Family of violence victims used in GOP campaign ads call on Darren Bailey to stop commercials

“Stop using our pain and suffering for votes,” Vickie Ponciano, the aunt of one victim, said Thursday.

SHARE Family of violence victims used in GOP campaign ads call on Darren Bailey to stop commercials
Vickie Ponciano, center, aunt of Gyovanni Arzuaga, on Thursday outside the former John Hancock Center to decry the use of violent videos in GOP campaign ads.

Vickie Ponciano, center, aunt of Gyovanni Arzuaga, joins family members of other Chicago homicide victims on Thursday outside the former John Hancock Center to decry the use of violent videos in GOP campaign ads. One ad featured footage of her nephew’s murder.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Vickie Ponciano feels like breaking her television every time she sees a video clip of her nephew’s murder being used in a Republican ad campaign that seeks to pin violence in Chicago on Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the city’s Democrats.

“Every time I see that freaking commercial I just start cursing in front of my kids. And I don’t know how to control it,” Ponciano said Thursday while standing alongside the Rev. Michael Pfleger during a rally at 875 N. Michigan Ave., the building formerly known as the Hancock Center.

Her nephew, Gyovanni Arzuaga, and his wife, Yasmin Perez, were killed following Puerto Rican Day festivities last summer and video of the incident went viral. 

“I don’t need to see my nephew getting murdered every day on TV. The pain starts all over again,” said Ponciano, who called for the ad to be pulled. “Stop using our pain and suffering for votes.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey recently announced he is renting an apartment in the Gold Coast skyscraper where the rally was held in an attempt to “immerse” himself in the city he has called a “hellhole.”

Though Bailey’s campaign is not behind the ad, which was funded by a GOP political action committee, Pfleger on Thursday called on him to condemn it.

“Stop hiding behind the PAC. These PACs are supporting you, so condemn them! Tell them to stop,” Pfleger said. “These are real people and this is real pain.”

Minerva Arzuaga, Gyovanni’s mother, was too emotional to speak during the rally, and at one point collapsed to the sidewalk and needed help to regain her feet.

Joe DeBose, a spokesman for the Bailey campaign, which has made crime a central issue, said the campaign has no control over or communication with the PAC and slammed Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for “soft-on-crime” policies.

The ad, which featured several other clips of violent incidents that happened in Chicago, was created by People Who Play By The Rules, which is run by the conservative radio host and political advocate Dan Proft and funded by GOP mega donor Dick Uihlein.

“Mr. Bailey, stop pimping. Stop pimping the pain and trauma of families for your own political self — either stop these commercials or get out of the whole damn race, we’re tired of you using our families,” Pfleger said.

The St. Sabina Church pastor criticized the ads as playing off racist stereotypes of Black and Latino communities.

Proft didn’t return messages Thursday.

The ad is intended to criticize the SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice reform package that Pritzker signed into law in an attempt to address longstanding public safety issues and police distrust. Panned by Republicans for its provision to end cash bail, it goes into effect next year.

“Stop Chicago violence from coming to your town. Vote no on Pritzker,” the ad implores.

At the gathering Thursday, family members of several people who were killed in violent incidents chanted: “Darren Bailey, you will not use our pain for your political gain!”

Lightfoot, who also appears in the ad, previously condemned the commercial and said its creators darkened her skin in the footage.

The PAC has also come under fire for using footage of a Lake View woman being mugged in a separate ad seeking to showcase the city’s violence.

“Whatever we need to do to raise awareness and wake people up to understand the situation with what’s going on,” Bailey previously said when asked of his personal opinion of that commercial. “Because it’s real. And some parts of the city, they may not understand it.”

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