The head of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union expressed sympathy in a radio interview that aired Thursday morning for a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol building the day before.
John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and a staunch Trump supporter, downplayed the unrest in Washington during an interview with WBEZ FM-91.5, contending “there’s no, obviously, violence in this crowd,” despite a woman being fatally shot by a police officer and reports of numerous cops injured.
Additionally, three other people died of medical emergencies during the unrest, when throngs of pro-Trump demonstrators attacked the Capitol in a chaotic scene that temporarily disrupted Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November election. Dozens were arrested.
“There was no arson. There was no burning of anything. There was no looting. There was very little destruction of property. It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way,” Catanzara said, according to WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell, who tweeted the comments a few hours after his interview with the FOP president.
The mob broke windows and vandalized parts of the building, sending legislators fleeing from their chambers and prompting a National Guard deployment to the area.
In the interview, Catanzara said it was “beyond ridiculous and ignorant” for some people to call the unrest at the Capitol treasonous and said the Trump supporters’ actions were “very different than what happened all across the country all summer long in Democratic-ran cities.”
“They pushed past security and made their way to the Senate chamber. Did they destroy anything when they were there? No,” Catanzara said in his earlier interview with Mitchell, according to Mitchell’s tweets. “If the worst crime (at the Capitol) is trespassing, so be it.”
Known for his fiery rhetoric against Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a noted Trump opponent, and heavy criticism of the Chicago Police Department’s leadership over the years, Catanzara received a congratulatory tweet from the president last spring when he won an election to lead the FOP.
Lightfoot took to social media Thursday to express her dismay at Catanzara’s comments to the radio station.
“This wasn’t ‘frustration.’ It was a violent insurrection. The comments by John Catanzara, Chicago FOP President, either demonstrate clear delusion or reckless disrespect for the rule of law—or both,” the mayor said.
Reached by the Tribune later Thursday, Catanzara sought to clarify some of his remarks about the incident, saying that he did not condone the behavior of those who broke into the Capitol building and that “there’s no excuse for what violence did occur or officers being attacked and injured.”
“You go to where the centrally located government is at to protest what you think is an unfair, biased election. … The location almost somewhat makes sense,” Catanzara said. “But again, storming it was excessive. You know, if they wanted to obviously occupy it like they did in Wall Street, so be it. But they took it too far.
“There’s a fine line … many of them crossed it,” he said of the Trump supporters at the Capitol. “Many of them did not cross it, though. I mean, it was not all (thousands of) people that were at that march that stormed the Capitol building. So let’s call it for what it was. It was a small section of idiots who obviously descended on the Capitol and decided that that was a great course of action.”
Catanzara stressed, though, that the unrest at the Capitol was less serious than what happened over the summer in other cities, where fires and looting erupted in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
“Squad cars, buildings, you name it. The repeated assaults on a federal court in Portland (Oregon), I mean, the list goes on and on and on,” Catanzara said.
Catanzara faces a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he should be fired as a Chicago police officer over allegations he made offensive comments on Facebook, including a post in which he’s accused of being disrespectful to Muslims.
Catanzara apparently also told the radio station he would not have participated in the Capitol attack but indicated the Trump supporters have a right to express their frustration.
“They clearly have been ignored and they’re still being ignored as if they’re lunatics and treasonous now, which is beyond stupid,” Catanzara told Mitchell. “Again, it’s a whole side of the argument and, primarily, your profession is at the root of it, basically championing Joe Biden the whole time.”
Still, Catanzara wrote on his Facebook page during the unrest Wednesday that Trump should finally acknowledge he lost to Biden.
“President Trump needs to have a national address ASAP to call for calm AND finally concede,” Catanzara wrote.
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