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The Daily Northwestern

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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 hold vigil, call for ceasefire in Gaza at Light the Night exhibit

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Cole Reynolds/Senior Staffer
Demonstrators held LED signs in Saturday night’s mist and sung songs calling for a ceasefire in Gaza

The night’s mist clung to LED art pieces scattered throughout Tallmadge Park, giving each bulb its own little aura. And, when some 30 people filed into the festival, softly singing for a ceasefire in Gaza, the mist clung to the candles in their hands too.

About 200 people gathered Saturday evening for free hot chocolate and LED installations from local artists at Evanston’s annual Light the Night exhibit. But, they found their attention redirected to a candlelit vigil, which organizers said meant to honor lives lost in Gaza and call for a ceasefire there.

“It’s just part of the whole Light the Night thing,” said Lesley Williams, one of the organizers of the vigil. “Just a different way of lighting up the night — lighting up the ignorance.”

The vigil came after war in Gaza has seen Israeli strikes kill upwards of 26,000 Palestinians after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials. 

Organizers said more than 70 attendees participated in the vigil. By the park’s entrance, demonstrators held LED letter placards that, put together, spelled out “ceasefire.”

After about half an hour outside the park, a group led by Williams split from the main demonstrators and ventured into the event.

Clutching candles, they walked a loop through the park, murmuring “free Gaza now” and “not in our names.” 

Event attendees, previously engaged in lively conversation, fell silent as the procession passed them. “There was a gravity and a weight to it,” said Frederick Weinstein, who said he was caught by surprise by the vigil while attending the Light the Night. “There was no denying that it was a sacred moment where everything sort of fell into line.”

Even as the procession moved back to the parking lot, its message still lingered.

“The metaphor in the weather of the evening, it makes it sort of a singular event,” Weinstein said. “This is something I imagine that I’ll remember and hold inside me.”

Evanston resident Corrie Fisher said in the group she was standing with, silence quickly turned to conversation about the Israel-Hamas war. 

Even if not everyone agreed with the vigil’s message, Fisher said eventgoers seemed appreciative of the way it was told.

“They were singing quietly,” Fisher said. “It was very peaceful, but it was very clear what they were sharing with us.”

Organizers kept the vigil secret, so some demonstrators had trouble finding the group until Williams arrived. 

One of them came up to city official Amanda D’Agostino, who was handing out hot chocolate at the festival, asking if she knew anything about a gathering of people “related to the lights.” Two others, wearing shirts reading “Jews say ceasefire now” also wandered the park, whispering about not being able to find their group.

Williams said the group kept the vigil secret to avoid conflict, particularly since it happened amid a group petition that demands the city pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Tensions in this campaign reached a climax when police removed peaceful protesters from a city council meeting in December. 

Williams and other organizers only publicized Saturday’s vigil to people who had signed the ceasefire petition, hoping to avoid a similar conflict. 

They said they want Saturday’s vigil to be the first in a line of several demonstrations. But, Williams said, first holding a surprise demonstration gave them an authentic sense of how the Evanston community feels about the issue.

“People in our community want information,” Williams said. “Kids are asking for it. Churches are asking for it. It’s City Council, District 65, District 202 — the schools — who are silencing it.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charcole27

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