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Protests blast cops on book burning

By Gerry Doyle and David Heinzmann

Tribune staff reporters

Published June 21, 2006 - LINK

About three dozen people gathered outside a Lakeview library Tuesday night, brandishing gay-rights flags, signs and angry words as they protested how Chicago police handled the burning of about 100 gay and lesbian and African-American history books in the building last week.

Organizer Andy Thayer said that what he views as police reluctance to quickly label the incident at the Merlo Branch Library, 644 W. Belmont Ave., a hate crime was shameful.

"We will not stand by idly while this kind of hate infests our community," Thayer said.

Ferdinand Asidao, 56, of Chicago, said the gathering was an important symbol of solidarity.

"Attacks on any groups ... are against my principles," Asidao said as he waved an anti-discrimination placard. "We're going to try to connect it to other struggles in the community, like immigration.

Bomb and Arson Cmdr. Edward O'Donnell said investigators have been considering it a hate crime from the beginning.

Police arson investigators asked for community help Monday in finding whoever set the fire.

The June 13 fire at the library was noticed by a patron, who alerted staff members. Staffers were able to put out the fire themselves before firefighters arrived.

Police have few leads in the case. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bomb and Arson unit at 312-746-7619 or the civil rights unit at 312-745-5827.

The fire damaged about 10 books in the branch's African-American history collection and 90 in the gay and lesbian collection.

The library manager said the books would be replaced. The branch, in the heart of the Lakeview neighborhood's gay community, has about 1,000 books in its gay and lesbian collection, she said.



Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune


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