Photo by Dermot Connolly
Hundreds of people marched through Evergreen Park on June 3, protesting against the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
By Dermot Connolly
Evergreen Park High School students and alumni organized a loud but peaceful Black Lives Matter protest march on June 3 that drew hundreds of people to Circle Park.
The diverse crowd estimated at 500 included families with young children who came to the park at 9719 S. Homan Ave. to protest the recent death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police. Most carried signs — some listing dozens of names of people who met similar fates around the country, which were read out as the protesters chanted “say their names.” Others carried American and Pan-African flags.
“ I am Mariah. I am a sophomore at Evergreen Park High School. This is just the first step. Everybody coming together is heartwarming and I appreciate it because every day we live with this reality. We should continue the momentum (because) this is our lives and we are the future,” said one girl.
Even though they used a megaphone, it was often hard to hear some of the speakers over the sound of a Chicago police helicopter overhead.
“ When my son dies, your son dies. I am so glad we are here today because the more we speak out, the better it will be,” said Tiffany Wells, who described herself as a wife, a daughter and a mother.
“ I know I can’t change everyone’s heart. But at the very least, we can demand that our justice system holds people accountable who murder fellow citizens — no matter who they are.”
“ l shouldn’t have to be out here today,” said one girl. “My life matters. All lives matter. Continue to fight for us. I’ll continue to fight for you,” she told her audience.
“ We are not saying that black lives are better. We are saying that all people deserve freedom and justice. We want to take a stance and let the world know that when black lives matter, all lives matter,” said an Evergreen Park father of four children in local schools. “Let’s advocate together, Let’s stand up, let’s rally. This is an honor and a blessing to be around you today. The only way things will change is if we become advocates of change.”
“ I would like to think that I fought for democracy all around the world, especially Iraq. I don’t think we should be have to fight ourselves for freedom and democracy in America,” said another Evergreen Park resident, Navy veteran David Seward, a retired chief petty office.
“ Black lives matter because we are tired. We do not see any other race of people being murdered (by police). I could be that person on national TV,” said Evergreen Park High School basketball coach Chris Burras. “Hold them accountable. It is your duty. You (younger generation) are going to be the ones to change this nation.”
Pastor Steve Worsham, of Bethel Bible Church of Evergreen Park, led the crowd in a prayer before the march began.
“ It starts with me and I have not done enough. I apologize. I turn my head sometimes and I don’t speak out enough. I would like to pray for my brothers and sisters who deal with this every day. I would pray to give them the strength to know that things will change,” said the pastor.
“ We, as Evergreen Park residents and Americans, have the right to come out and speak our piece. I only ask you to respect our neighbors,” said Mayor James Sexton, before the group set off on the march.
The streets leading to Circle Park were blocked by Public Works vehicles and police cars for safety reasons, and village officials expected the marchers would stay within the blocked-off area. But after circling the park a couple of times, they headed north to 95th Street, with police on bicycles following, and even Sexton running briefly to keep up. But after walking along the busy street for a block, they headed back to the park before walking west to Pulaski Road. That was closed off at 95th Street briefly but the group eventually returned to the park.
As Sexton said afterward, “they were more energetic than we thought they would be.”
The event ended with the group taking a knee for a moment of silence lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer now charged with second-degree murder kept his knee on Floyd’s neck when he was handcuffed on the ground.
As the crowd dispersed, one of the many Evergreen Park residents who watched the event from their porches or front lawns said he was happy with how it turned out.
“ It was a peaceful protest. That’s the American way,” said the man who declined to give his name.