Friends, Evanston residents rally to show support for Jacob Blake
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.
A protester holds up a sign Tuesday at a gathering for Jacob Blake in Evanston.