UPDATED 04/19/11 7:50 a.m.
LYONS, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) — Investigators in Lyons continue to search for the person who set-off a smoke bomb at a birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler.
This past weekend, members of the America First Committee rented out P.J. Klem’s Restaurant and Banquet Hall, at 8000 Ogden Ave. in Lyons, to celebrate a birthday party for Hitler – complete with decorated cakes and Nazi banners.
The suspect, a man with a backpack, had ordered a grilled cheese sandwich before he went into a restroom and set off the smoke bomb, authorities said Monday.
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“The description we have to work off of is very vague,” police Chief Harley Schinker said of the person responsible for the damage Saturday night to P.J. Klem’s Restaurant & Banquet Hall.
Arthur Jones, chairman of the America First Committee, said he organized the party and that about 60 people attended. In addition to celebrating the 122nd anniversary of Hitler’s birth, which is Wednesday, Jones said the group marked the April 12, 1861, start of the Civil War.
The party included two cakes, Jones said. One was decorated with the words, “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler.” The other bore the phrase, “The South Was Right. White Men Fight,” Jones said.
Officers arrived at the restaurant and banquet hall about 6:15 p.m. Saturday after receiving a call about smoke, according to a release from Lyons police.
The smoke bomb caused no serious damage or injuries, but police evacuated and closed the restaurant to allow the Cook County sheriff’s police bomb squad to search the building, Lyons police said.
Pete Klemetzos, general manager of Klem’s, said he was unaware of the party’s specific purpose when it was scheduled several weeks ago.
The same group has rented the banquet hall in previous years and was holding a peaceful gathering, he added.
“There was no ‘Heil Hitler’ or anything like that,” Klemetzos said, although banners bearing swastikas were displayed.
“They didn’t wear uniforms. There were no outside demonstrations. A group came in and said they wanted me to cook for them — chicken, beef, sausage — and I didn’t ask them who they were.”
Jones was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2008. He lost the GOP primary to Michael Hawkins, who in turn lost the general election to Democratic incumbent Daniel Lipinski.
In a 1994 Chicago Reader article, Jones is quoted as his America First Committee a “white patriotic nationalist organization” seeking to establish a “white-run world” and is also quoted making several inflammatory statements about Jews, African-Americans and gays.
In years past, Jones made headlines for his campaign for mayor of Milwaukee in 1976 as a member of the “National Socialist White People’s Party,” and gained attention in Chicago for taking part in a neo-Nazi protest against the Gay Pride Parade in 1982, where he was quoted as remarking that gays had “forefeited their right to life,” according to published reports.
Jones also gained notoriety for a 1993 appearance on an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” devoted to racial extremists. On the program, a verbal fight culminated in Jones being punched by another guest, Michael McGee of the New Black Panther Party, the Reader recalled.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.