A supermajority of aldermen called on the head of the union representing Chicago’s rank-and-file police officers to resign after praising the rioters who stormed and invaded the U.S. Capitol building last week.
John Catanzara, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, told WBEZ he understood the frustration that led to the riot Wednesday, which left five dead including one Capitol police officer.
“There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property,” Catanzara told WBEZ in an interview Wednesday evening. “It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way.”
Catanzara apologized for his remarks on Friday, after the scope of the damage to the Capitol as well as the violence of some of those who entered the Capitol became apparent.
The resolution was signed by City Clerk Anna Valencia and 35 aldermen, including Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), a former Chicago police sergeant and the chair of the Public Safety Committee.
“The residents of Chicago deserve to have faith in their police force, and the sworn officers of Chicago deserve union representation by leadership who reflect their highest ideals and strictest fealty to the Constitution and the laws of the nation, state, and city,” according to the resolution.
Catanzara did not immediately respond to a request for comment from WTTW News.
The resolution, authored by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward), notes that the bylaws of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 bar membership to anyone who “is a member of, or subscribes to, or supports the principles of any organization having as its purpose the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or by violence.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot “strongly condemns President Catanzara’s comments sympathizing with the violent insurrection against the Capitol and the law enforcement officers keeping the peace,” according to a statement released Friday by the mayor’s office.
If Catanzara refuses to resign, the resolution calls on the FOP’s board to remove him and asks the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs to investigate his actions and “their discredit to the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department.”
Catanzara was rebuked by the National Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes for his remarks.
“There is no question that, in addition to the tragic loss of life, these criminals left a wide swath of damage in the building that is the heart of our democracy and threatened our elected officials, Congressional staff as well as our brother and sister officers,” Yoes said in a statement. ‘The National FOP rejects this gross mischaracterization and sees the incident for what it was — a violent mob of looters and vandals, visiting fear and destruction on one of our nation’s most sacred spaces, who should be held accountable for their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
More than 70 labor officials and religious leaders signed a separate open letter to the Chicago Police Board calling for Catanzara’s termination or resignation.
Catanzara already faces potential discipline, including a possible termination from the Chicago Police Department over social media posts he made on Facebook between 2016 and 2018, before he was elected as FOP president in May.
The CPD’s approximately 13,000 officers have been without a contract for nearly 1,300 days, amid fraught and tense negotiations that have frequently resulted in Catanzara and Lightfoot trading personal insults.
The two sides last met at the bargaining table on Dec. 18, according to officials with knowledge of the talks.
Lightfoot has insisted that any new contract include a number of changes to the way officers are investigated and held accountable for police misconduct.
Those changes include allowing officers to be investigated without a sworn affidavit, restrictions on secondary employment as well as changes to rules that allow officers to revise their statements to investigators after reviewing evidence, including video footage, according to officials with knowledge of the talks.
Catanzara has declared those changes unacceptable.
However, neither Catanzara’s comments nor his apology change the city’s legal obligation to negotiate a new labor agreement with him as the union’s head, according to the mayor’s office.
“Our officers deserve better,” according to the mayor’s office. “We will remain steadfast in our commitment to negotiating with the union for a new contract that puts our officers first while implementing critical reform measures.”