Mayor Message

The mayors of Champaign and Urbana took to Facebook on Saturday to address the distribution of anti-immigration flyers.

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CHAMPAIGN — Flyers calling for “illegal aliens” to be reported to authorities landed in several west Champaign neighborhoods early Friday, much to the consternation of residents who woke to find them near their driveways and on the city parkways.

“I certainly didn’t appreciate the note being thrown on my yard,” said Ed Hawkes, who shared his disdain on the Eisner Park Neighborhood Association Facebook page Friday morning after finding the flyer on the ground near his newspaper box.

That led to a lengthy string of comments, almost all of which expressed disappointment and disgust.

The flyers were in plastic sandwich bags filled with rocks, a method that enables the distributor to throw them quickly and easily from a passing vehicle.

A week ago, the same thing happened in a few Danville neighborhoods, where police said they were investigating the dissemination of the flyers as a possible hate crime.

“It’s unfortunate that people have to do that. They have a right and there is nothing against the law about expressing your opinion,” Hawkes said.

Worried that his Facebook post was helping the group spread its negative message, he later deleted the photo of the flyer he had put up. But it had already sparked dozens of responses.

“I wonder if they really expected to change anyone’s mind with this tactic,” said one commenter.

“I imagine their goal is likely to terrorize immigrant communities and recruit folks already sympathetic to the cause,” said another.

The flyers showed up in the 1600 blocks of Church Street and Park and University avenues, along with some farther south on Healey Street near Chicago Avenue.

They were labeled as having originated from the New Jersey European Heritage Association.

On a social-media site by that name, the group claims to be “men of European descent coming together to preserve their heritage, race, and nation. Located in New Jersey.”

Members of that group claimed to have distributed similar flyers in the Chicago, Joliet and Lockport areas in Illinois as well as several communities in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site calls the NJEHA a “white nationalist group” that espouses “white separatist ideologies often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites.”

It’s unclear if any of the flyer recipients contacted Champaign police. The police department’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment Saturday.

However, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen took to Facebook on Saturday, saying that she and Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin condemn the message being spread through the flyers.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).