An apartment building bearing a rainbow flag just blocks away from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus was vandalized with anti-LGBTQ graffiti twice in less than 10 days, officials said. As Chicago police say the hate crime investigations have both been suspended, Rogers Park residents are showing their support for the LGBTQ community.
A 54-year-old woman called the Chicago Police Department (CPD) the morning of Sept. 18 and reported an unknown offender criminally defaced the front of her apartment building, police said. Two women reported anti-LGBTQ graffiti at the same location — on the 1400 block of West Arthur Avenue — about a week earlier.
No arrests have been made for either incident and the cases are in “suspended status,” according to police. Detectives have limited information and haven’t been able to meet the burden of proof necessary to file criminal charges at this point, according to Kelly Bartoli, a CPD spokeswoman.
In both instances, an anti-LGBTQ remark was scrawled in paint under a rainbow flag — the pride flag that represents the LGBTQ community — displayed in a window, according to Chicago police officer Jessica Alvarez.
Mary Halloran, a 29-year-old Rogers Park resident who works at an animal shelter, said she noticed the anti-LGBTQ graffiti Sept. 18 around 8 a.m. while riding her bike to work.
“I noticed there were a couple of cops and I noticed the word ‘f****t’ under the pride flag,” said Halloran, who added that she identifies as queer. “I’m gay so I snapped the picture and I didn’t really have time to stop or anything because I was on my way to work.”
Halloran said she posted about the incident on a neighborhood Facebook group to make neighbors aware of the situation.
“There’s still a lot of discrimination [against the LGBTQ community] and this was just proof of that for me,” Halloran said.
James McIntyre, a 28-year-old man who works for a nonprofit organization, said he came across vandalism on the same building earlier this month, the morning of Sept. 10.
“I have lived in [Rogers Park] for literally seven years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything [like this],” McIntyre said. “I literally walk past that building everyday, at least twice if not more.”
The first incident occurred between 8 p.m. Sept. 9 and 7 a.m. Sept. 10, police said. The second incident occurred sometime between 8 p.m. Sept. 17 and 7 a.m. Sept. 18, police said.
The graffiti was removed from the property by the City of Chicago after the residents filed a request, police said.
Both incidents of vandalism occurred on the same building under the same window, according to Leslie Perkins, chief of staff for 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden. Hadden’s office believes the incidents are connected, Perkins said.
“That very distinctive [letter] ‘G’ looked the same in both incidents, and they use the same slur both times,” Perkins said.
Hadden has been in touch with the residents of the building since the first incident, Perkins said.
“Our office is disgusted by what happened,” Perkins said. “We find it abhorrent. We really want to make sure that in a place as open and welcoming as Rogers Park that it’s known that this sort of hateful language doesn’t really have a place here in our community, and we would urge the community to come together to denounce this sort of behavior.”
Rogers Park, one of Chicago’s most accepting and diverse neighborhoods, has a strong LGBTQ community, Perkins said.
With Hadden being the first openly gay woman of color as alderwoman, Perkins said she hopes that “reinstills that sense of acceptance and open-mindedness of Rogers Park, and hopefully will signal to our LGBTQ community that this is their home as well.”
Hadden has been in contact with CPD Commander Michelle Rubino of the 24th District — which includes Rogers Park — and the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations, Perkins said.
The Commission on Human Relations advocates for victims of hate crimes, according to Mona Noriega, chairman of the agency.
“The City of Chicago stands opposed to all hate crimes,” Noriega said. “All the departments are working in their respective capacities to address [the vandalism].”
Since the Sept. 18 graffiti, the neighborhood has come together to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Renee Labrana, a resident of Rogers Park for 10 years, is the owner of R Public House (1508 W. Jarvis Ave.) — which she describes as “a neighborhood bar catering to pretty much everyone in the neighborhood.” Labrana said her staff ordered 50 pride flags to share with community members.
“Considering that over half my staff is gay, everyone was very upset,” Labrana said. “You always want to try to do something that will help people. … Not only show unity but let people know we’re everywhere, as far as gay people.”
Labrana said people have been calling the business everyday asking when she’ll receive the flags.
“I guess it’s just nice to know that everybody, or many people, feel the same way,” Labrana said. “Whether they’re gay, straight, transgender, whatever the person is. If you’re attacking one segment of our population here, you’re attacking all of us.”
Eric Kugelman, a 56-year-old Rogers Park resident, is also using his business to show support.
Kugelman is the founder and co-owner of Leather 64TEN (6410 N. Clark St.), an adult entertainment store that manufactures and sells leather garments. Kugelman said half of his staff is gay or bisexual, and some employees are non-gendered, meaning they don’t identify as either male or female.
Kugelman said the store quickly sold out of their typical stock of pride flags and had to order more this past week.
“We’ve always supported the diverse community and we carry many flags, such as trasngender, bisexual,” Kugelman said. “We’re proud to carry flags that are relative to the LGBTQ community.”