City Council Votes 16-29 to Reject Effort to Punish Sigcho-Lopez for Speaking at Protest Where American Flag Was Burned

The Chicago City Council voted 16-29 Monday to reject an effort to punish Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez for speaking at a protest in front of City Hall where an American flag was burned. 

Sigcho-Lopez will remain as chair of the City Council’s Housing and Real Estate Committee, a position he has held since Mayor Brandon Johnson took office and elevated Sigcho-Lopez along with several of the most progressive City Council members. 

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Sigcho-Lopez passionately defended his conduct during a fractious meeting after being called a “traitor” by several members of the public. 

“This is an opportunity for the City Council to start doing the work of the people ... or to continue to pander to the forces of division,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “My colleagues need a lesson in First Amendment rights. Stop the political posturing. Stop the political division.” 

Sigcho-Lopez said he did not know Zachary Kam, a veteran, burned a flag at the protest. Sigcho-Lopez called for an end to the war Gaza and denounced President Joe Biden for supporting Israel. The Democratic National Convention, set for Aug. 19 through Aug. 22, should not take place in Chicago, Sigcho-Lopez said. 

Kam was present during the City Council meeting, but not allowed to speak. When he demanded to be allowed to address the City Council, he was forcibly removed from the meeting. As he was removed, a group of protesters held up paper with American flags printed on them and ripped them up. They were also removed. 

The effort to sanction Sigcho-Lopez was launched by Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), a veteran, who acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a First Amendment right to burn a flag. 

But Taliaferro said Sigcho-Lopez should not have joined a protest with a group that urged an end to the “American empire.” 

The group that staged the protest called Biden “Genocide Joe” and urged members to prepare for protests around the convention and volunteer to take “police beatings and arrests.” 

“That's what I found reprehensible,” Taliaferro said. 

Ald. David Moore (17th Ward) said he was confused by the shifting rationale for punishing Sigcho-Lopez. No other committee chair has ever been removed by a City Council vote. 

The imbroglio began when Stuart Loren posted separate side-by-side pictures of the protest on his account on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, on March 23. The first picture shows Kam burning the flag, while the other showed Sigcho-Lopez speaking behind its charred remnants. 

The post by Loren, the managing director of Fort Sheridan Advisors, a Highland Park-based asset management firm, was immediately amplified by several conservative members of the City Council, including Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and the Illinois Policy Institute, who often use their social media accounts to amplify attacks on Johnson and his allies. 

Loren’s initial post called Sigcho-Lopez “a disgrace to our city” and called for him to be censured and removed from his position in Johnson’s leadership team, a call that culminated in Monday’s meeting.

Loren declined to comment to WTTW News about his role in the controversy but urged a WTTW News reporter to report on efforts to disrupt the convention. 

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward), the head of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, pleaded with her colleagues to think twice before taking to social media to criticize one another. 

“Please think before you tweet,” Hadden said. “Please think before you call someone anti-American. Please think before you call names.” 

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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