NUCNC, student protesters eating “breakfast” and reading abolitionist literature met with unprecedented police presence


Daily file photo by Madison Smith

Police officers at a Nov. 10 NUCNC protest. The group released an open letter to Evanston residents Wednesday explaining the movement’s motivations and history.

Binah Schatsky, Assistant Campus Editor

Student protesters demanding the abolition of University Police were met with a heavy police presence Monday — armed police in riot gear from the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System’s Mobile Field Force, several K-9 vehicles and Evanston Police Department officers equipped with a police van. There were at least 70 officers for a crowd of no more than 60 protesters. 

Monday’s action led by NU Community Not Cops was the first in-person action since the group’s Halloween protest, where students were pepper-sprayed and one was arrested. At last Saturday’s action, students broke windows to Whole Foods Market, spray-painted sidewalks and released fireworks into the street. Monday’s event had a different energy. 

“Come hungry for breakfast and bring your favorite abolitionist and radical literature!” NUCNC’s Twitter announcement for the action said.

After gathering outside the Salvation Army on Greenwood Avenue and Lake Street, protesters marched to Fountain Square at the intersection of Sherman Avenue, Orrington Avenue and Davis Street where they held a sit-in for about an hour.

Unlike previous protests, protesters marched on the sidewalk instead of the street. They were flanked the whole time by a tight line of NIPAS officers who threatened to arrest any protester who stepped off the sidewalk. At least two officers appeared to have covered their identifying badges with duct tape. When the group arrived at Fountain Square, officers surrounded the Square with shields drawn and a camera filming the group as students engaged in a peaceful assembly that resembled a block party.

Students read aloud excerpts from abolitionist literature including the work of Angela Davis. NUCNC provided donuts, bagels and coffee to the group, emphasizing “Black people eat first” and calling on protesters to save the leftovers for Black and low-income students.

“This protest is a perfectly peaceful expression of a political point of view,” said David Rosen, an Evanston resident who passed the Square during the time of the action. While Rosen said he does not condone the vandalism reported at previous protests, he said this was the first NUCNC protest he has seen take place.

“It doesn’t look very dangerous to me,” he said. “(The police) look more dangerous than (the protesters) do.”

While some Evanston residents expressed support for the protesters with one woman saying “They’re just kids” to the police as she passed, others seemed to support the police presence. One resident applauded the officers and gave them a thumbs up.

Students were joined Monday by two NU faculty members — African American Studies Prof. Mary Pattillo and McCormick Prof. Luis Amaral, both of whom expressed support for the students and the abolition of UP.

Pattillo said she felt Monday’s police presence to be both “overwhelming and sad” and “overwhelmingly sad,” calling it a “waste of resources,” as well as intimidating and a provocation.

Amaral said he believes there is not much use for campus police beyond exerting control. In speaking to control, he noted the statistics that show Black and brown students disproportionately targeted by patrols and traffic stops.

“I’m in full support of what the students are doing,” Amaral said. “It’s the kind of thing that gives you hope that things will change.”

Max Lubbers and Madison Smith contributed reporting.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @binahschatsky

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