Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said Tuesday he has no regrets about a remark that prompted a notorious Chicago street gang to make threats against him so credible that police were posted at his home and office with a bodyguard following him to public places.
Over the past week, Lopez has angrily voiced his opposition to the gangs suspected of several high-profile shootings in his ward, including last week’s incident that left two officers wounded and two other incidents in which 11 people were shot — three fatally — on Sunday.
Hours after Sunday’s shooting in Brighton Park, the rookie alderman told reporters he was “thankful today that no innocent lives were lost” – a slap in the face of the Satan Disciples whose members were killed.
After Lopez made the remark, a threat attributed to the Satan Disciples prompted Chicago Police to provide him security.
Two people who identified themselves as relatives of the people shot dead on Sunday afternoon began shouting over Lopez as he spoke at the close of a rally, which drew more than 100 neighborhood residents Monday night.
“They’re not animals!” a woman yelled. “They were people. They mattered and you’re talking about them like s—!”
“That could’ve been my baby!” another woman yelled at her.
“That was my family! They mattered!” the first woman retorted before walking away from the rally.
On Tuesday, Lopez showed up at City Hall without police protection for a meeting of the City Council’s Zoning Committee while officers continued to guard his home and ward office.
Lopez was asked if he had any regrets about the remark he made that was taken as callous. The answer was an emphatic “no.”
“These individuals who were involved in both situations are documented gang members. And when you lead a lifestyle like this, those kinds of activities—those kinds of results do happen unfortunately,” he said.
“Nobody told those young individuals to become gang members, to create a gang memorial and to make themselves targets. We were trying to diffuse that situation. Police were very actively trying to prevent any kind of memorial because they knew what would happen and this was the outcome.”
Lopez stood his ground when told that merely showing up at a gang memorial does not make someone a gang member.
“One of your reporters took a picture of the actual candles and things of that nature. Everyone is [in] gang colors. The candles are even marked with gang writing. It’s a gang activity,” he said.
“When we’ve had individuals who have been shot walking down the street trying to get home, those are the innocent lives that are impacted. Children who are playing basketball and get shot in cross gang shootouts. Those are the innocent people. They didn’t sign up for the gang life. They didn’t sign up to become targets.”
Lopez is a former Southwest Airlines skycap who has maintained a high profile since his 2015 election, particularly on the never-ending gang violence plaguing Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and Englewood.
He stood toe-to-toe with Mayor Rahm Emanuel–provoking a profanity-laced mayoral tirade–in demanding that every penny of unclaimed property tax rebate money be used to fight crime, hire disadvantaged youth and provide street-level intervention to keep gang conflicts from escalating.
Emanuel subsequently won that confrontation after yanking $500,000 for tree planting.
On Tuesday, Lopez said he considers the threat against his life credible and expects to learn more about it when he meets with Chicago Police.
But he refused to back off or be muzzled.
“However my comment is taken, the point remains that we have people who are willing to kill indiscriminately to maintain this culture of gang violence and retaliatory warfare in our communities,” he said.
“Standing up against that is what brought this on. Not remaining silent is what brought this on,” he said.
“The threats that were received by police are real. It’s something we will have to contend with. But it pales in comparison to what my residents deal with on a daily basis. Their lives are threatened every day.”