Religious and social justice organizations rallied Sunday and fanned out across Evanston asking business owners to put up posters in their windows that decry Muslim profiling and welcome refugees into their establishments.
“We want a visual reminder for everyone going through Evanston that Evanston is not a community that supports hate or religious bigotry,” said Lesley Williams, an Evanston resident and the organizer of a previous rally held in December.
In the months since that first rally, Williams said the presidential primary, and particularly the campaign of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, has continued to be the source of “a lot of hateful rhetoric” directed toward Muslims and undocumented immigrants.
“The continual onslaught is very intimidating to a lot of people of Muslim, Middle Eastern or Latin American backgrounds and contributes to this feeling that they don’t belong and are not a part of the American landscape,” said Williams, a member of Jewish Voices for Peace-Chicago — one of the groups that organized Sunday’s event.
“Donald Trump is reprehensible, but what’s more reprehensible is the millions of people following him,” the Rev. Michael Nabors told the crowd of roughly 100 people at the rally in Evanston’s Fountain Square.
Tahera Ahmed, a chaplain at Northwestern University, expressed her dismay about the recent defacement of the school’s Alice Millar Chapel.
A slur against African-Americans, a swastika, and a derogatory word for homosexuals were found painted inside the nondenominational chapel. Lines were also spray-painted over pictures of Muslim students and the word “Trump” was painted in a stairwell. Two Northwestern students were charged in connection with the incident.
“These two young men put up these racial slurs against everyone and not just one community or another,” Ahmed said. “We stand together for all of us, not just for one community.”
Naushina Rahman, a member of Chicago’s Muslim Community Center and a teacher at Elgin High School who canvassed several downtown businesses, said she believes Trump’s campaign has acted as a catalyst for the hateful rhetoric that people of color and minority groups have always known existed in the country. More people feel comfortable openly expressing racist and bigoted views because of his campaign, she said.
Several speakers applauded the March 11 cancellation of Trump’s rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, which was called off amid clashes between Trump backers and protesters.
“We, as a city, Evanston, Chicago and the suburbs, when Donald Trump came to this town, we rose our voices and chased him away,” said Renner Larson, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago. “But he still won in the Illinois (Republican) primary.”
Larson urged attendees to get involved in the democratic process, to campaign for candidates who inspire them and to form relationships with their local officials.
“We are not pretending any one protest is going to change things,” said Williams, who added that she plans to hold more rallies in Evanston, neighboring suburbs and Chicago.
“We see this as just the beginning, a continuation of a campaign,” said Rabbi Michael Davis of Jewish Voice for Peace. “That’s the vision — communities across Chicago and the U.S. will stand with Muslims and people of other faiths and take back the public square in the name of living in peace.”