Businessman Willie Wilson Wednesday brushed aside concern that any negative effects of receiving the endorsement of the Chicago police union in his campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate could outweigh the good.
Wilson, who is African American, said it gave him no pause to receive an endorsement by a police union that also endorsed President Donald Trump and has been sharply criticized by the Black Lives Matter movement for perpetrating violence against people of color.
“I’m a citizen of Chicago and I’m also a citizen of the United States of America...if anybody can understand race, it’s me,” Wilson said during a news conference held outside police union headquarters in the West Loop.
Wilson pointed to his childhood spent in the South under Jim Crow segregation laws and said the experience made him want to unite people.
“I learned not to hate...I’m not a divider. I’m a person who tries to bring you together,” he said.
“These are the men and women that protect us and put their lives on the line. And if there’s any miscommunications, which there is, we must bridge those gaps and come together.”
Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police Union President John Catanzara praised Wilson for his support for the union, which has included donating masks to protect officers during the pandemic.
“Dr. Wilson made us two promises,” Catanzara said. “He believes in protecting our pensions and he said if there’s any defunding going on, he’d move out of Chicago — and we’re all going to move with him.”
Defunding the police has been a key issue for Black Lives Matter protesters.
Catanzara went on: “We hear the complaints, we understand them, we’re trying to change the dynamics and the perception of what this lodge is and he’s going to help us do that.”
Wilson, who’s running as a candidate after forming a new political party that bears his name, is running against Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Curran.