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Crime & Courts

Berwyn business owners receive threatening letter in response to Women's March photo

Vanessa Mendicino (from left), Louie Mendicino, Jason Arujo and Regina Mendicino attend the Women’s March in January in Chicago.
Vanessa Mendicino (from left), Louie Mendicino, Jason Arujo and Regina Mendicino attend the Women’s March in January in Chicago.

BERWYN – Berwyn police continue to investigate a threatening letter the owners of Berwyn’s Olive or Twist restaurant and Martin-Aire Heating and Cooling received Sept. 18.

The anonymous letter, which was sent via U.S. mail to Martin-Aire, accused the Mendicino family of participating in the “communist leaning" Black Lives Matter movement and referred to a Facebook photo of owner Martin Mendicino’s family at the Women’s March in January in Chicago. The letter concluded with a vague threat to the family’s businesses, saying its political involvement "could hinder [police] protection for your places of business."

Berwyn Police Division Cmdr. Frank Cimaglia said there have been no updates to the case, but he will continue to work to find out who sent the letter.

Louie Mendicino, Berwyn resident and son of Martin Mendicino, said his family has no idea who would have sent the letter, which had no return address. While he does not feel his family is in danger, he said he wants the community to know about the incident.

“We are not victims and don’t want to be treated like victims, but we want to bring this type of racism and bigotry to the forefront of the community and make them realize that it exists,” he said. “I don’t know where this stems from or when the problem began. But no matter how much we don’t want to believe it, this is in our neighborhood. We’re peaceful people, but a threat is a threat, and we’ll protect our family, businesses and neighborhood.”

Mendicino said he and his family believe in supporting movements that work for societal justice and equality, and he feels that as business owners, it’s important to show solidarity with them.

“What we did was a peaceful march,” he said about his family’s participation in the January march. “For my family, we’ll stand for movements that work for an equal and diverse society.”

Mendicino posted the letter and photo of his family in the January march on his Facebook page and said it has gained “significant traction” on social media. He said he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from community members who denounce the letter.

“The cowardly voice [of the letter writer] is exponentially quieter than the voice of the community at large. I believe there isn’t much room for racism and bigotry to come to the forefront,” he said. “People are not being quiet when some version of racism surfaces. Someone sent a threat to oppose a just society, and people said this isn’t OK.”

Mendicino said his family isn’t going to take any further steps in the case but will wait to see if police can find the letter’s writer. He said their businesses have not been affected because of the situation.

“There’s not much we can do. We’re chasing a ghost. So we’ll just sit back and see how this unfolds,” he said.

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