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Aurora garden damage seen as possible hate crime
2020-09-02

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In Aurora, a garden that included a shed painted rainbow colors to support the LGBTQ community was destroyed recently after someone smashed it with a pickup truck—and local authorities are viewing the attack as a possible hate crime, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Garden organizer Ellie Esparza said she was inspired to paint the shed to honor the LGBTQ community that Esparza said is often harshly judged in the neighborhood. The attack was actually the second that happened, after the fence was knocked down in what Esparza thought was a hit-and-run.

Talking with Windy City Times Aug. 28, Esparza indicated that the process to restoring the area has been frustrating: "I was watering the garden and the local beautification and standards committee pulled up and took photos. Obviously, it's not as beautiful as it used to be—and they're threatening to fine me.

"Also, I asked the police if there were any updates—and there are no leads."

Then, Esparza told a story about a local trans woman who said she'd been the victim of discrimination and even sexual assault—and that she started crying out of gratitude when she saw Esparza's garden and shed. Support for the LGBTQ community is slow, Esparza emphasized, even mentioning that the city of Aurora refused to fund its pride parade last year, warranting a last-minute meeting and online fundraiser.

Esparza also indicated that even elected officials have not been supportive of the area. We're just trying to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. The alderman for that area [Juany Garza] has not reached out to us. The neighborhood is very conservative and I was told she doesn't want to risk offending the people there."

In response, Garza told Windy City Times on Aug. 31 that Esparza has made at least two errors—both procedural. "First, [Esparza] never got in contact with me, and never got a permit for the community garden—but if the community enjoys it, that's fine," Garza said. "But the problem is that she decided to use Pride colors. You never know if there's someone there who's homophobic. She should've started a petition and get people from around the neighborhood to sign it—you never know. If there's a petition for the shed to be in Pride colors, I'm fine with it."

Esparza said she plans to rebuild the shed and is looking for community donations to create a more durable structure out of wood and metal.

She can be reached at Ellie@ConcreteRoseStudios.com .

—Andrew Davis


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