Activists say flyers are ‘hate speech’
Blue Island police chief determined handbills distributed in the city are protected under the First Amendment
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.
Activists atWestern Avenue and 127th Street in Blue Island on Saturday protest the recent distribution of flyers that they say are racially divisive.