Construction halted after noose found at Obama Presidential Center
A $100,000 reward has been offered for help in finding those responsible. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the act ‘disturbing.’ Gov. J.B. Pritzker condemned the incident.
A noose was discovered at the site of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on Thursday morning, according to the group overseeing the center’s construction.
“This morning, we were informed that an act of hate was discovered at the project site,” Lakeside Alliance said in a statement, adding that operations on the site have been suspended. “We reported the incident to the police and will provide any assistance required to identify those responsible.”
The circumstances of the discovery weren’t clear. Chicago police said they were investigating the incident but didn’t release details.
In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the discovery “disturbing.”
“Racism and racist symbols have no place in Chicago, and those inciting it will be held responsible for this repulsive act,” the mayor said.
She encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker also condemned the incident, tweeting: “The noose is more than a symbol of racism, it is a heart-stopping reminder of the violence and terror inflicted on Black Americans for centuries. I condemn this act of hate in the strongest possible terms, and the state of Illinois will make all needed resources available to help catch the perpetrators.”
“This is just awful,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), one of the City Council members whose ward includes the center, calling it a “reprehensible” act. “We know they exist, but they are amongst us, those that have that kind of hate. But there is no room for hate.”
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), who also represents the nearby community, said she hoped that whoever is responsible is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Whoever this person is is trying to scare us, and it’s not going to happen. They should know that it’s not going to stop us from building something the community wants to see,” Taylor said. “We got to hold them accountable and turn them in.”
Lakeside Alliance said it was offering a $100,000 reward for help in finding those responsible for “this shameful act.” It is also holding anti-bias training for staff and workers.
In a statement, the Obama Foundation said the incident was “shameless,” adding that “the act of cowardice and hate is designed to get attention and divide us. Our priority is protecting the health and safety of our workforce.”
Lakeside Alliance is a venture made up of four minority-owned firms that have a 51 percent equity stake in the construction management contract.
Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama returned to Chicago in September of last year for the official groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center.
“It feels natural for Michelle and me to want to give back to Chicago, and to the South Side in particular. ... We will always be grateful for that, and the Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us, but we’re also building this center because we believe it can speak to the struggles of our time,” the former president said then.
Some activists have called for affordable housing protections to be implemented in the nearby South Shore neighborhood, fearing that the center would cause prices to rise and push residents out of the community.
Last week, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought against the Obama center by Protect Our Park. The organization had sought to halt construction, arguing that federal agencies failed in reviewing how the center would affect the surrounding environment.
The presidential center, which will require $830 million to build and operate in its first year, is slated to open in three years. It will feature a museum, library, plaza, activity center and forum.