Pfleger: Parking tickets near church might be cop with bone to pick

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Several parking tickets that appeared on cars outside St. Sabina Catholic Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood over the weekend have the Rev. Mike Pfleger wondering if a police officer who might have a personal problem with him is taking it out on parishioners.

“Not in 40 years have I seen tickets like this,” Pfleger said Monday morning over the phone. “At some point today I’m going to go over there to the Sixth District (police station) and try to talk to this officer. I want him to tell me what was the agenda here, it’s not something that I can just let slide by. It’s too suspicious to me.”

Pfleger suspects the tickets — totaling at least seven — might be a proxy retaliation for two events he said have irked cops lately.

One would be the flying of a Chi-Raq flag above the American flag outside his church. The incident, Pfleger admitted, was an unwitting accident carried out by a janitor who, at Pfleger’s behest, lowered the U.S. flag to half-staff to remember those slain in Chicago in January. The move errantly left the Chi-Raq flag, also meant to mark violence, flying high above it.

The second is the participation of Pfleger — an outspoken critic of police misconduct — in a panel discussion about street violence at the end of the month at St. Barnabus. The church is located in the Beverly neighborhood, in a part of the city where many police officers live.

Rev. MIchael Pfleger has been a critic of Chicago police. | File photo

Rev. MIchael Pfleger has been a critic of Chicago police. | File photo

Pfleger said he’s heard from parishioners that at least four tickets were issued Saturday and three on Sunday during services at the church. Pfleger said he’s never before encountered such an issue during his 40 years at the parish.

He wrote a Facebook post describing the incident on Sunday afternoon. It immediately touched a collective nerve. The post garnered 518 comments by Monday morning that ranged from supportive to noxious. The post also collected more than 4,600 “likes.”

Pfleger said he called the commander of the Chicago Police Department’s Sixth District at home Sunday to express concern.

“He was very surprised by it also, and said he’d look into it and get back to me today,” Pfleger said Monday morning.

Pfleger is collecting the citations and plans to fight them. So far he has two in hand, each for parking within 30 feet of a stop sign on Throop Street outside the church. He noted there is no yellow paint on the curb or sign alerting parkers to this restriction, and was surprised by very nature of the citation. “I’ve never even heard of it,” he said.

Pfleger said the same officer was behind the tickets, as evidenced, he said, by the matching star number of the police officer who issued the citations. None of the violation boxes were marked on the ticket, but the officer wrote that the cars were parked within 30 feet of a stop sign, Pfleger said.

A neighbor told Pfleger the officer was not in uniform and drove an unmarked SUV.

“One day, OK, you know maybe the officer is behind on giving tickets. But two days in a row, the same officer?” said Pfleger.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Monday morning that records show two tickets were issued Sunday outside the church. One was for parking on a crosswalk and the other was for parking in a tow zone. Records for tickets issued on Saturday weren’t immediately available.

“Generally on Sundays, officers try to use discretion on all churches given that there are limited parking spaces and large numbers but blocking crosswalks and tow away zones create traffic and pedestrian issues,” said Guglielmi.

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