• Michael McDevitt
    APR 23, 2024

    Knudsen proposes ordinance to penalize hate flyering in wake of numerous antisemitic incidents

    Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43) is pictured at a City Council meeting in November 2023. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    A Lincoln Park alderperson is pushing legislation that would impose fines for those who print and distribute hateful and bigoted literature in response to what he said is “an alarming increase” of hate flyering instances in his ward.

    Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43) introduced the “Stop Hate Flyering” ordinance (O2024-0008939) during last Wednesday’s City Council meeting. It was referred to the council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations.  

    In multiple instances dating as far back as November, signs and flyers with antisemitic language have been discovered on parked cars on streets in North Side neighborhoods with Jewish populations such as Lincoln Park, Edgewater and Jefferson Park. The most recent of such incidents occurred more than two weeks ago in Lincoln Park, with Knudsen writing to residents that flyers had been spread, “some of which were placed in bags including a substance with the appearance of rat poison.” 

    “I’m introducing this legislation to make one thing clear: hate has no home in Chicago and for those who choose to commit acts of hate in our communities – you will be held accountable,” Knudsen said in a news release last week. “There is a long history of hate flyering targeting various groups. As a gay man, I have witnessed these types of incidents targeting the LGBTQ+ community and other diverse groups. It’s time to stop hate flyering – and I’m committed to getting this done.” 

    Knudsen told The Daily Line the problem in his ward wasn’t finding out who was leaving the signs, as the antisemitic organization that often leaves hateful flyers in a heavily Jewish area in the 43rd Ward has its name on the literature. 

    Police detectives have told Knudsen that “‘under the law right now there's nothing we can do.’ So that's the gap we're trying to fill.” 

    Knudsen said the main perpetrator group in the 43rd Ward even leaves legally protective language on their flyers stating the literature isn’t intended to intimidate. 

    “They like to stay just within the letter of the law,” Knudsen said. “They don't want to get in trouble because that messes up their operation.” 

    Chicago anti-hate laws don’t impose criminal or civil penalties on “hate littering,” Knudsen said. 

    Knudsen’s ordinance amends parts of the city hate crimes ordinance overhauled by an ordinance (SO2023-0003932) championed by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50) last fall.  

    Silverstein’s ordinance added a more inclusive “hate incident” term to city code to account for the types of non-criminal incidents that can forebode hate crimes but weren’t covered under the previous definition, new tracking mechanisms and public reporting requirements for hate crimes, non-criminal incidents, graffiti and vandalism and expanded requirements for city entities to keep and share reports on instances of hate.

    Knudsen’s ordinance amends the portion of city code that prohibits unattended threatening objects to impose civil penalties on hate flyering with fines between $500 and $1,000 for violators.

    The ordinance would prohibit anyone from leaving “unattended on the public way or in a public place, or on private real or personal property except by consent of the property owner, anywhere within the City, hateful or threatening material that is intended to or is reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander, or threaten another person, or in reckless disregard of the risk of intimidating, emotionally abusing, slandering, or threatening another person or group of people.”

    “The threat of a monetary fine as punishment can serve as a strong deterrent for the perpetrators of these flyerings,” Knudsen said in the news release. “The legislation prohibits placing these hate flyers on vehicles, doorsteps, and the public way.”

    Knudsen added that cities such as San Diego have enacted similar laws in response to rising hate incidents.

    Silverstein has signed on to Knudsen’s proposal as a co-sponsor and held a meeting last week that included police leaders, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and alderpeople from wards affected by recent hate flyering incidents, a spokesperson told The Daily Line. 

    “Hundreds of cars and doorsteps have been littered with gross and hateful flyers in a direct attempt at intimidation,” Silverstein said in a statement. “With nearly a dozen incidents occurring across at least six wards, it is time for a coordinated city response to this wave of hate.” 

    Silverstein, the council’s sole Jewish alderperson, said she will continue to hold similar meetings “until those responsible for these hate incidents are brought to justice.”

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