Berwyn activists demand steps to prevent voter intimidation

BERWYN - In the wake of Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero’s apology March 23 for alleged voter intimidation by supporters of the Democratic Citizens of Berwyn, Berwyn’s grassroots activist group the Rizoma Collective has issued an open letter asking the city to enact measures banning voter intimidation, as well as a plan to keep it from happening in the future.

Rizoma also is blasting the DCOB, which is led by Lovero, for failing to abide by COVID-19 protocols after a video of the DCOB’s Feb. 23 election night party surfaced showing large crowds and few masks at a tented gathering.

Rizoma’s demands follow allegations of voter intimidation made at the past three Berwyn City Council meetings.

Lovero initially dismissed the reports as untrue. On March 23, he switched course and publicly apologized on behalf of himself and the City Council for incidents described by Luz Chavez, Ruanda Mejia, Andrea Munday and Benjamin Henning.

Henning, who is Black, described being profiled while volunteering during the Feb. 23 primary election at Morton West High School, where security officers followed him into a bathroom and then escorted him out.

Mejia and Chavez recalled a dozen men pouring out of three SUVs and surrounding and shouting at volunteers handing out palm cards at Havlicek Elementary School on Feb. 23. Among the men was Midlothian village president candidate Jose Roberto Maldonado, who both Chavez and Mejia said displayed a gun and wore gloves marked “police,” and refused to put on a mask when asked.

Maldonado finished last April 6 in a three-way race for Midlothian village president, according to unofficial results.

After Lovero and 1st Ward Alderman Scott Lennon were photographed with Maldonado at the DCOB’s invite-only Feb. 23 election night party, Lovero took to social media to state he didn’t know Maldonado.

Rizoma stated that although the Berwyn Police Department was called to Havlicek Elementary School, the group has not been able to get a copy of the police report despite filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

Rizoma is asking the following of Lovero:

  • Identify and hold all the men accountable who harassed residents during the Feb. 23 election.
  • Pass legislation banning election intimidation and release a plan for how the city will prevent such incidents from recurring.
  • Demand Berwyn police explain why it provided no police report on the incident when requested through a Freedom of Information Act.
  • Require government social media pages, including the city of Berwyn, mayoral and aldermanic pages, to post voters’ rights and hotlines to report election intimidation.