Two of Evanston’s north side underpasses have been laced with graffiti expressing anti-immigration sentiments, making them the fifth and sixth such incidents in the past few months.
The CTA underpass at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Lincoln Street and the Metra underpass near the intersection of Green Bay Road and Lincoln Street were the sites of the most recent messages. Previous taggings were found along Green Bay Road at the Lincoln Street, Central Street and Livingston Street Metra underpasses.
The most recent markings were reported to the Evanston Police Department Sunday morning. As of Monday afternoon, the graffiti near Green Bay Road had been painted over but the defacements near Lincoln Street remained visible.
Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther said that to his knowledge, as of Monday afternoon, no arrests had been made in connection with any of the anti-immigration graffiti.
“We realize that Evanston is a very diverse community,” Guenther said, “and any situations like this that not only represent criminal damage to property but also tend to be socially offensive, the police department looks at them quite seriously and we always try to investigate these things to a successful conclusion.”
One of the recent messages reads “demography is destiny”, a phrase often attributed to French philosopher and social scientist Auguste Comte. The quotation expresses the notion that demographics are a key predictor of the economic and social fates of a nation, but was not originally stated specifically in reference to issues of immigration or ethnicity.
Another of the messages appearing Sunday read, “Euro-Americans, do you want to become minorities? If so, support mass immigration! Circa 2042. Face difficult truths or be [disposed].” This statement makes reference to a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau projection that white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the U.S. population by 2042, though they will still make up a larger percentage of the nation than any other minority.
Ald. Jane Grover (7th Ward), who said that on previous occasions she had contacted Evanston’s 311 call center to report some of the anti-immigration graffiti, also said that she views the current rash of taggings as she does any other graffiti and simply wants it removed as soon as possible.
Grover also noted that though Metra underpasses are defaced somewhat regularly, the articulate wording and political nature of the recent graffiti were more unusual, a viewpoint shared by Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther in a Sept. 28 The Daily Northwestern article.
“For me the interesting thing about this graffiti is that the one that I saw on Central and Green Bay was almost a complete sentence,” Grover said.
Jeff Murphy, manager of the building and inspections services division of the City of Evanston’s community and economic development department, the division responsible for locating and removing graffiti on public and private property around the city, said that the city always attempts to remove any reported graffiti as quickly as possible, but makes a special effort when the markings are inappropriate, demeaning or sexually explicit.
“If it’s really offensive or graphic, anything hate related…we want to get it off right away,” Murphy said. “The good thing is that we have a lot of citizen involvement. If we didn’t see it ourselves, we’ll get a call from a neighbor or city council member or somebody. And as soon as we knew about it, especially once it was described, it would become our number one priority”
Previous anti-immigration graffiti has regularly been painted over within 24 hours of being reported.
Murphy said that Evanston graffiti removal technician Karlton Mims documents what he removes, often works with Evanston police to discern graffiti patterns and has been able to track down offenders in the past.
Murphy said that near 90 percent of Evanston’s graffiti follows paths leading away from schools and that gang graffiti is also often a priority for removal.
Section 9-5-30-4 of the Evanston City Code states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to possess a spray paint container…containing a fluid which is not water soluble…with intent to use the same to deface any building, structure or property” and that “any person who violates any provision of this section shall be subject to a fine not less than $500 for each offense”.
Evanston graffiti can be painted over by the city, power washed by city-hired subcontractors or erased through Cook County’s graffiti removal program. Power-washing subcontracting fees range from $45 to upwards of over $100 depending on the size and location of the graffiti.
Evanston Patch will continue to report on this story as it develops.