Oak Park police investigating racist graffiti at OPRF

The graffiti, now removed, featured swastika, referenced teacher Anthony Clark

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Oak Park police are investigating racist and anti-semitic graffiti that was discovered on property at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Nov. 2, according to school officials.  

The graffiti, which was drawn on a shed near the tennis courts, includes what appears to be a swastika scrawled in black next to the statements, "White power" and "F— Dancing N— Anthony Clark," referencing the popular OPRF teacher and community activist. 

In a letter sent to parents and students Friday afternoon by D200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams and D200 Board President Jackie Moore, district officials said that the graffiti has since been removed as police investigate the incident. 

Some parents and community members said the graffiti may have been up for a week and that parents had been trying to get school officials to remove it. District officials, however, offered a different account.  

"Many of you were made aware of this hateful incident on social media, and we regret if that was your first communication," the letter read. 

"In our current world of instant news, we are not always able to provide information prior to posts on social media," Moore and Pruitt-Adams explained. "We do however want to give our community accurate information with a sense of urgency. We are grateful that a community member brought this to our attention and did not assume we were already aware and simply hadn't acted."  

District officials said that as they learn more, they will "communicate all channels to our school community and the community at large. Our hope is that anyone with additional information will provide it to the principal [Nate Rouse] (nrouse@oprfhs.org) and superintendent (jpruittadams@oprfhs.org)." 

During an interview on Friday evening, Clark said that he found out about the graffiti today. In the afternoon, he posted a statement to the Facebook page of his nonprofit, Suburban Unity Alliance.  

Clark wrote that while he appreciates the sympathy, "I don't need [it]," before adding, "I don't need apologies, I don't need for you to express your anger & shock online. I need you to understand that acts of hate like this & worse than this are part of the fabrics of even the most 'progressive,' commUNITYs. 

I need you to understand how to work to be an ally in verb form, learning to get behind and empower those oppressed. I need you to realize that Trump didn't create these issues, Russia isn't responsible for bigotry & that systemic racism exists and is often supported rather Democrat or Republican is in charge. This isn't about civility or balance, as balance is impossible when individuals have never been on equal playing fields."  

School officials are planning an event called Community Conversation about Hate Crimes in Our Community: Coming Together for Change, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 7, 6 to 8 p.m., inside of the high school's South Cafeteria. The event will be co-sponsored by Suburban Unity Alliance and OPRF. 

Email: michael@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 10:55 PM

Not trying to educate everyone, Bruce. Just you and Simpson. That calm enough for you? Sleep well.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 10:47 PM

Hey Bill. Thanks for educating all of us. Since you are the great knowledgeable Dwyer. Here's a suggestion: Get out of from under your bridge, take some prozac and calm down. You are one angry pompous little man. I was being sarcastic you fool - probation for arson - get it?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 5:27 PM

Most intelligent adults can make an argument without inserting words into someone else's statements, Bruce. But apparently not you. I simply said the owner of the Velvet Rope, Frank Elliott, was charged with insurance fraud and arson. I didn't use the word "merely," since arson and insurance fraud are serious crimes. But - stay with me here, Bruce - not hate crimes.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 3:38 PM

The fact that there are any comments here that seem to make light of this or focus on their own problems is extremely disappointing. This is our community. These are our kids. We should strive to rid our community of this kind of hate. I don't care if some kids did it as a stupid joke. You can bet that not everyone that saw it or found out it happened thought it was funny or no big deal.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 9:51 AM

We get graffitti often in our neighborhood. You can absolutely feel the eye rolls when calling it in to the police to report it. Wish they cared about it here as much as they do in this story. Perhaps we need a task force, but instead it gets treated as free speech. Is it racist when you get gang symbols in your alley? Either way, very annoying.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 5:18 PM

Yep Brian. As Bill points out it was merely insurance fraud and arson - not a hate crime. Not to mention he took out two other businesses besides his own. But no matter. The resulting plea deal that the prosecutors thought fit the crime: two years probation ... a minor fine, and about 100K in restitution (to the insurance companies). I wonder if he ever met those obligations?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 10:46 AM

That might be because it wasn't a hate crime, Brian. It was insurance fraud and arson.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 10:40 AM

And keep in mind the gay business owner who torched his business to collect the insurance and used gay slurs to cover his offense. And got caught. No hate crime was considered. How does dancing figure into this?

Alex Garcia  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 6:30 AM

Mak & Melvin: If someone merely challenges the the current Oak Park zeitgeist of identity driven politics, and the outright race-bating by folks such as yourselves, that renders the comment "racist"? I'll let you in on a little secret... My comments including the one below are intended to caricature what Oak Park has become in 2018. What used to be an admirable community of tolerance and certain liberal sensibilities has become a hyperbolic place of leftist virtue signaling, antipathy and imbalanced action and rhetoric. Case in point this apparent shed graffiti. No one has any idea of its actual provenance, yet a freakout and overreaction will of course ensue because that is what Oak Park is right now. Oak Park eccentricities in this regard would all be merely amusing if it weren't for several dire facts facing Oak Park at the moment...increased crime, unsustainable tax burdens on homeowners and businesses, falling local educational standards, and Oak Park's population loss. But sure, keep searching for racial controversies du jour and call me "racist" if that helps you to further ignore any of the foregoing,

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 11:49 PM

Those might not be swastikas. That might be a balanced z, z with a balance or weight lifting bar thru it and the balanced number 5 with weight bar thru it, balanced z5, or balanced 5z, or straight 5z or straight z5 whatever that might mean.

Mark Grudzinski  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 5:49 PM

Love it when racists can't even draw a swastika properly.

Mak Flournoy from Oak Park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 1:51 PM

@alex garcia. Funny to read your name, then to read this. I wonder if you've always had the benefit of operating in the dominate culture or are you not and just haven't a clue about what they think of you, Mr. Garcia? Are you white passing, white acting, or simply white wishing? Show your face, show up and spew your hatred where you can be seen. Are you man enough to be the figure that Mr. Clark has been. Could you even withstand that pressure, that daily life? Are you enough of a man to stand up for a people, for children, that have been hated in a community that claims love...their entire lives? Come out and disrobe, show the entirety of your ass, I know there's more to be seen or is it as tiny or as little as the meaning of the words that you wrote here?

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 10:21 AM

It strikes me as counterproductive, and as tending to chill constructive dialogue, to rebuke people who have expressed sympathy and outrage in connection with the racist graffiti that was placed on OPRF property. Such sympathy and outrage is not incompatible with understanding that racism continues to pervade even self-styled progressive communities. And it is completely consistent with standing behind those who are oppressed.

Melvin Tate from Oak Park   

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 9:04 AM

Alex, just when I think you can't get any worse espousing your racist views, you hit a new low. All I'm going to say is that I pray that whatever hatred and bitterness in your heart that cause you to have these views gets erased.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 4:18 AM

I think that we need another Starz series in light of this. A new series and a weekly summary of each episode in OakPark.com. (Tongue firmly in cheek).

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