Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday defended the heavy police presence outside her Logan Square home, at a time when police officers are stretched to the limit, citing “specific threats” made “every single day” to “my person, my wife and my home.”
“Given the threats that I have personally received. Given the threats to my home and my family, I’m gonna do everything to make sure that they are protected. I make no apologies whatsoever for that,” the mayor said.
“I’ve talked to my fellow mayors across the country and, seeing the kind of things that have been done to them and their family members, I’m not gonna have that happen. That’s not what my wife and my child signed up for. It’s not what my neighbors signed up for. We have a right in our home to live in peace.”
The Chicago Tribune reported this week that, for the first time in recent memory, Chicago police are enforcing an ordinance prohibiting neighborhood demonstrations, even peaceful ones.
The mandate has empowered officers guarding the mayor’s house to keep demonstrators off the mayor’s block and arrest anyone who refuses to disperse.
After the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in November 2015, protesters routinely gathered outside then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood home, claiming Emanuel had concealed the video until he was safely re-elected.
There was no attempt then to enforce the city ordinance.
But Lightfoot said the death of George Floyd, the pandemic and the resulting economic hardship have created a unique set of circumstances demanding a show of force.
“Comparing this to some other time doesn’t make any sense because there is no other time like this one that we’re in,” she said.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown backstopped the mayor during a news conference at the Ogden Police District called to announce an expansion of a promising community policing initiative.
“Very violent people” have hijacked “very peaceful First Amendment protests” across the city, he said.
“They’re embedded. They put up umbrellas and they come for a fight, so we have to prepare for what we’ve seen,” Brown said.
“These people embedded in these protests have shown us they’re violent. They’re violent in our downtown. They’re violent in our neighborhoods. And they’re violent at the mayor’s house. We’re sworn to protect people from violence and we’re gonna do our job.”
Brown said “protesting in neighborhoods is not legal,” but he’s directed officers to “err on the side of First Amendment Rights” and “give a little bit of wiggle room” to protesters.
“We compromise, except for the embedded violence that we’ve seen,” he said. “That’s a reality today. It’s unprecedented that you would embed violent offenders in a peaceful protest, but that’s what’s happened.”
Lightfoot wouldn’t elaborate on the threats. “Suffice it to say that, every single day, there is something that pops up. There are specific threats to my person, to my wife and to our home.”
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said, at times, there have been 140 officers assigned to that home.
“Maybe she should move into a high-rise downtown where you can put like 20 officers at the front of the building if need be,” Catanzara said.
“I get the family safety. But you picked this job. That’s what you knew was part of the program when you signed up. What about all of the officers who are getting projectiles thrown at ’em, fireworks shot at ’em? It’s the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality.”
Photos circulating online show dozens of officers guarding her home and her block with barricades in fortress-like fashion.
Lightfoot denied “hundreds” of officers are assigned every day. But when there is “specific intelligence” about a threat, “sufficient resources” are assigned, both to protect the mayor’s home and family and “make sure officers return home safely,” she said.
Like other mayors, Lightfoot’s house has been a magnet for protesters. But she appears more preoccupied with her security issues than most. She chose retired U.S. Marshal Jim Smith to head a bodyguard detail that, for every other mayor, had been run by Chicago police officers — and she gave him leadership control over all of officers guarding City Hall office and her home.
She reassigned the head of the City Hall police detail after protesters demanding affordable housing protections around the planned Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park were allowed to make their way up to the mayor’s office on the fifth floor of City Hall.
And even before the pandemic closed City Hall to the public, she posted officers in the lobby to screen people before they get on the elevators.
Police sources in the Shakespeare district say it has frequently been undermanned because so many officers from the district have been assigned to Lightfoot’s home. Officers from other districts have been brought in to cover for those manpower shortages in the Shakespeare district, sources say.