CHICAGO (CBS) — Two upscale restaurants in Pilsen have been hit by vandals with graffiti that tells them to leave the neighborhood.
The act is believed to be a response to the gentrification of the changing Mexican community.
“We woke up and we were greeted by a lot of spray paint that was letting us know that a certain group of people don’t welcome this space being here. Which is unfortunate for us, at least – you know?” said Stephen Gillanders.
Stephen Gillanders is the chef and owner of S.K.Y. Restaurant, which is set to open in less than three weeks at 18th and Allport.
“The entire face of the building had been marked up,” he said.
Employees of the soon-to-open restaurant spent the day Tuesday washing away the messages left by vandals, demanding that non-Mexican owners here and across the street get out of Pilsen. The messages contained anti-white gentrification hate messages.
“I’m Filipino. My wife’s Korean. Not to say that if we were white, it would be understandable. But we’re not. I don’t know that we necessarily fit the profile that they’re unhappy with,” he said. “We’re trying to do what we can to have jobs here. A place where people hang out. We live here. We want to be a part of Pilsen. We want the opportunity to live here.
“To think that a couple of people are trying to scare us or make a statement – it’s not going to change that we’re here now,” Gillanders said.
And most residents, like Maria, who chose not to give her last name, welcome them.
“I’m really upset. This should not happen here. We are a very diverse neighborhood. Everybody is welcome here,” she said.
Gillanders said the graffiti comes a few days after activists met in the neigbhorhood to protest gentrification, accusing new business owners of indirectly causing rents to rise and pushing poor people out.
Neither police or residents are linking the group to the graffiti, but Alderman Daniel Solis said whoever did this needs to punished.
“The question of how to deal with gentrification is a legitimate one, but that tactic of using racist methods to say that is not welcomed, not acceptable and will not be tolerated,’ Ald. Solis said.
At this point, no one is in custody, but police are asking residents to call if they have information and businesses in the neigbhorhood are asked to check their security cameras.
There’s also a meeting on Wednesday among retailers, community groups and police.