CHICAGO — The Anti-Defamation League reports antisemitic acts, hate crimes and white supremacist activities are increasing in Illinois.
The new report, titled Hate in the Prairie State, shows that while Illinois is ahead of the curve when it comes to lessening hate crimes, more is needed to address the issue.
“Hate has been mainstreamed,” said David Goldenberg with the Anti-Defamation League.
A deep dive into hate speech, attacks and extremism shows an 80% increase in Illinois since 2021, pointing to high-profile incidents such as the anti-LGBTQ vandalism at a now-closed Lake in the Hills bakery last year.
Another incident referenced was the firebombing of a women’s clinic downstate.
Locally, authorities probed a member of the Chicago Police Department with ties to the Proud Boys.
Lee Zoldan with the Chicago Loop Synagogue worries about the ramifications of hate.
“This should not be happening in the United States,” Zoldan said.
In 2017, the Chicago Loop Synagogue became the target of an antisemitic attack. A man put up swastikas and broke windows, opening up old wounds for the city’s Jewish community.
“The scars still remain,” Zoldan said. “The scars of everything that we felt.”
That’s why Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul stressed the importance of the Anti-Defamation League report. The state’s top attorney put social media on notice as the repository of much rhetoric, protected by the First Amendment, and fueling individuals into acting on hate.
“The importance of what we are doing here today is to encourage better reporting of speech because, perhaps, protected speech can evolve into targeted mass violence,” Raoul warned.
The report recommends mandating hate crime reporting and law enforcement training in the state, creating new ways for victims to safely report activity and holding social media platforms accountable.
“So it’s not a question of free speech, because these are private companies, it’s a question of corporate accountability,” said Oren Segal with the ADL Center on Extremism. “It’s a question of corporate accountability. Putting people over their profits.”
For many across Chicago, it’s a burdensome but necessary task that will take on continued efforts.
“There is no single solution to put this nasty genie back in the bottle,” Goldenberg said.