When Eddie Taiym learned a white nationalist group had hung a poster just outside his office in Beverly — and that the city had not removed it — he took the matter into his own hands.
“Absolutely, it should be a priority” for the city to take them down, said Taiym. But, he quickly added, “I’m going to make it a priority right now.”
Taiym, a partner at Autonology Motor Service, walked outside and yanked the poster off a black traffic control box at Western Avenue and 102nd Street. He said he would also mention it to a beat cop that regularly stops at the business on patrol.
“I’m surprised they’re going up in this neighborhood,” Taiym said.
The sign appeared to be the last one remaining after the hate group put up signs and stickers along the route of the South Side Irish Parade, which was Sunday. A few days after the parade, only torn paper remnants and double-sided tape revealed where they were hung in other spots along Western between 99th and 111th streets.
The ill-fated propaganda campaign promoted a group called the American Identity Movement (AIM). The Southern Poverty Law Center has said the group was a rebranded version of Identity Evropa, a documented white nationalist hate group whose members helped organize the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
Taiym and other Beverly residents and employees of local businesses interviewed by the Sun-Times said they never would have known the signs were posted by a white nationalist group. The WPA-style poster Taiym removed featured a riveter and the phrase “Protect American Workers.”
Ald. Matt O’Shea, who condemned the flyers earlier in the week, said he would reach out to Area South detectives about a potential criminal probe into the incident.
But Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi referenced the oblique nature of the signs and stickers, saying, “The issue is, would someone know whether those are white supremacy symbols?” He said the matter had been referred to the city Department of Streets and Sanitation.
Marjani Williams, a spokeswoman for the department, said O’Shea requested that agency workers take down the stickers and signs during their routine clean-up of the parade route.
“There was no major effort outside of what we usually do,” according to Williams, who said the agency could potentially issue citations to whoever posted the propaganda.
Residents and businesses said it was not just up to city officials to take action.
Susan Coffey, who works at Bookie’s New and Used Books at 10324 S Western Ave., said the store put up a sign saying “Hate has no home in the 19th Ward” after the parade last weekend.
“It shouldn’t just be on the aldermen, or the police to do it. We should all be doing it, everyone who lives here,” Coffey said.
Several people interviewed by the Sun-Times said they believed the mayoral race, which will see the city electing its first black woman as mayor, could have motivated the group to target the parade. They cited anti-gay flyers directed at mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, who is openly gay, that were recently distributed on the South Side as evidence of groups trying to exploit prejudice.
Others were uncomfortable talking on the record about the issue, or said they had seen the coverage on television news, but weren’t concerned by it.
“This community has been integrated since the ’50s,” a man who works at a bar in the area said. He said all groups should feel welcome in Beverly.
P.J. Stroebel, a bartender who works the strip but asked that the bar’s name not be mentioned, said he was too busy serving beers and shots on Sunday to notice much of what happened outside the doors.
If he did see someone putting up flyers for a white nationalist organization he said he’d “probably punch them in the face.”
He and a bar patron who asked not to be identified agreed that the signs seemed noncontroversial, pointing to a picture of the poster that read “Protect American Workers.”
“I think a lot of people would say, yeah, protect American workers. They would agree with that; who wouldn’t?” he said.
If the group who put the posters up was promoting a racist ideology, they weren’t doing a very good job of it, he quipped.
But, according to the SPLC, both the American Identity Movement and Identity Evropa have used this sort of banal-seeming propaganda in an effort to reach the mainstream.
“Like many newer alt-right organizations, Identity Evropa tries to cloak its white supremacist ideology with pseudo-intellectualism meant to appeal to young, white, male college students — no swastikas here, but clean-cut boys with flashy haircuts and pressed khakis,” the SPLC wrote.