Friends, Evanston res­i­dents rally to show sup­port for Ja­cob Blake

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MADE­LINE KEN­NEY, STAFF RE­PORTER mken­ney@suntimes.com | @mad­kenny Con­tribut­ing: AP

A group of about 150 peo­ple gath­ered in Evanston on Tues­day in a show of sup­port for Ja­cob Blake, a Black man whom po­lice of­fi­cers shot at least a half-dozen times Sun­day in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

Blake, who at­tended mid­dle and high school in Evanston, comes from a fam­ily of com­mu­nity ac­tivists in Evanston span­ning over at least four gen­er­a­tions, Evanston na­tive Lon­nie Wil­son said.

In fact, Tues­day’s rally — or­ga­nized by fam­ily friends in part­ner­ship with Evanston Col­lec­tive, a lo­cal so­cial jus­tice or­ga­ni­za­tion — started and ended in a park­ing lot across from Ja­cob Blake Manor, a low-in­come hous­ing site for se­niors that was named af­ter Blake’s grand­fa­ther, the Rev. Ja­cob Blake, who pa­s­tored an Evanston church for years.

“They’ve been do­ing things in this town for close to 90 years, and the whole en­tire time, the African Amer­i­can fam­i­lies that are col­lec­tives in here … and they lived to­gether, they cry to­gether, and they die to­gether,” said Wil­son, one of many at the rally who said they per­son­ally knew the Blake fam­ily. “That’s what this is about — just to show sup­port that one of ours and we’re hurt­ing, too.

Wil­son had strong feel­ings about the shoot­ing. “My re­ac­tion was that had noth­ing to do with bad polic­ing; that’s bad hu­man­ity that shot [Blake].”

Jas­mine Ed­wards re­called fond mem­o­ries of Blake, whom she knew in high school.

“It’s one thing hap­pen­ing around the world, but to see it hap­pen to some­body that I grew up with, some­one that I per­son­ally know, is even more dras­tic,” Ed­wards said. “I just re­ally hope Ja­cob gets his peace, and I hope mov­ing for­ward that we see a change be­cause we need it for our chil­dren.”

Ed­wards said she wor­ries about the fu­ture of her three sons, who are Black.

“It ac­tu­ally makes me ner­vous and scared to know what their jour­ney will be like,” she said. “They could just be walk­ing down the street and they’ll stop you . ... We need to be treated like ev­ery­body else.”

Af­ter com­mu­nity mem­bers and or­ga­niz­ers called for po­lice re­form and jus­tice for Blake — in­clud­ing Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who urged Repub­li­cans to pass the Ge­orge Floyd Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act — de­mon­stra­tors took to the street and marched around the block chant­ing, “Say his name, Ja­cob Blake” and “No jus­tice, no peace.”

Tues­day’s rally in Evanston was just one of the many protests for Blake that took place na­tion­wide. Hun­dreds demon­strated in Seat­tle on Mon­day night in sol­i­dar­ity with protests in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin. There have also been protests this week in New York, Min­ne­ap­o­lis, Los An­ge­les and other cities across the coun­try over the Kenosha shoot­ing.

Mayor Lori Light­foot has fired Paul Ste­wart, her top cannabis ad­viser and as­sis­tant deputy mayor, though it’s un­clear what led to his ouster.

“Mr. Ste­wart is no longer an em­ployee at the mayor’s of­fice. As this is a per­son­nel mat­ter, we will not be com­ment­ing any fur­ther,” Pat Mul­lane, a spokesman for the mayor’s of­fice, said in a state­ment Tues­day.

A City Hall source told the SunTimes that Ste­wart was “shocked” when the news came down Mon­day that he was fired. Ste­wart didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

He of­fi­cially be­gan his ten­ure in the ad­min­is­tra­tion as the state’s pro­hi­bi­tion on pot was lifted in Jan­uary, ac­cord­ing to his LinkedIn page.

But Ste­wart was al­ready serv­ing as a cannabis pol­icy ad­viser in the months be­fore that mile­stone, when Light­foot’s plan to ban all cannabis sales in much of the Cen­tral Busi­ness District came un­der heavy fire and the Black Cau­cus threat­ened to de­lay recre­ational pot sales over the lack of mi­nor­ity own­er­ship in the nascent in­dus­try. Ste­wart also helped over­see Light­foot’s con­tro­ver­sial cannabis lottery in Novem­ber, which broadly de­ter­mined where the city’s first recre­ational shops could open.

The an­nounce­ment of his fir­ing comes just three days af­ter the Zon­ing Board of Ap­peals re­jected a pro­posal for a new recre­ational pot shop near the Gold Coast dur­ing a marathon 12-hour meet­ing. A source said that de­ci­sion had noth­ing to do with his ouster.

Ald. Brian Hop­kins, who for­mally op­posed the lo­ca­tion in his 2nd Ward, ac­knowl­edged that Phar­maCann’s ap­pli­ca­tion was “con­tro­ver­sial and po­lit­i­cally charged.”

“Paul Ste­wart was in the hot seat and through­out he con­ducted him­self with un­wa­ver­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism at all times,” added Hop­kins.

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES

A pro­tester holds up a sign Tues­day at a gath­er­ing for Ja­cob Blake in Evanston.

Paul Ste­wart

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