Mount Prospect to redesign vehicle sticker amid claims of white nationalist imagery
Facing public backlash over a new vehicle sticker that critics say features imagery co-opted by some white nationalist groups, Mount Prospect officials announced Wednesday night they will order a redesign.
Officials said the sticker, which went on sale Feb. 1, was intended as a tribute to local law enforcement. It features a police badge superimposed over an image of a village water tower and downtown streetscape. The badge includes police beat numbers, the state of Illinois with a star in Mount Prospect's location, and an American flag with alternating black and white stripes and one blue stripe.
That flag initially was created to represent police -- the Thin Blue Line -- and has been used by Blue Lives Matter organizations, a pro-law enforcement movement created in response to Black Lives Matter.
But it also has popped up in white nationalist imagery and events, including the violent August 2017 marches in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"The decision to produce a newly designed vehicle sticker addresses those concerns and acknowledges the fact that some residents stated they would feel uncomfortable placing the sticker on their vehicle," a statement issued by the village Wednesday night reads.
The redesigned sticker will celebrate the police department's community outreach and inclusion efforts, according to the village. The village will halt sticker sales until the new sticker is ready, officials said. Residents who already have the 2019-20 sticker will be mailed the newly designed version at no cost.
The first sticker drew immediate criticism via email over the weekend, and the complaints continued when the village board met Tuesday. Among the residents objecting was Joseph Plata, a former participant in Mount Prospect's Citizens Police Academy.
"This issue for me is not about not respecting police," he said. "The issue is nuance."
Plata noted that South suburban Orland Park pulled a similar vehicle sticker in 2017 because it stirred controversy.
"They have understood that to be a white nationalist flag," he said. "You are doing a disservice to Mount Prospect residents and yourselves."
Fellow resident Carole Martz called the sticker a "tone-deaf response" to what is happening in the country.
"I don't believe that allowing this sticker to go forward is the appropriate thing," Martz said. According to Mayor Arlene Juracek, Mount Prospect uses the sticker every year to honor some facet of the village; the 2018-19 sticker marked the anniversary of the library.
"It was the police department's turn," she said. "Nobody is objecting to honoring the police department. It is just the image that was chosen."
Before the decision to redesign the sticker, Juracek said the village shouldn't "cede control to those who misappropriate and distort legitimate symbols."
"It has obviously taken on a much deeper meaning," she said. "But the more we lend legitimacy to that meaning, I think it lends undeserved credibility to the efforts of those who have taken it to themselves for their own message."
Kelleigh Lamb, media director for flag-maker Thin Blue Line Inc., said the flag design was created solely to honor and raise money to support police and is not intended as political imagery.
"Our mission is to promote the law enforcement community," she said. "It's just to promote positive awareness."