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Bradd Easton and Jeff Zacharias, the couple whose home was vandalized with hate speech graffiti, display the defaced anti-hate sign from their lawn during a rally at Waters Elementary on Oct. 1, 2017. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Hate graffiti met with love in Lincoln Square

SHARE Hate graffiti met with love in Lincoln Square
SHARE Hate graffiti met with love in Lincoln Square

After a Lincoln Square couple woke up last week to find white nationalist graffiti on their sidewalk and black spray paint blotting out a yard sign calling for human rights and love, an upset neighbor had an idea of how the community should respond.

The concept was simple: a mass marketing campaign of love.

“The idea was to plaster this whole area with signs so you can’t go anywhere without seeing them,” said Jason Kraus, 41, who owns a construction company.

A few days later, neighbor Jason Rieger, who heads Indivisible Chicago — a community group dedicated to resisting the agenda of President Donald Trump — had more than 3,000 signs printed. He paid for them with donations collected online.

“Hate has no home here” was the message on most of the signs. Black Lives Matter signs were also handed out.

Rieger, 38, set up a table Sunday outside Waters Elementary School, 4540 N. Campbell, and handed out bunches of signs to dozens of area residents who pledged to distribute them to their neighbors.

“We wanted to make a statement: If you’re going to deface these signs, you’ve got a lot more to do. And there’s going to be a lot more people with eyes on you, and we’re not going to tolerate it,” Kraus said.

Michelle Starr, 40, a school teacher from Lincoln Square, attended the gathering.

“I’ve got kids, and I want them to know what’s important. And we need to take care of one another,” she said.

Jeff Zacharias and Bradd Easton, the couple whose front walkway and yard sign were vandalized, attended the gathering Sunday and addressed the crowd.

The incident left them double-checking locks at their home near Western and Winnemac avenues, but also made them realize how much people care.

“The greatest thing was that neighbors and friends and family, some who we know and a lot who we don’t, have shown up at our house with cakes, cards, signs,” said Zacharias, 50, a psychotherapist.

The vandalism happened weeks after graffiti, including a Nazi slogan, was found on a garage door and nearby sidewalks.

Neighbors responded then by using colored chalk to draw messages of love on neighborhood sidewalks.

“What we’re seeing is a case where systematic racism underlying our society is bubbling up to the surface,” Rieger said Sunday.

“This is not what we are, this is not who we are, this is not what we stand for,” he said.

Martin Perdoux, with his daughters Alice Favorite-Perdoux and Lucille Favorite-Perdoux, prepare a Black Lives Matte sign to be posted on their lawn before a rally Sunday at Waters Elementary School. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Martin Perdoux, with his daughters Alice Favorite-Perdoux and Lucille Favorite-Perdoux, prepare a Black Lives Matte sign to be posted on their lawn before a rally Sunday at Waters Elementary School. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

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