‘That flag right there is my swastika’

Beach­go­ers ripped for dis­play­ing Con­fed­er­ate flag in Evanston

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY TOM SCHUBA, STAFF RE­PORTER tschuba@sun­times.com | @TomSchuba

Af­ter LaShan­dra Smith-Ray­field learned that a Con­fed­er­ate flag was seen at an Evanston beach, she dropped what she was do­ing to con­front the group of white peo­ple dis­play­ing what she called “a racist sym­bol of hate.”

Smith-Ray­field, who is Black, ad­mon­ished the group ear­lier this week as they sat near a towel em­bla­zoned with the Con­fed­er­ate flag that hung on a fence lin­ing Light­house Beach. The in­ci­dent, which Smith-Ray­field streamed on Face­book Live, has prompted a re­buke from Evanston’s mayor as well as protests in the af­flu­ent city on the North Shore.

“I can’t feel com­fort­able in my own neigh­bor­hood. … That flag right there is my swastika,” Smith-Ray­field said in the video, which was later deleted.

Smith-Ray­field de­clined to com­ment Thurs­day as she re­turned to the site of the in­ci­dent with a cou­ple of dozen sup­port­ers.

At one point while the in­ci­dent was tak­ing place Wed­nes­day, an­other beach­goer whom Smith-Ray­field de­scribed as a “man of color” at­tempted to in­ter­vene, say­ing he fought to de­fend the group’s right to dis­play the Dixie flag.

“This is the United States of Amer­ica, not the Con­fed­er­acy,” she shot back.

Af­ter un­suc­cess­fully try­ing to buy the towel for $20, Smith-Ray­field ul­ti­mately left the beach and recorded a sec­ond video ques­tion­ing why no one else stood up to the group.

“I live in a lib­eral sub­urb, quote-un­quote. So if this is a lib­eral sub­urb, then get off your a---- and do some­thing,” she said in the video, which was also taken down.

Later Wed­nes­day, Smith-Ray­field said she felt “a lit­tle bet­ter” when she posted a now-deleted photo of a small con­tin­gent of pro­test­ers who showed up at the beach with Black Lives Mat­ter signs and stayed un­til the group left.

Evanston res­i­dent Terri Turner re­turned to the scene with Smith-Ray­field on Thurs­day.

“I am a Jewish woman with mixed chil­dren, one of whom is LGBTQ, and that flag is against ev­ery­thing that I just said,” said Turner. “I brought my daugh­ter with me yes­ter­day and we were up un­til [2:30 a.m.] try­ing to process how heinous that was.

“And it was pur­pose­ful,” she added, not­ing that an­other protest at the beach is sched­uled for 2-4 p.m. Fri­day.

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty has also con­demned the “dis­play of hate” af­ter first dis­cred­it­ing re­ports that a Con­fed­er­ate flag was on dis­play at the beach and later of­fer­ing an er­ro­neous ac­count of the in­ci­dent.

“My apolo­gies to Ms. Smith-Ray­field and oth­ers for not get­ting the com­plete story be­fore I posted on Face­book,” Hagerty wrote Thurs­day on the so­cial me­dia plat­form. “Her courage and per­sis­tence is ad­mirable and an ex­am­ple for all of us.”

TYLER LARIV­IERE/SUN-TIMES

ABOVE: LaShan­dra Smith-Ray­field stands by a Black Lives Mat­ter sign on Light­house Beach on Thurs­day in Evanston.

PRO­VIDED

LEFT: A screen shot from a video taken this week in Evanston.

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