Protesting Donald Trump and greeting Shabbat–it was an unconventional Friday night service, for sure. Rabbi Brant Rosen of Tzedek Chicago, the city’s new non-Zionist congregation, decided to change the plans for the regularly scheduled Friday night Shabbat. Instead of the usual service, Shabbat would be celebrated at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) campus to stand in solidarity with others protesting Donald Trump’s rally at the UIC Pavilion. The group met at the corner of Van Buren and Racine Streets and walked towards the Pavilion together.
By Thursday night, over 50,000 people had signed petitions calling on the university to cancel the rally. Trump was scheduled to speak at 6:00 pm on Friday. Thousands of people protested outside the Pavilion. Shortly after 6:30 pm, it was announced that the event was canceled. A speaker approached the podium and said, “Donald Trump has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date. Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace.” Tzedek Chicago remained outside the Pavilion with the other protesters.
People came primarily to protest Trump, of course. But they were trying to draw attention to other pertinent issues as well (issues which might only worsen if Trump is elected). The diverse crowd was a convergence of these frustrations. Some protesters carried signs calling for Anita Alvarez to leave Chicago with Trump (Alvarez is the District Attorney who waited a year before bringing murder charges against the officer in the Laquan McDonald case). Many Chicago public school teachers were at the rally, wearing the red t-shirts that marked the 2012 strike (the Chicago Teachers’ Union is currently prepared to strike again if an agreement cannot be reached regarding their contract). Black Lives Matter signs and t-shirts were seen throughout the crowds as well, joined by chanting of the now-famous phrase. Some carried signs of Trump looking like Hitler. Others held signs in Spanish: “Un cerdo fascista cien por ciento estadounisense (A Fascist Pig Hundred Percent American); a young woman held a sign that said “El Maligno” (The Devil). A scattering of signs showing solidarity with Palestine could be seen throughout the rally.
When the crowd started to thin out, a few folks from the congregation made their way to a nearby park for a quick Shabbat service. In his Tzedek Chicago email sent a few days before Friday, Rabbi Rosen wrote: “Clearly this is not the most conventional way to greet Shabbat. Nevertheless I do believe–and trust you will agree–that this is where we need to be tonight.” Making our way through the crowd back to the train, several students walked in the middle of the street wearing parody Trump masks. Other students walked in groups. A few teenagers accompanied their parents. A line of police on horses stood in the intersection in front of the Pavilion. The people of Chicago had told Trump that his divisive politics were not welcome in their city.