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Civil Rights Leaders Condemn Antisemitic Speech At ‘Reopen Illinois’ Rallies

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A protester holds a sign during a reopen Illinois rally outside Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, Saturday, May 16, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Illinois civil rights leaders say they’re deeply concerned about displays of antisemitism at this past weekend’s protests against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.
 
Several protestors touted signs comparing the governor, who is Jewish, to Adolf Hitler.
 
David Goldenberg, the Midwest Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that kind of speech should be immediately condemned.
 
“We were deeply concerned that rally organizers, speakers, and elected officials present this past weekend did not use their positions to condemn this hate in real time,” he said. “Now let me be absolutely clear. Hitler, Holocaust, and Nazi comparisons are antisemitic, period.”
 
Goldenberg said those comparisons trivialize the lives of the six million people who perished in the Holocaust.
 
Pastor Marvin Hightower, president of the Peoria NAACP, says “enough is enough.”
 
“We have the right to disagree and to protest, but it is not constructive to bring hatred, racism, and antisemitism in the equation, because it does not benefit anyone,” Hightower said.
 
The leaders said organizers, speakers, and elected officials present at the protests should condemn anti-Semitic and racist signs at the events, and should make clear there’s no place for those messages at the rallies.
 
“It’s up to them to say it out loud that this is unacceptable. It does not help progress, it does not help the cause, it does not help get us to a better place,” said Hightower. “Because hate speech will eventually evolve into hate crimes, which helps no one and takes our focus off the real enemy, which is the virus.”
 
Goldenberg noted reported antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high in Illinois, up 340 percent since 2016.
Tim Shelley is the News Director for WCBU in Peoria.

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