Story at a glance
- The president of a Chicago police union says kneeling with protesters goes against its protocols.
- The president, John Catanzara, was formerly a police officer.
The president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police said that any member officers who “take a knee” in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters could be charged and thrown out of the organization.
The recent protests against racism and police brutality were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was asphyxiated when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.
John Catanzara told local outlet WGN Radio that “any member of Lodge 7 who is going to take a knee and basically side with protesters while they’re in uniform will subject themselves to discipline in the lodge up to and including expulsion from Lodge 7.”
He also told Fox12, “if you kneel, you’ll be risking being brought up on charges and thrown out of the lodge.”
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Lodge 7 is the Chicago chapter of The Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, a nonprofit organization established in 1915.
Catanzara also noted that the Minneapolis officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck during the arrest, Derek Chauvin, used “an absolute improper police tactic.” An independent autopsy concluded that Floyd’s cause of death was asphyxiation.
Catanzara disagreed with claims that police departments are inherently and institutionally flawed and built on racist principles, and that police disproportionately target people of color and in particular black Americans.
“There’s no proof or evidence that race had anything to do with it. Some people are just violent by nature. Unfortunately, every now and then, some of those people end up wearing a badge,” Catanzara said.
He then went on to say that kneeling in solidarity will not be tolerated.
“I’ve made it very clear to the members of Lodge 7 that that has no place for our members,” Catanzara said. “That is contradicting to our constitution as a lodge and it definitely deflates anything remotely associated with fraternalism and as such, any member of Lodge 7 who is going to take a knee and basically side with protesters while they’re in uniform will subject themselves to discipline in the lodge up to and including expulsion from Lodge 7.”
He added that what member officers do on their time is a separate matter.
This interview earned backlash from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), who told reporters that “there will be a reckoning” for the Chicago Lodge 7 and concluded with, “And I think that moment is now and that’s what I’ll say about that.”
The Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown also pushed back on Catanzara’s comments.
“It’s just hard to take those kinds of comments serious as we deal with COVID environment, historically high violent crime and now misconduct as relation to civil unrest,” Brown said per NBC5 Chicago. “How does that bubble up to the most important thing to comment? It’s not. I’ll answer my own question. It’s not as important as what we’re dealing with and I won’t dignify it with an answer.”
NBC5 also reports that Catanzara reportedly committed several infractions while a Chicago police officer, including multiple complaints and two suspensions. He was elected as president of the union last month.
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