Allies of two female Chicago police officers facing union discipline for kneeling in support of protesters gathered Tuesday outside the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters in the West Loop.
Officer Carmella Means was photographed holding a Black Lives Matter sign when she knelt, with a raised fist, outside the union’s headquarters in partial uniform while off duty. Officer Abigail Antunez was on duty when she knelt during a protest outside Chicago’s police academy.
Both face internal union charges that include “a lack of promoting fraternalism” that stem from complaints lodged by fellow members, union President John Catanzara said.
The union will hold hearings in August that will lead to recommendations to board members on how to handle the matter.
Shawn Kennedy, a retired Chicago police sergeant and spokesman for the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, said the officers acted under the constitutional protections of the First Amendment.
“This seems to be a point of fact that has escaped President Catanzara,” Kennedy said Tuesday surrounded by about 20 people.
Kennedy said the FOP “appears to have neither the intent nor desire to properly, adequately and purposefully support the issues and concerns of the nearly 2,800 African American members of the Chicago Police Department who are currently paying members of the union.”
Kennedy called Catanzara’s previous statements on the matter “improper, insensitive as well as bordering on the intentional intimidation of those he was elected to serve.”
Catanzara told the Sun-Times any FOP member who takes a knee is siding with protesters in what amounts to “a slap in the face” to other officers and will face union discipline that could include expulsion.
Catanzara dismissed the demonstration Tuesday. “Not a single one of them took the opportunity to try to reach out and sit down and talk to me. It’s all a show. It’s all nonsense. It’s easy to point a finger,” Catanzara said.
A police department spokeswoman said Means and Antunez are on active duty and could not provide any additional details. The officers could not be reached for comment.
Melvin Hargrett, a retired Chicago police bomb technician, read a statement on behalf of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability.
The response from the police union “reflects the role we can expect many police unions to play nationally in opposition to calls for long-overdue changes relative to how Black communities are policed,” Hargrett said.
Rebecca Raines Cook, a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called for the process by which the police union negotiates its contract to be more transparent and inclusive of community input.