Reesheda Graham-Washington talks about the hate crime incident outside of her business on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, during a press conference outside of Live Cafe on Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Ill.

The investigation into the brick thrown at Live Café, 163 S. Oak Park Ave., is effectively closed but can easily be reopened upon discovery of new information, according to the Oak Park police department. Wrapped in a note containing a racial slur, the brick was found outside the Black-owned coffee shop Jan. 6. Its discovery caused heartbreak and outrage in the community.

“We’ve run down all the leads that we could,” said Commander Bill Rygh. “If we hear something or get a tip, we can easily open it back up.” 

The police department welcomes anyone who may have information into the incident to come forward. 

“If anybody has anything, we’d love to follow up on it,” said Rygh, who also stated that he’s eager to get the case solved.

Detectives on the case watched hours of video footage taken from the security cameras of nearby businesses, but the footage did not show any potential suspects, according to Rygh. 

“If video footage revealed a suspect, we would have been following up that lead, but it did not,” Rygh said.

Live Café had been closed to the public since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois but has now reopened for takeout service. It serves as the campaign headquarters for a slate of Black village board candidates. The note found wrapped around the brick read, “No n— on the ballot.” A window received minor damage, indicating the brick was thrown at it. 

The brick and message were found outside the café on the same day that two Black trustee candidates, Anthony Clark and Chibuike Enyia, began hearings for challenges to their candidacy; both challenges were later dismissed by a local electoral board.

Reesheda Graham Washington, the café’s proprietor, is satisfied with the Oak Park Police Department’s response to the incident, saying they did their “due diligence.”

“They’ve been very responsive and proactively reaching out to me, keeping me updated the entire way.” 

Reesheda Graham Washington

The café’s own security cameras had been turned off to mitigate costs during the pandemic and therefore did not record the incident. 

“That really served as an impediment to the investigation,” said Graham Washington. “It was really hard for them to pinpoint who the assailant was.”

Graham Washington told Wednesday Journal she felt the police handling of the situation was “relational.”

“I didn’t feel like a task to be completed,” she said. “It felt like they also understood and valued the importance and significance of what Live is about and the gravity of the offense.” 

She said she believes there are more opportunities for the community and police to operate in tandem. 

“I will say that this instance was handled very well,” said Graham Washington. “I also think that it’s because of the direct connection, communication, and personal touch that was a part of the process.”

She believes that should be the standard in policing but knows that isn’t always the case and was careful to clarify that.

“When people say, ‘defund the police,’ they’re not saying they don’t want police,” said Graham Washington. “They’re saying they don’t want the objectified transaction that often comes with these interactions.”

She doesn’t believe that many who call for defunding the police actually want the force to be abolished.

“What we’re saying is, ‘How can we more equitably allocate resources so that the police can play an appropriate role and effect that role in our community?’”

While she would like the person responsible for the attack to come forward, her focus has always been on showcasing what the attack represents.

“The priority was less about identifying one person and more about naming the undercurrent of negative energy and racialized tension that fuels this sort of behavior in our community period,” said Graham Washington.

If identified, Graham Washington said she’d like to discuss the attack with the perpetrator to identify why they thought “an act of violence and terror was the appropriate and effective solution aa a way forward for expressing themselves.”

“I don’t necessarily want this person to come forward so that I could prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.

Had the perpetrator intended to intimidate Black village board candidates into withdrawing from the election, they unequivocally failed, according to Graham Washington. All remain on the ballot.

“These acts are really quite futile,” she said.

Graham Washington expressed her gratitude to the community for their support, as well as their participation in the vigil that took place after the attack. 

“I’m very thankful to the community and how we responded,” she said. “I think that that really does underscore that we are bigger, and that there are so many more of us that are fighting for equity and justice than those who are fighting against it.” 

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