Youth gather, paint abolition banners at Evanston Fight for Black Lives ‘Reclaim the Block’ event


Yiming Fu/The Daily Northwestern

A banner reading “We Keep Each Other Safe By…” Attendees used paint and sharpies to write ways community members could protect and care for each other.

Yiming Fu, Assistant City Editor

About 30 Evanston youth painted banners demanding police abolition at a Sunday “Reclaim The Block Party” hosted by Evanston Fight for Black Lives.

Attendees also painted “Abolish EPD” in white capital letters on Elmwood Avenue in front of Evanston Police Department.

“This building being the police department — this is the symbol of their presence in our community, their power in our community,” EFBL organizer Mollie Hartenstein said. “It’s a symbol of not just policing but of how misaligned our community’s priorities are when we have an entire building dedicated to policing.” 

Hartenstein said the group organized the event to make a political statement and build community. She also said EFBL wanted to bring the community together in the wake of the Chicago police killings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.

One of the banners had the phrase “We Keep Each Other Safe By” in the center — around which participants used paint and sharpies to write phrases including  “mutual aid,” “community fridge,” “decriminalize drugs” and “restorative justice.” 

In March, EFBL installed a community fridge outside of the Childcare Network of Evanston building on Dodge Avenue, where residents can access foods left by other community members. In February, organizers told The Daily the fridge is a form of mutual aid and a way for community members to take care of each other.

Hartenstein said the presence of the police department can make people feel unsafe. 

“By coming here, and taking back the space, we want people to make it clear that, you know, we can do something about the problems that happen in our community,” Hartenstein said. 

Kaila Williams, a junior at Evanston Township High School, wrote “fund education” on one of the banners because to her, “education is the center of everything.”

Williams said education is central to the goal of abolition by dismantling structural obstacles that traditionally hold marginalized people back. She said she went to the event because she had seen protests and activism dwindle, but that young people have to continuously show up to be catalysts for change. She attended the event with friends, and said everyone at the block party was “super friendly.”

“I love it,” Williams said. “Everybody’s doing a great job just getting along, lots of good music from the people, I just think we’re all here with a common goal in mind so you’re already in an environment that just feels welcoming.”

A wide street with “Abolish EPD” painted on it in white letters.
Attendees painted “Abolish EPD” on Elmwood Avenue in front of the EPD building. (Yiming Fu/The Daily Northwestern)

Agustina Arce, a senior at ETHS who went to the block party with her sister, said she heard about the event through Instagram, where she often learns about protests and ways to take action.

Arce said she uses Instagram and talks to her sister and dad to learn about protests and ways to take action. As a White hispanic, she said it is important for her to extend her privilege and show up for everyone in her community.

“As much as you can post little things on your Instagram story or Snapchat story, that’s not going to do as much as really getting out there and showing people that you support causes like these that are helping people who are suffering,” Arce said. 

While she hadn’t attended earlier protests because of COVID-19, Arce said she is excited to attend more events as more residents get vaccinated. On Saturday, for example, she said she also attended a May Day protest in Chicago for immigration reform. 

EFBL hosted similar events last summer in response to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Hartenstein said Sunday’s event was an opportunity for Evanston residents to either continue their work from last summer or step up for the first time. 

She said many residents claim to be progressive and liberal, but do not mobilize and come together to tackle larger issues. Hartenstein said EFBL will continue to organize events to give residents opportunities to mobilize.

“Do you want to be on the right side of history?” Hartenstein said. “Here’s your chance.” 

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