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Racist propaganda, antisemitic acts spiked in Illinois last year, report shows

A group of people wearing blue jackets, tan hats and white face masks carrying flags and banners walks down Michigan Avenue in Chicago
Pat Nabong
Chicago Sun-Times
Patriot Front, a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a white nationalist hate group, march down South Michigan Avenue in the Loop as anti-abortion activists march across the street during a March for Life rally in January 2022.

“In some ways, we think that we live in Illinois and somehow we’re immune to this,” said David Goldenberg, the Midwest director of the Anti-Defamation League that issued the “Hate in the Prairie State” report.

Racist propaganda campaigns and anti-Semitic acts more than doubled last year in Illinois, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League that details alarming examples of extremism across the state.

The report, titled “Hate in the Prairie State,” provides a comprehensive list of radical forces targeting Illinois, including white supremacist groups, anti-LGBTQ+ zealots and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory that vehemently supports former President Donald Trump.

“In some ways, we think that we live in Illinois and somehow we’re immune to this,” David Goldenberg, the ADL’s Midwest director, said in an interview. “But the reality is that these groups have a presence here, they are active and, in some parts of the state, we’re seeing this type of hate and extremism become mainstreamed.”

Antisemitic acts including assault, harassment and vandalism rose to their highest level in recent history in 2022, jumping 128% from the previous year, from 53 to 121. That was the seventh-largest statewide total in a year that saw “the highest-ever number of antisemitic incidents nationwide,” the ADL noted.

They included a hate crime spree in January 2022 that targeted Jewish institutions and businesses in West Rogers Park. Shahid Hussain, 40, of Niles, was convicted of hate crime and vandalism charges and was sentenced to three years in prison.

A rabbi wearing a black suit and black hat is surrounded by masked police officers while speaking at a news conference.
Ashlee Rezin
Chicago Sun-Times
Rabbi Baruch Hertz, left, speaks during a February 2022 press conference at Congregation B’nei Ruven, regarding hate crime charges filed against a man accused of painting swastikas on a synagogue and on the grounds of a Jewish high school.

Documented white supremacist propaganda campaigns also rose dramatically last year, jumping 111% from 94 to 198.

The Texas-based hate group Patriot Front, whose members have been convicted of planning a riot at an Idaho Pride event, were “most responsible,” according to the ADL. The group has demonstrated at March for Life events in Chicago in recent years, with its khaki-clad, mask-wearing adherents most recently showing up with shields and inserting themselves in the event in January 2022.

The report also highlights far-right cops, Muslim extremists and attacks on abortion providers that were carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

In May, Philip Buyno was arrested after using his Volkswagen Passat to ram a Danville abortion clinic, which he sought to burn down with containers of gasoline he was carrying. Buyno, 73, of Prophetstown, pleaded guilty in federal court to an attempted arson charge and faces up to 20 years in prison.

The ADL also tracked 10 hate cases in Illinois that were part of “a national wave of bigoted action against the LGBTQ+ community.”

The most high-profile case involved a cafe in Lake of the Hills that was targeted with vandalism for hosting a drag brunch in July 2022. Joseph Collins, 25, of Alsip, pleaded guilty to a felony hate crime charge and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills was targeted in July 2022 by a vandal who broke windows and scrawled hateful graffiti.
UpRising Bakery and Cafe
UpRising Bakery and Cafe in Lake in the Hills was targeted in July 2022 by a vandal who broke windows and scrawled hateful graffiti.

Ahead of a Tuesday news conference detailing the report, Goldenberg noted that hate crimes nationwide are at a 20-year high: “They have not been this high since 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

“The data points are troubling because the trends are going in the wrong direction,” he added.