Suspended Journalist Who Broke Chicago Dyke March Antisemitism Story ‘Penalized for Political Reasons’
Further details of the abuse heaped by pro-Palestinian activists on Gretchen Rachel Hammond – the award-winning journalist who broke the story of the group of Jewish women ejected from an LGBTQ march in Chicago last month – emerged on Tuesday, one day after The Algemeiner revealed that she had been reassigned from reporting duties on the Windy City Times, the paper where she has worked as a senior writer since 2013.
Miriam Churchill, a close friend of Hammond’s, told The Algemeiner that she believed the journalist was being “penalized for political reasons.”
“From everything I know, and from having been at the march myself, I think she was reassigned to a much lesser position first for doing her job, and then for standing by the women who were expelled from the Dyke March,” Churchill said in a telephone interview.
Hammond confirmed that she had been “transferred to working full time for the sales department” in an email to The Algemeiner on Monday. “The reasoning is an internal matter and I have been instructed not to comment about it even to close friends. Given my present situation, I must comply with this instruction,” she said.
Tracy Baim – the publisher and executive editor of the Windy City Times — reiterated on Tuesday during a phone call that she had “never said anything negative on the stories” that Hammond had filed regarding the Dyke March.
“I defended our stories,” she said by phone from Chicago.
Asked about whether the paper had provided Hammond with adequate support in the face of the harassment she received following the publication of her reports – mainly online, but also allegedly including one anonymous phone call in which Hammond was personally addressed with an ugly pejorative word for “Jew” – Baim said that she had asked “everyone” involved in the dispute to engage “constructively.” Baim said that she was unaware of the phone call in which Hammond was reportedly subjected to a tirade of abusive terms, including “racist,” “Zionist,” and “transhater,” as well as the antisemitic term.
Baim added that she was the source of the original story, saying that she had alerted Hammond by text message to the news that the Jewish women had been ejected from the march – a detail that was confirmed by Churchill.
“I went with Gretchen as she tried to get a quote from the organizers, but they were not very helpful,” Churchill recalled. The main source of information, Churchill said, came from the stage at the rally, where the first speaker announced that the march was “pro-Palestine” and “anti-Zionist.”
Churchill said that this declaration was followed by a request to the assembled gathering, again broadcast from the loudspeakers on the stage.
“They asked if there were any ‘anti-Zionist, white, Jewish people’ who could come to the stage and help with something,” she said. “I figured they were going to ask someone to go up and tell the Jewish women why they needed to leave, and be very aggressively anti-Zionist.”
Churchill said that she was deeply struck by what she witnessed. “The flag with the Star of David wasn’t an Israeli flag,” she said. “They were saying that us existing as Jews made them feel unsafe, which is saying that Jews don’t belong in the LGBT community.”
After leaving the march, Churchill stayed with Hammond while she wrote her first report for the Windy City Times. She confirmed that Hammond had tried to obtain an on-the-record statement from the Dyke March Collective. This had still not arrived by 11PM on June 24, when Hammond filed her report.
Despite her efforts to make contact with the march organizers, Hammond was later slammed for her reporting by Dyke March Collective activist Alexis Martinez, who accused the Windy City Times of having “failed in its journalistic mission.”
Churchill expressed regret that Hammond was no longer writing for the paper. “Gretchen was told that she was suspended from writing from the paper, and then a few days later they informed her that she would only be doing sales,” she said. “She was one of only two or three people who wrote front page articles.”
Churchill also voiced surprise that activists involved with the march targeted Hammond with antisemitic language. “The official statement of the Dyke March organizers is that it’s an intersectional movement,” she observed. “This doesn’t seem very intersectional to me.”