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Community and civic leaders from across Illinois came together today to condemn the antisemitism, racism, and extremism reported at recent “stay-at-home” protests in Springfield and Chicago.

The news conference was organized in response to reports that numerous “stay at home” protest attendees displayed antisemitic, racist, and extremist-related signs and engaged in similar rhetoric. The rhetoric included Hitler, Holocaust and Nazi comparisons targeting Governor J.B. Pritzker, statements such as death to tyrants and tyrannical actions, individuals calling coronavirus the Wuhan virus,” and references to QAnon and other conspiracies.

Participating in the virtual news conference were leaders from diverse community and advocacy organizations including ADL (Anti-Defamation League), Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Chicago, Chicago Urban League, Equality Illinois, Gads Hill Center, Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, LULAC, Peoria NAACP, Northwest Side Housing Center, and St. James Cathedral.

Opening the call, ADL Midwest Regional Director David Goldenberg noted, “We are all here for one reason, to collectively condemn the antisemitism, racism, Nazi comparisons and other forms of hatred recently witnessed during the stay-at-home rallies in Springfield and Chicago” 

Participants highlighted the importance of speaking out collectively against hate

Very Reverend Dominic Barrington, Dean of St. James Cathedral explained, “The hatred and bigotry we have seen in Springfield . . . fly against our values. And along with many other faith leaders . . . [we] stand firm in utterly condemning them.”

Jaime di Paulo, President and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce similarly echoed:

An attack against one of our communities is an attack against all of our communities. We must instead work together to combat the problems we are facing as a community and not work against individual communities.”

Andy Kang, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Chicago explained the dangers of hate speech by remarking, “Whether it is antisemitism or xenophobia or the scapegoating of the Asian community or Islamophobia . . . when we use this type of rhetoric, it’s not just incredible reckless, it’s dangerous.”

The group was critical of leaders and elected officials who fail to speak out against hatred when they see it.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League said, “What is even more unacceptable is the deafening silence, where individuals have failed to address what they know is a lack of moral compass in the statements that have been made.”

Michael Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois added, “Silence in the face of hate and discrimination is consent to hate and discrimination. We must defend the values of justice, fairness, and equality that have made Illinois one of the most inclusive states in America.”

Moving forward, Pastor Marvin Hightower, President, Peoria NAACP and Senior Pastor, Liberty Church of Peoria, implored, “We have the moral responsibility to say enough is enough. We are calling on our elected officials to say enough is enough. We are calling on our community leaders to say enough is enough. We are calling on everyone to say enough is enough.”

Maricela García, CEO, Gads Hill Center similarly urged elected officials to denounce these acts. “These painful acts must be stopped immediately,” she said

Many of the participants noted that no one is immune from the health risks posed by the virus. But there has been a disproportionate impact on some communities where longstanding inequities have been highlighted – and now is the time to redouble efforts to address them.

Finally, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Rudyk, Executive Director of the Northwest Side Housing Center concluded, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The leaders concluded the news conference with a collective call to all elected and community leaders – from across the state and political spectrum – to forcefully and unambiguously speak out and condemn hateful rhetoric and actions.

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