A construction sign flashing at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Central Avenue on Sunday stopped a lot of passersby, but not with traffic information.
The sign read, “Rahm Lies, Children Die.” It flashed its disparaging neon message off and on for hours, just across the street from the Chicago Police Department’s Belmont-Central district station at 5555 W. Grand Ave.
“It’s pretty harsh, but unfortunately, a lot of people think it’s true,” said Maria Santiago, 28, stopping as she walked by to take photos for social media.
Others wondered how such a sign could blare its message with impunity across from a police station. “I mean, whoa, they can’t have seen this,” smirked Juan Reyes, 43, as he walked by.
Apparently, the construction sign had been hacked. It has happened before.
“Last year, there was another sign by Belmont and Narragansett, and somebody was able to manipulate the signage and put “Screw Rahm,” or something like that,” Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) recalled.
That was in October 2015, and what the sign near the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Narragansett Street had blared was, “F – – – Rahm.” It did so through rush hour until spotted by WGN-TV, which alerted the city.
The insult was quickly removed, as was this one too on Sunday.
“These things can be manipulated. I’m going to call the Department of Transportation and let them know that their sign has a message on it that I’m sure they’re not in favor of,” Villegas said.
Hacking of city construction and traffic equipment to insult the mayor certainly presents an interesting dilemma for CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld.
Later, Villegas called back before the sign was removed. “I spoke to the commissioner and she’s going to send somebody out there to investigate it and get it resolved,” he said.
A city spokeswoman acknowledged the incident last year. The city did not respond to a call seeking comment on the hacking and any efforts to prevent such incidents.