AURORA, IL — A person drove their pickup truck into a shed at Aurora’s El Jardin garden Aug. 19 in an apparent attempt to diminish its bright support of the area’s LGBTQ+ community.
Though they succeeded in destroying a rainbow-painted shed, an organizer of the community garden said they’ve only reinvigorated the effort to promote inclusivity and diversity.
Ellie Esparza, who helped revitalize the garden near North Union and Claim streets, said she painted the shed with the colors of the rainbow “in resistance to the hate and rejection” that many LGBTQ+ residents have experienced in Aurora’s 2nd Ward.
Esparza also painted the garden’s fence with the colors of the rainbow. The fence was damaged a week before the shed was destroyed, though Esparza thought it had been damaged by a car crash.
But when the shed was destroyed last week, it seemed clear someone was trying to intimidate LGBTQ+ residents, Esparza said.
The fence and shed told LGBTQ+ residents in the neighborhood that there is a community of support despite the harsh treatment many have faced, Esparza said, recalling how a transgender woman was moved to tears after seeing the fence.
The woman had been rejected, fired from her job and experienced hatred in the neighborhood due to her identity, but the fence showed her “people here do care about you,” Esparza said.
Esparza believes the same reasons the shed served as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ residents made it a target for whoever damaged it last week.
An Aurora police spokesperson told the Aurora Beacon-News that the incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime. Police described the truck as a dark Dodge Ram, the Beacon-News reports. Esparza said the truck had a metallic tool rig and an “uncommon” strip of lights across the back.
A surveillance camera recorded the truck driving into the El Jardin shed twice on the night of Aug. 19. Despite her best efforts, Esparza said she has been unable to find additional footage of the truck from any residents in the area.
The driver also destroyed a sign near the garden that read “From the Concrete Grew A Rose,” a twist on rapper Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” poem. The sign and poem defined the philosophy held by those who care for the garden.
“We want to give the message that just because you aren’t getting the resources you need to survive, you can still provide for yourself and do for yourself what you wish to see with some hard work,” Esparza said.
Esparza, who owns Concrete Rose Studios in Aurora, said the attack on the shed was the first time many of the children who volunteer at the garden “witnessed something that was doing good for them get destroyed for no reason.”
“Restoring that hope for them would be really rewarding,” Esparza said.
El Jardin gardeners have created a registry on Menard’s website that allows people to donate and buy supplies to rebuild the shed and fence. The damaged sign will be replaced with one that bears the garden’s new mission statement: "Hate will not win."