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Rahm Emanuel balks at Jeff Sessions’ request to attend Gold Star event

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions | File photos

After wrangling with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office over whether he’d attend, U.S. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions stopped by a Chicago police memorial ceremony Wednesday night to speak to relatives of officers killed in the line of duty.

The political nemeses sat just a few seats apart from each other for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s 15th annual candlelight vigil at Soldier Field honoring the 582 officers slain in the city’s history.

As first reported by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, Sessions unexpectedly asked to attend the vigil and reception to talk to Gold Star family members.

Video by Maria de la Guardia

“The issue is not protests,” said mayoral spokesman Adam Collins. “It’s about what this attorney general stands for when it comes to public safety [and] … our values as a welcoming city. He’s trying to come here and show up in Chicago after he has taken money from the Chicago Police Department and federal public safety dollars.”

Representatives for Sessions — who stopped by U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office to discuss violent crime earlier in the day — didn’t formally announce he would attend until about two hours before the event.

He and Emanuel entered at the Soldier Field club level from separate entrances, but exchanged a handshake and quick pleasantries before the attorney general addressed the crowd of several hundred officers and their families for about five minutes.

Sessions didn’t touch on his public spat with Emanuel or the city’s pending lawsuit seeking to bar him from withholding federal grants if the city doesn’t cooperate with immigration authorities.

Instead, he lamented that “it seems we’ve forgotten some of the proven principles of law enforcement” and cautioned against following “the protestations of anti-police radicals and those who have never walked a beat.

“If you want crime to go up, listen to the radicals. If you want crime to go down, we need to listen to the professionals — the police,” said Sessions, who didn’t stick around for Emanuel’s speech.

“This ceremony is a way of all of us reminding you that you are in Chicago’s family,” Emanuel said, noting it was the first such ceremony since Cmdr. Paul Bauer was slain in February.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet

Gold Star Families Memorial and Park, near Soldier Field. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Gold Star Families Memorial and Park, near Soldier Field. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times