Southern Poverty Law Center to remove Gurnee from their hate map


Jenna Grayson

In 1987, five members of the KKK announced their plans for a rally in Gurnee at the town’s village hall, seen above. The city issued a permit for the event, but a rally was never held.

      After the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) posted a hate map   on social media and their website that indicated hate groups throughout the United States. Gurnee, located about 10 miles north of Libertyville, was on this list, with the SPLC claiming the Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had a group based there.

      Gurnee denied any KKK presence in the village and after an investigation, the SPLC contacted the village to say they will be removing Gurnee from the hate map.

      The SPLC was founded in 1971 “to ensure that the promise of the civil rights movement became a reality for all,” according to their website. The center does this by exposing hate groups and their activities throughout America to the media and law enforcement.

      Its annual hate map shows 954 locations around the United States where there are any type of hate groups ranging from anti-Muslim groups to anti-LGBT organizations. There are 35 other hate groups listed in IL, with 12 in the Chicagoland area. The map depicts any village where there are reports of hate and specifies if there is a headquarters in that location.

      According to the mayor of Gurnee, Kristina Kovarik, the village was shocked by their inclusion on the map. In an email interview, Kovarik explained, “We participate in and recognize many different cultural events throughout the year and we embrace diversity, which is [evident] by our demographics and visually in our neighborhoods. There is no place for hate in our community.”

      After the map was released, the village was determined to get its name removed. The deputy police chief, Brian Smith, researched the KKK in Gurnee police records and reached out to the Illinois State Terrorism and Intelligence Center to see if they had any records. Neither the town nor the ISTC found any past or present evidence of the Klan in Gurnee.

      Although in 1987, the KKK scheduled a rally in Gurnee, no rally took place and, according to Kovarik, the village has no record of any permits being issued. However the Chicago Tribune reported in 1987 that a permit was issued on the advice of the village’s legal counsel.

      It was important to Kovarik to seek removal because “one, it was a misrepresentation in the first place since no KKK activity had taken place ever in the village, and two, no one on the [village board or town staff] and even our community would want anyone to ever think that Gurnee was a place that accepted hate.”

      Kovarik stated that the majority of residents believe that Gurnee is a accepting and inclusive place to live. She said, we have [had] unconditional support to pursue [their] removal from the list,”

      After seven months of seeking their removal, on Feb. 14 the SPLC send the village a letter to inform them that they will be removed from the list, this change has already occured online. “[The letter] mentioned that the village has demonstrated a strong commitment to discouraging hate and creating a community that values all individuals,” Kovarik shared.

      According to Kovarik the town was relieved to hear the news. She explained that labeling the town as a place of hate was untrue and the whole town is happy the mistake has been corrected.

      Attempts to get a comment from the SPLC were unsuccessful.