ROCKFORD — The Winnebago County Republican Headquarters was vandalized with sprawling spray paint of the words “rape” and “shame” all across the building in downtown Rockford.
Rockford police officers at the building said the graffiti was spotted by an officer on patrol shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday.
“I hope whoever is responsible for this will be brought to justice,” state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, wrote on his Facebook page. “You are a coward for doing it unless you come forward!”
Reached by phone, Cabello said, “We can have a good spirited debate, but the minute you start to damage other people’s property, you’ve crossed the line.”
The vandalism also included “9/27/18,” the date of a contentious U.S. Senate hearing over allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice. Christine Blasey Ford, professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982.
State Rep. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said of the graffiti: “I certainly hope they will find and prosecute the person who is responsible.”
He added, “I think in the end this will hurt the legitimacy of the #MeToo movement.”
The building is also the law office of Shiver, O’Neill and Thompson.
Attorney Jim Thompson, who is also chairman of the Winnebago County Republican Central Committee, held a news conference later in the afternoon outside the building.
“Hate has no place in the political process,” he said. “Violence has no place in the political process. ... We do not seek to capitalize on victims’ lives or memories to advance a purely political agenda as seen in the past month by Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein and our own Sen. (Dick) Durbin.
“The Winnebago County Republican Central Committee Headquarters is located in the building in which seven women work each day. It’s the place in which over two dozen female precinct committeemen meet to fulfill their commitment to our community. They should not have to be afraid because some people could not control their hate.”
The act of vandalism occurred across the street from Kingdom Authority Church. The Rev. Melvin Brown said he does not condone the crime, but added, “I understand people being angry and frustrated and wanting to get their voices out there.”
Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney also called the act cowardly.
“This is not who we are,” he said in a written statement to the Register Star.
“I am extremely disappointed in the individual responsible for the ugliness at our local Republican HQ. Clearly, this person needs help.
“As a Republican, I am saddened and angry. I am also sad to see other folks in my party unfairly labeled and mischaracterized. Negative generalizations about a group of people has never served us well as a country. This situation is no different. Attacks of this nature aim to silence and destroy, neither of which will occur.
“As chairman of the Winnebago County Board, I can honestly say I do not personally know one member of the other party who would condone or support these actions. Not one. For that reason, I see this moment as an opportunity for all of us to pivot away from this cowardly act and show everyone watching the best version of ourselves and not our worst.”
Democratic Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara called the perpetrator a “small-minded human being.”
On his campaign Facebook page, he posted: “This type of behavior is unacceptable and certainly does not live up to our community’s values. We all have differences, but we must learn to disagree on policy without attacking people.
“I’ve also directed our Public Works staff to have this graffiti removed immediately.”
Four walls of the six-sided L-shaped building were vandalized.
Rockford Public Works employees were on scene Sunday. Thompson said he did not know how long or how much it will cost to remove the graffiti.
Lt. Dennis Oblinger said he did not know if any of the surrounding buildings had security cameras.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Rockford Police Department at 779-500-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 815-963-7867.
Chris Green: 815-987-1241; firstname.lastname@example.org; @chrisfgreen
Kevin Haas: 815-987-1410; khaas@rrstar..com; @KevinMHaas