot obtained by The Daily, some alumni of Gamma Phi Beta, or GPhi, have criticized the Abolish Greek Life movement. One alumna said that despite having been a regular donor to the University, she isn’t donating this year due to the University’s failure to acknowledge and condemn the Abolish Greek Life movement.

SUSANNA KEMP: Here to chat with us more about this story is campus editor Isabelle Sarraf. Isabelle, could you tell us a bit about the creation of this Facebook group?

ISABELLE SARRAF: The Facebook group was a place where the older alumnae were asking the members who voted on disbanding, what their reasoning was behind it, and tried to learn more about the abolish movement. But obviously, there were some people who were just back and forth, pitching reforms that they thought would improve the chapter, like there were a lot of people who were obviously against the suspension and wanted gradual reform instead of complete abolition.

SUSANNA KEMP: What were some of the comments that were made in the Facebook group?

ISABELLE SARRAF: The Facebook comments that I saw were more… I would say just generally hateful, more indicative of this generational gap seen among the alumnae. A lot of them who are older, used phrases like “reverse racism” and “gender dysphoria,” and use a lot of outdated terminology to refer to things that I think a younger generation sees as not politically correct. There was one alumna who said that she felt a twang of reverse racism and asked if she’d be allowed to rush Alpha Kappa Alpha, which is a historically Black sorority.

SUSANNA KEMP: Greek life is really interesting to me because alumni actually have a pretty large stake in chapters’ operations, from my understanding. So, could this disapproval from alumni really affect the chapter in any big way?

ISABELLE SARRAF: Yeah. So this one alumna from the Facebook post that was on the Abolish NU Greek life Instagram account said she personally did not donate to Northwestern this year, breaking a fairly long streak. And she also said she has every intention of letting them know it’s because of the Abolish NU Greek life Instagram account, and their quote on quote lack of support for the GPhi chapter at Northwestern. But Northwestern also does receive donations from alumni who really care about Greek life.

SUSANNA KEMP: Isabelle, thanks so much for coming on.

ALEX CHUN: And finally, on Friday, Oct. 9, Evanston released the city’s proposed 2021 budget for the upcoming year. Due to decreases in revenue amid the pandemic and calls for the reallocation of funds, the budget has been hotly contested.

SUSANNA KEMP: Included in the proposed budget are a few changes. Evanston is tightening the budget and cutting some funding from the police department. Here to chat with us more about this story are Maia and city editor Jacob Fulton. Jacob, could you tell us a little bit about the current issues that the city is facing in regards to the budget?

JACOB FULTON: Basically, because of COVID-19, we’ve seen dips in revenue across all industries in Evanston. Because of this drop in revenue, the city isn’t getting as much tax money. As a result, they’re definitely going to have to sort of tighten up their budget in the coming years to make up for these losses, as well as potential future losses, because we don’t know how long this COVID-19-driven recession is going to last. So they’re sort of feeling that conflict where they need to figure out ways to cut down their budget, but also provide strong services for the city’s residents amid a pandemic.

SUSANNA KEMP: What are some of the things Evanston has been considering in terms of fund distribution?

JACOB FULTON: One of the departments that’s really been affected by everything that’s going on right now is the Health and Human Services Department. This past year, they were working at their typical budget level, but then they had a pandemic thrown on top of it. So in 2021, the city has to decide whether they want to give the department more funds or whether they want to keep it at the same level and sort of try and make them operate that way. The other thing that has been a source of conflict recently has been Evanston’s policing budget. A lot of local activists, including activist group Evanston Fight for Black Lives, have called for significant cuts to policing. There’s also the implementation of a potential alternative response plan for emergency situations that’s being incorporated into this year’s budget. That’s a pilot program scheduled for 2021 that will basically allow for local social workers to respond to some emergency calls instead of having it just all be police officers and firefighters, because they may be better equipped for the situation.

SUSANNA KEMP: And there’ve been a few other cities that have implemented similar programs successfully, such as Olympia, Washington. In these cities, has the alternative emergency response plan completely replaced the local police department?

JACOB FULTON: So the programs in other cities don’t completely replace their police forces. They work in tandem with the police force. So it’s really just another option for them to have; it’s like when you call 911, you have EMS, you have firefighters, you have police. And then this is like a fourth option. So sometimes they’ll do depending on the program, they do ride alongs with police officers, sometimes their responses are completely different units, but they aren’t completely replacing the police forces, they all still exist in similar programs. And that’s the plan for Evanston as well.

ALEX CHUN: Let’s chat a little bit about the reallocation of funds. Evanston Fight for Black Lives has called for the reallocation of funds that currently go to the Evanston Police Department. Maia, how is the proposed city budget responding to those demands?

MAIA SPOTO: The police budget has been a subject of debate, especially since the calls for defunding the police started ramping up last June. We have Evanston Fight for Black Lives, a local activist organization, that is calling for Evanston police department’s budget to be cut by 75 percent. And for context, Evanston police department’s budget makes up 18 percent of the city’s total budget, it is $56 million for the year of 2020. They ended up cutting the police budget as one of the most drastic cuts that they were making, and the personnel budget total was reduced for the police department by 1.7 million, which compared to $56 million in the overall police budget is definitely not close to that 75 percent number that Evanston Fight for Black Lives is calling for.

ALEX CHUN: So the Evanston Police Department’s budget makes up for 18 percent of the city’s total budget with funding of over $50 million. Just for context, how much of the budget goes to other city departments?

MAIA SPOTO: The only larger sector in Evanston would be public works. And they have a 21 percent share of the budget at $68 million.

ALEX CHUN: And what about other city departments?

MAIA SPOTO: So, this was last year, this was for 2020, but libraries get 3 percent at just over $9 million. The Parks and Rec department had 4 percent of the budget at about 11 and a half million and health was allocated for $5 million at 2 percent of the budget.

ALEX CHUN: Maia and Jacob, thanks so much for coming on.

ALEX CHUN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Alex Chun.

SUSANNA KEMP: And I’m Susanna Kemp. We’ll see you next week for another episode of The Weekly.

ALEX CHUN: This episode was reported on by Maia Spoto, Isabelle Sarraf, Jacob Fulton, Susanna Kemp and myself. This episode was produced by both Susanna Kemp and myself. The audio editor of The Daily is me. The digital managing editors are Molly Lubbers and Jaocb Ohara. The editor in chief is Marissa Martinez.

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]
Twitter: @apchun01

Stories Referenced:
Families of Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor lead unity march
Northwestern chapter of Gamma Phi Beta votes to relinquish charter amid calls to abolish Greek life
Summer in Evanston: City faces significant budget losses, Council discusses reimagining of EPD
City projects a $5 to 7 million loss in revenue for 2021 budget
Human Services Committee to recommend an alternative emergency response pilot in 2021 budget
City Council reviews 2020 budget projections, COVID-19 grants and 2021 budget plans
Reform vs. Abolish: Gamma Phi Beta alumnae, former members clash over Abolish Greek Life movement
Human Services Committee reviews police services and response models in hopes of moving towards defunding