COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A 60-year-old Pilsen man has been charged with defacing a Pilsen church with racist graffiti, including a swastika.
According to prosecutors, Lincoln United Methodist Church at 2242 S. Damen Ave. has been the target of inflammatory vandalism for the past six months. So on October 1, a surveillance camera was installed.
About 4:45 a.m. Oct. 2, that camera caught Robert Samar, 60, using a black marker to draw a swastika and the words "burn" and "kill" on the church's front door, Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto said during a bond hearing Friday.
The church's pastor made the video public Oct. 4, and multiple members of the neighborhood were able to identify the person scrawling graffiti as Samar, who lives a block from the church in the 2300 block of South Seeley Avenue, police and prosecutors said.
Samar now faces charges of criminal defacement to a place of worship. According to his public defender, Samar is disabled.
Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan on Friday said Samar could be released on his own recognizance so long as he qualifies for the Cook County Sheriff's electronic-monitoring program. If not, Samar will be responsible for $25,000 bail.
Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen released this security footage of a man defacing the church's door earlier this week. [Facebook/ Emma Lozano]
On Monday, the Rev. Emma Lozano, Lincoln United pastor, confirmed that the church's front door had been defaced with a swastika and words in marker that read "BURN" and "KILL" over the weekend.
Known as a safe haven for immigrants, the church has been tagged with racist marks six times in recent months.
In March, the church was twice defaced with graffiti that read "Rape Mexico" and included a swastika. In July, the phrases "Rape and Kill Mexico," "KKK" and "Trump Rules" were scrawled on the parish door.
Samar was only charged with writing the graffiti at the church Sunday. Police have not determined whether he was is responsible for the other incidents at the church.
After Samar was charged, Lozano on Facebook thanked Pilsen neighbors for helping to identify him: "The church is very grateful and I ask that the community will remain vigilant."
Lozano said the church became a target for "racist white supremacists" because of the work it does to fight deportations and because of the Mexican immigrant and South American refugee populations it serves.
Lincoln United Methodist is the sister church of Adalberto United Methodist in Humboldt Park, where Elvira Arellano, an undocumented Mexican woman, made headlines as she fought deportation and sought asylum with her child in 2006.
The graffiti came after escalating tensions led Trump to cancel his presidential rally at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago this year. Lozano was among those who vowed to protest Trump's appearance.
Lozano, sister of labor activist and community organizer Rudy Lozano, is also founder of Centro Sin Fronteras, a Chicago-based organization that has fought for adequate schools, housing and against deportations.
Pilsen's library and a bilingual alternative school are named for Rudy Lozano, who was murdered in 1983.
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