Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Residents celebrate Independence Day amongst increased police presence as Highland Park shooting looms

Christina Lin/The Daily Northwestern
After last year’s Highland Park shooting, Evanston Police Department bumped up officer presence at the parade.

Decked out in red, white and blue, three children danced along the sidewalk of Central Street during Tuesday’s Independence Day parade. The children, ranging from four to eight years old, waited excitedly for the Evanston Township High School marching band, conducted by their father, to pass by. 

Meanwhile, their mother, Mackenzie Bufis, hovered behind them, watching their every move. 

“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about coming today,” Bufis said. “It’s kinda hard to get behind celebrating the country when you are nervous about being shot.” 

Over 100 police officers lined Central Street as residents gathered for Evanston’s annual Fourth of July parade. It was part of Evanston’s plan to increase police presence during the festivities, after a gunman killed seven people and injured another 48 at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade last year. 

However, the threat of gun violence still loomed in the minds of some residents and first responders. 

“We are all just a little extra vigilant,” Evanston Police Department officer Joseph Lopez said. 

Police officers blocked off every cross street along the parade route, with officers in bright yellow vests dotting almost every intersection. Later, officers transitioned into fireworks coverage. 

Not only was there an increased presence of police officers — including on rooftops — K-9 patrols, surveillance drones, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and military personnel also stood guard.

“We are just here to ensure safety, make sure that everything goes as planned,” Pillar said. “We have had several meetings, some open table discussions, some in ‘in case of emergency’ talks and evacuation plans, in case something goes wrong.” 

The presence of police —including at Highland Park’s parade last year—have failed to deter mass shootings in the past. 

Firefighters on scene worked to help with quick response medical care, coming with gurneys, tourniquets and basic first aid. 

“I’m most looking forward to no injuries and everybody having a good time,” Evanston firefighter Kevin Rodriguez said before the parade began. 

The clusters of police were quite conspicuous for many who attended the parade. Bufis said her children immediately noticed officers lining the rooftops as the floats rolled underneath.

“I’m just trying to strike the balance of not living in fear and also just being smart and safe,” Bufis said. 

Despite the heightened fear, music still pulsated through the air, forcing paradegoers to shout to be heard. One family brought their own bucket of chalk, sketching elaborate murals of fireworks on the sidewalks. 

Laughter weaved through the crowd, and “many residents put their chairs out, several days in advance” in anticipation, Pillar said. 

“I have been coming to this parade for a long time,” Evanston resident Linda Wilson said. “I wasn’t nervous. The parade brings a lot of people out and together.”

Sara Strassberg is a student in the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute this summer.

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