HYDE PARK — A Hyde Park artist says he created the cardboard figure with the words "All Lives Matter" and with a noose around its neck that puzzled passersby as it hung under a Metra underpass in Hyde Park Wednesday.
The life-size red, white and blue figure was decorated in stars and stripes with “All Lives Matter” written across its left arm and side. It was hanging from a cord wrapped around its neck Wednesday morning under the Metra viaduct at East Hyde Park Boulevard just east of South Lake Park Avenue.
“All lives matter” is a common response by detractors of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which promotes the position that African-Americans continue to be marginalized in society and face institutionalized discrimination, particularly by the police.
Joel Maxime Jr. — who identifies himself as an artist, musician and writer currently living in Hyde Park — said he created the figure as a critique of "All Lives Matter."
"I wanted to find something to counter it and negate it," said Maxime, who was born in Haiti and "raised by Chicago's Wicker Park area," according to his @cravechicago Instagram account.
He posted a picture of the piece to Instagram shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Parke Ballantine, a spokeswoman for the nearby Hyde Park Art Center at 5020 S. Cornell Ave., said the art sends a mixed message.
"The noose, which is a provocative and disturbing symbol and tool of racism, around an American flag human silhouette with All Lives Matter written on it, is an unclear statement," Ballantine said. "Is the intention a racist proclamation and tool of harassment and threat or a critique of 'All Lives Matter' rhetoric?"
She said either way, the display comes across as opportunistic and inflammatory.
"This, frankly, is the antithesis of what Hyde Park Art Center fosters through community dialogue and development of process and ideas," Ballantine said.
Maxime said he was upset by the neo-Nazi propaganda that has popped up in the neighborhood recently and he wanted to counter it.
Although he is not affiliated with the U. of C., he was referring to white supremacist and neo-Nazi posters that have been hung around campus in recent months. Last week, a man putting up the posters was questioned by university police but let go. The school now says it is pursuing ways to charge him.
Similar posters were found around campus on two other occasions in recent months.
The Hyde Park Jewish Community Center, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd., is also recovering from another bomb threat, this time threatening Purim celebrations on Sunday night.
Police continue to investigate the bomb threat and neo-Nazi posters, but has not said any of these incidents are connected.
Years-old murals installed by the Hyde Park Art Center depicting the work of African-American artists, painted on the walls under the viaduct near the "All Lives Matter" figure, were not damaged Wednesday. In his Instagram post, Maxime apologized to the mural artists. "Sorry to cover your work," he said.
Michael Gillis, a spokesman for Metra, said the agency was aware of the display and crews were on their way over to take it down.