Ac­tivists say fly­ers are ‘hate speech’

Blue Is­land po­lice chief de­ter­mined hand­bills dis­trib­uted in the city are pro­tected un­der the First Amend­ment

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - News - By Frank Vaisvi­las Frank Vaisvi­las is a free­lance re­porter for the Daily South­town.

About three dozen ac­tivists gath­ered Satur­day at Western Av­enue and 127th Street in Blue Is­land to de­nounce fly­ers that were dis­trib­uted in the city and that they think are racially di­vi­sive.

“It’s time for the com­mu­nity to re­spond to this,” rally co-or­ga­nizer Kathy Kuehner said. “I live in a fully in­te­grated neigh­bor­hood, and I love it.”

Blue Is­land po­lice Chief LaSalle King ad­dressed the fly­ers in a letter dated Aug. 14. Hewrote that he re­ceived com­plaints from res­i­dents about the fly­ers on the south side of Blue Is­land and along Canal and De­s­plaines streets.

King wrote that he has de­ter­mined that the dis­tri­bu­tion of the fly­ers was not il­le­gal and was pro­tected un­der the First Amend­ment.

“The Blue Is­land Po­lice Depart­ment re­al­izes the dis­sem­i­na­tion of such lit­er­a­ture has no ef­fect on the har­mony of the cul­tur­ally di­verse en­vi­ron­ment in which the res­i­dents of Blue Is­land have built and main­tained over the years,” King wrote. “We do not want to give them the at­ten­tion and pub­licly ac­knowl­edge these acts.”

Ac­tivists on Satur­day felt dif­fer­ently and said they needed to send a public mes­sage.

“I think the com­mu­nity needs to start mak­ing a big deal about this,” rally co-or­ga­nizer Mark Kuehner said. “We need to de­nounce this kind of hate speech.”

King stopped by the ac­tivists’ gather­ing in a park­ing lot of a shut­tered Wal­greens just be­fore the rally started and spoke with Mark Kuehner.

The fly­ers dis­trib­uted in Blue Is­land in­cluded the head­line “White LivesMat­ter” with a list of links to web­sites that or­ga­niz­ers said pro­moted white supremacy.

Or­ga­niz­ers pointed to re­ports of sim­i­lar fly­ers thatwere re­cently dis­trib­uted in Mount Green­wood and Ku Klux Klan fly­ers dis­trib­uted in Tin­ley Park.

“These cow­ards are do­ing this at night,” Mark Kuehner said. “They won’t show their faces.”

Satur­day’s rally in­cluded mem­bers of sev­eral south sub­ur­ban or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing South­west Sub­ur­ban Ac­tivists, Pales­tinian Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and South­siders for Peace.

They held signs with mes­sages, such as “Fight racism with unity,” as sev­eral driv­ers honked their horns while pass­ing by.

Gary Din­gle, vice pres­i­dent of the south sub­ur­ban chap­ter of the NAACP, who was at the rally, said he hoped the dis­tri­bu­tion of the fly­ers was not part of a grow­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“I hope it’s just teens act­ing out,” he said. “I hope this is just a short-term Trump ef­fect.”

Nare­man Taha, of Arab Amer­i­can Fam­ily Ser­vices, who was at the rally, said peo­ple have to re­al­ize that hate doesn’t be­long in any com­mu­nity.

“It hurts to have such fly­ers,” she said.

Ac­tivist Husam Mara­jda said it’s hyp­o­crit­i­cal for po­lice not to in­ves­ti­gate white su­prem­a­cist groups when he be­lieves they would im­me­di­ately in­ves­ti­gate any­one with ties to Arab hate groups, such as the Is­lamic State.

“Hate groups can­not hide be­hind the First Amend­ment,” he said.

FRANK VAISVI­LAS/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

Ac­tivists atWestern Av­enue and 127th Street in Blue Is­land on Satur­day protest the re­cent dis­tri­bu­tion of fly­ers that they say are racially di­vi­sive.

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