D65, city leaders see escalation in hate crimes, prepare security for Inauguration Day

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Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

The Evanston/ Skokie School District 65 Education Center, at 1500 McDaniel Avenue.

Olivia Alexander, Reporter

In preparation for the possibility of White supremacist violence related to Inauguration Day — which comes just over a week after a homophobic hate crime against the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board vice president — president Anya Tanyavutti said her team is working with the Evanston Police Department to ensure its members’ safety. 

“Right now we are oriented towards ensuring that our board members do not continue to face the risk of experiencing the violence of hate crime,” Tanyavutti said. “It’s not a deterrent from what we do, but it’s not an acceptable condition under which we should have to work.” 

Just over a week ago, a person broke into, ransacked and vandalized the car of D65 vice president Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, and left behind a card with a homophobic slur. 

Lindsay-Ryan told the Daily the hate crime was not an isolated incident. 

“This is part of a larger problem, and it would be a mistake to focus just on what occurred with me,” Lindsay-Ryan said. “It’s going to show up in different ways to different members in the board. And it’s important for us to be able to see those patterns.”

Since August 2020, Lindsay-Ryan said five board members and three cabinet members have received postcards using Bible verses that mention death and repentance. All of the cards appear to be from the same person, she said. Lindsay-Ryan has also received email messages containing a range of threats. 

In advance of Inauguration Day, and the accompanying possibility of more related White supremacist activity in Evanston, Tanyavutti said the school board is working with law enforcement to ensure its members’ safety. 

In response to the weekend’s incident, Tanyavutti and Lindsay-Ryan sent an email to the D65 community condemning the racist and hateful attacks as well as reiterating the district’s commitment to racial and educational equity. Lindsay-Ryan and Tanyavutti included mention of the “veiled death threats” in their email to demonstrate how White supremacy has manifested on both a national scale and within Evanston itself. 

“When we’re (looking at White supremacy), it’s easier to identify the Capitol insurrection, and the school of thought amongst those folks,” Lindsay-Ryan said. “It’s harder, often in Evanston, to identify the ways in which people in our community are aligning themselves with that kind of rhetoric, not explicitly in using the same language, but using the same kind of assumptions and beliefs that undermine Black leadership.” 

Tanyavutti said Evanston’s progressive values often make the city a target for out-of-town White nationalist groups and conservative news outlets. However, she said she believes a local actor committed last week’s attack against Lindsay-Ryan. 

The crime against Lindsay-Ryan occurred shortly after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol. Within a few days of the attack on Lindsay-Ryan, a White supremacist zoom-bombed 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray during a Democratic Party of Evanston endorsement interview. 

While Murray answered questions about her candidacy, the trespasser unmuted and voiced multiple racist attacks.

“I’m not necessarily sure that it was an attack on me as a candidate, but maybe more so the opportunity that it was the DPOE, and me having such a strong background and advocacy for gun violence, being associated with some type of involvement with the Obama administration, as well as my activism,” Murray said. 

Lindsay-Ryan, up for reelection in April, said she worries these attacks could discourage hopeful candidates from running for positions in the city. 

She said the community’s strength is compromised when potential leaders grow doubtful.

“The attempt of these things is to not just terrorize but to intimidate,” Lindsay-Ryan said. “To discourage folks from standing up for what they believe is right, and to discourage folks from challenging oppressive systems and advocating for the needs of vulnerable within those systems and most marginalized.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oliviagalex

Related Stories:

Homophobic slur left in D65 vice president’s ransacked car

White supremacist zoom-bombs 5th ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray endorsement call

District 65 emphasizes equity at last 2019-2020 meeting

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