SOUTH SHORE — The new Little Free Libraries in Jackson Park have twice been defaced with hateful messages about Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Erin Adams, whose organization South Side Neighbors for Hope helped bring the little libraries to South Shore in September, has removed the flyers both times. It’s been a half-hour process of using Goo Gone and elbow grease to remove the flyers in each case.
The little libraries are located at two Jackson Park playlots along 67th Street, at East End Avenue and Jeffery Boulevard. They’re intended to provide free books to children in a safe space, not disseminate conspiracy theories, Adams said.
Truth Exhibits is the website behind the vandalism. Its flyers are posted at bus stops and on tree trunks around the South Side, and in the case of the trees, massive amounts of tape often keep the flyers stuck to the bark.
Among the site’s claims: Medical doctors are “sub-human masters,” Chicago media outlets are the public’s “enemies” and listening to Trick Daddy’s song “Amerika” will effectively counter society’s attempts to brainwash you.
These claims are made in the site’s detailed newsletters, but only the anti-Foxx flyers have been posted to the libraries.
The State’s Attorney’s office declined to comment on the posters.
The conspiracy theories against Foxx, which accuse her of child abuse without any evidence whatsoever, are a troubling sight in what’s supposed to be a safe space for children, said Candice Washington. She runs Brown Books and Paint Brushes, a nonprofit literacy group and backer of the little libraries.
Washington believes it’s no mistake that these claims have been placed in areas frequented by children and families.
It’s not necessarily the content that’s the problem, although Adams said it’s “scary” that someone wants to promote such ideas. She said she’s removed pamphlets about tenants’ rights that appeared in the libraries as well.
“While I don’t want to suppress anybody’s First Amendment rights, there are other places those pamphlets can go,” Adams said. “These are really for books for kids and teenagers, not as a resource for newspapers or flyers for other stuff.”
Following the vandalism of a recently installed little library in Chatham, organizers were prepared for the libraries to be tampered with, Adams said in September.
Vandalism is prevalent enough that the Little Free Libraries website includes a long blog post on the issue.
Neither Adams nor Washington can confirm who’s behind Truth Exhibits. Rumors abound about who runs the site, Adams said, but their anonymity makes it hard to safeguard against continued vandalism.
Adams said she’s committed to removing flyers in the future, although her fingernails are “getting rough around the edges” from the work. She said she’s spoken with CAPS officers about monitoring the playlots to protect the libraries.
It would be lovely to find out who the culprit is, Washington said. She would like the opportunity to reason with them about the “poetic and beautiful” role the libraries play in the lives of South Shore’s children.
Washington said she’s witnessed children on the playground “playing school” with the books, and met one little girl who said she organizes the library and trades books with friends when they’re all done reading.
The anecdotes provide motivation to continue and expand the Little Free Libraries, Washington said. Someone recently donated multiple copies of the same books to her organization, so she’ll be placing them in the libraries for families to read and discuss together.
“The message I want to get out to [the vandal]: You can plaster and tape whatever you want, but it’s not going to stop us from bringing knowledge to these neighborhoods,” Washington said.
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