The signs at Kilbourn Park still have residue on them from the racist stickers that were stuck to them in June. Credit: Photo by Alex V. Hernandez

IRVING PARK — Neighbors are planning an anti-Nazi cookout this Sunday at Kilbourn Park, where someone put up swastikas stickers this summer.

Back in June, about 10 stickers with swastikas and slogans like “refugees not welcome” and “Nordic white boys” were posted on signs throughout the park at 3501 N. Kilbourn Ave. with razor blades hidden behind them, according to WGN-TV.

“I saw these articles about the stickers that were put up and it was sort of a surprise to me,” said Steve Weishampel, a 
a member of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America who lives about 10 minutes from the park.

When news of the Nazi stickers went viral, Weishampel became worried this hate speech would scare people away from visiting Irving Park.

“These stickers are not trying to make an argument for anything. They’re just intimidation,” he said. “I don’t want to see my neighborhood represented that way.”

This isn’t the first time the Northwest Side park has been targeted by white supremacists. On June 7, 1987, neo-Nazis choose to host a rally at Kilbourn Park, according to the Chicago Tribune. At the time police said there was an increasing threat to Chicago from neo-Nazi youth groups.

“Although a large police contingent was dispatched to the park in anticipation of several hundred demonstrators and counter-demonstrators, there were only about 15 to 20 neo-Nazis present,” according to the Tribune article.

Weishampel was unaware of the 1987 neo-Nazi rally at the park, but after being told about it said he wasn’t surprised.

“Structural and systemic white supremacy never really went away. Chicagoans, especially Chicagoans of color, know this. Of course active hate groups are different from that, but we know they’re in our city, too,” he said. “They really haven’t gone anywhere. They’ve gotten larger and stronger in the past five years, but the average working person has also grown stronger in their rejection of white nationalism and hate groups.”

After the stickers were found, neighbors around the park began organizing to push back against the Nazi hate speech. On Facebook, neighbors encouraged the community to attend meetings with the Albany Park (17th) Police District, Ald. Alderman Reboyras (30th) and the Kilbourn Park Advisory Council and report any additional hate speech if found.

“Remove hate when you witness it whether silently or vocally. We as a community of neighbors abhor this incident and hope that further displays of this nature are identified and removed quickly,” one Facebook post said.

Police have not been notified of any additional hate speech or similar incidents at the park or surrounding area since the racist stickers were found in June, Ronald Westbrooks, a police spokesperson, said.

Ald. Reboyras’ office and the park’s advisory council did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Nazi stickers at Kilbourn Park are not an isolated incident. At the end of last month an alleged white supremacist reportedly distributed flyers in Logan Square — both outside of a recent socialist convention at Hairpin Arts Center and outside of the neighborhood’s farmer’s market — to try and solicit interest from neighbors.

Also in August, a sign that said ““I ❤️ white babies” was hung on an overpass near West Montrose Avenue and North Ravenswood Avenue. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) called the sign “weird and stupid” and it was removed once the city was made aware of it by neighbors.

As news of the Nazi stickers spread, Weishampel expected someone from the city — most likely an alderman, police commander or both — would do an outdoor roll call or press conference to address it.

He was surprised when that didn’t happen and decided it made sense for his chapter of democratic socialists to organize an anti-Nazi cookout since the group is firmly against white supremacy and fascism anyways.

“So our event Sunday is going to be low-key and family friendly. We’re trying to build a stronger community. There’ll be food, the park playground, maybe a few other games like bags or cornhole,” he said. “Overall it’ll be quite a bit like a block party.”

The cookout starts at noon and its Facebook event says its goal is to show “Chicago has room for everyone — all races, genders, and ethnicities — and no room for white supremacists.”

Weishampel thinks racist groups calling themselves “alt-right” realize they’re overwhelmed by people who see their hate speech for what it is and are coming together to reject it.

“I think that’s why they sneak into the park and put up stickers with razor blades,” he said. “And that’s why we’re seeing a lot of interest in our cookout.”

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