Home News Evanston Reparations Committee chair responds to federal lawsuit

Evanston Reparations Committee chair responds to federal lawsuit

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Robin Rue Simmons, chair of the Evanston Reparations Committee, addressed public questions surrounding the ongoing federal lawsuit filed against the program during a Zoom meeting held instead of the canceled June Reparations Committee meeting.

The suit, filed by non-profit conservative group Judicial Watch on behalf of six plaintiffs, claims the program is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment, which states all Americans are given equal protection under the law. Margot Flinn, Carol Johnson, Stasys Neimanas, Stephen Weiland, Barbara Regard and Henry Regard – all of whom do not identify as Black Americans and state they have links to Evanston from the same period the program bases systemic harms – argue the program is based on race in violation of equal protection.

The suit seeks to establish a class of plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit which could number in the tens of thousands and result in over $1 billion in damages, according to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Rue Simmons said the city is not wavering in its commitment to the program and has a team of lawyers along with many outside counsel reaching out to provide assistance.

“This lawsuit is not a surprise,” she said. “We know the nation that we live in. This is from outside our community and we have been preparing to fight it. We have a legal framework and much support that will allow us to move forward with confidence.”

The program will continue as planned, according to Rue Simmons, unless a court orders otherwise. She stated approximately $4.8 million has already been disbursed since payments began in 2022.

Rue Simmons became emotional while reading a public comment from reparations recipient Traci Powell on how she has used the $25,000 to pay her son’s annual college tuition and is set to begin her training at Moody Theological Seminary for her masters in clinical and trauma counseling which will transfer into a doctoral program.

“Excuse my emotions but I’m upset about this but at the same time very confident that reparations will continue,” she said. “This is not an attack specific to Evanston. This is an attack on many, many communities that are engaged in this work.”

Powell went on to call the reparations “miraculous” and the lawsuit “frivolous” while arguing those who don’t qualify for the program and hold issue with it should take the fight to banks and the housing industry.

“Why try and disrupt progress for Black individuals in Evanston?” Powell asked.

Rue Simmons was not able to comment directly on the lawsuit merits due to its pending nature.

“It is important to note that this is a very real lawsuit,” she said. “The attempt is to stop the reparations, stop disbursement and so on.”

Supporters have raced to defend the program, including the local chapter of the NAACP. Kamm Howard, a reparations scholar and executive director of national pro-reparations organization Reparations United, authored a rebuttal to the lawsuit arguing the redlining policies of Evanston’s past are comparable to other racial injustices such as apartheid, colonialism and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Rue Simmons encouraged those who support the program to attend the city’s Juneteenth festivities on June 15 in solidarity. More information on how residents can support the program are forthcoming. Those hoping to share their reparations story or volunteer in a working group can reach out to the committee at [email protected].



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