• LB Strong

What I Learned At The Protests – The One At Market Square, And The One On Facebook

By Gary Doyle

In Market Square in Lake Forest on Wednesday night, stores were burned and looted, bricks crashed through storefront windows, and homes in surrounding neighborhoods were torched at the hand of non-mask-wearing, professionally-organized “undesirables” shipped in from North Chicago, Waukegan, neighboring states and culled from the ranks of Antifa, who rampaged in a blood-stained protest that changed the character of Market Square and surrounding neighborhoods forever.

As we all know, none of that happened. But they were all things that were predicted would happen by scores of people on local Lake Bluff and Lake Forest Facebook groups in the last few days. Not just a few cranks. A whole lot of people.

But here’s what did happen. Black people who grew up in this area shared the pain of an upbringing where veiled and not-so-veiled racism was common. A former Chicago Bear now living in the area said the fact that he was a Chicago Bear was the one thing that changed people’s opinion of him; he said at his point, he was, simply, “tired.” The mayor of Waukegan lifted and inspired the crowd with a preachers’ oration. Leaders of activist groups on the South Side shared concrete ways people here could make a difference. And hundreds of mostly white people went silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd, thinking about what it would be like for someone’s knee to be on their neck, squeezing the life out of them, for all of those minutes.

You really should’ve been there. Especially if you stayed away out of fear, disinterest or outright hostility. Because if anything good can come out of this awful time, it’s a chance to learn about the fears and experiences of people different than us.

The irony of last night was the protest organized by the young people was brave and peaceful, while the protest fomented by the adults online was loud, insulting, fearful, condescending and disrespectful. Let that sink in for a minute.

So I would like to thank them – those naïve, stupid, reckless, irresponsible students (they were called all these things) who were crazy enough to think that exercising their right to peaceful protest would be a more effective form of protest than tying black ribbons around oak trees, which was the alternative suggested by some on Facebook -- no offense to Tony Orlando & Dawn.

There’s an old Crosby Stills & Nash song called “Teach Your Children”. This whole episode, to me, flipped that; the children taught us.

I hope more of us can absorb the lessons.

Hundreds of people stood silently during a protest in support of Black Lives Matter on Market Square in Lake Forest on the evening of Wednesday, June 3. Photo by Gary Doyle.