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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cold as ICE: Kankakee County Law Enforcement offended by child scarecrow

ICE moved a departure point from the US from the western suburbs to Kankakee County in 2017

Fact. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains immigrant children. The reality? Kankakee County Law Enforcement DOES NOT want to advertise it.

That didn’t stop Connect Kankakee from ruffling feathers in the County this past week during the Bourbonnais Township Park District’s annual Scarecrow Contest.

“We received calls from the law enforcement community and after reviewing the picture that my employees took for me, I made the decision that it was offensive and asked that they contact the owner to have it removed,” says Bourbonnais Township Park District Executive Director Hollice Clark.

Online documentation reports show the Kankakee County Corrections Department received over $10,000,000 annually from “Out of County – Rental” during both the 2018 and 2019 appropriation budget.

Within minutes of his appearance on the display fence, Bourbonnais Township Park District contacted the group to have it removed.

The scarecrow went through official channels to reserve entry spot #89 in the Bourbonnais Township Park District’s annual Scarecrow Contest. The contest is designed to engage the community, having residents and local businesses decorate and showcase their creative talents.

Connect Kankakee’s entry into the Bourbonnais Township Park District’s annual Scarecrow Contest. The ICEman Scarecrow, shown here before its removal, was last seen separating a young child scarecrow from her scarecrow parents. [Photo: Connect Kankakee]

Connect Kankakee’s effort was an attempt to shed light on an otherwise hush mentality the County has taken by receiving federal funds housing ICE detainees at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee.

“We agree that the reality of immigrant children being caged by ICE is completely offensive. We also believe we should be talking about this outrageous travesty.” Connect Kankakee said last Friday after being forced to remove the display.

It’s unknown if the Bourbonnais Township Park District will adopt new policies toward displays in the future to keep peaceful, politically related content that visually engages the public conversation from being displayed.

“As with all of our events, we will review and make decisions after the event is over.” Director Clark told us Wednesday via email.

We reached out to Connect Kankakee members to ask if they felt their right to free speech had been violated. The group replied in a Facebook post-Wednesday afternoon:

“When police begin dictating political expression, the dystopian era has arrived. Our scarecrow display met the written criteria of the park district. Many political scarecrows are on display right now at Perry Farm. Many truly scary ones as well, displays that frighten children. Yet the police chose to single this one out. We love the exchange of information and perspectives that this has generated, offering a glimpse of the issue many were not aware of. We will not, however, be silenced by county officials who disagree with our message. Our issue has long been that the county making money on the backs of those whose only infraction is undocumented status after having lived and contributed to their community for many years- working, paying taxes, and with implicit approval- is wrong. We now all should consider a new issue: that our political speech could be denied at any moment by the police” they wrote.

One of the political scarecrows currently represented at the Scarecrow Contest, representing State Representative Lindsey Parkhurst from this year’s event.
Photo: Lindsey Parkhurst via Facebook

Offensive scarecrows are nothing new to the Halloween season. In 2011, a New York resident was asked to remove a dummy with dreadlocks hanging from a noose along a Brooklyn street after a City Councilman called for its removal for racist overtones. Even Jesus himself has felt the wrath of community activists in recent years.

Like so many before her, there is no word on where the young child scarecrow landed following her removal.

A protest to end the ICE contract is scheduled to go before the Kankakee County Board on Tuesday, October 8th.

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