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Chicago police union president won’t resign over defending mob that stormed U.S. Capitol

John Catanzara said his sympathetic remarks to WBEZ-FM were made after he had watched television coverage of the Capitol siege for only 30 minutes — before the damage, destruction and deaths had been revealed.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.
Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. Both the mob outside, and those rioters who fought past police and breached the Capitol, displayed banners and symbols of white supremacy and anti-government extremism.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said Thursday he will not be bullied into resigning — and the union’s board of directors will not demand that he step down — for sympathizing with and defending the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week.

In fact, Catanzara said he has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the 36 aldermen demanding his ouster on grounds they “showed their bias” and now can’t vote impartially on ratifying a new police contract.

A rare rebuke from the National FOP prompted Catanzara to acknowledge he showed a “lapse in judgement” and apologize for bringing “negative attention to our Lodge, the FOP family and law enforcement in general.”

But during a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday, he was more defiant than contrite.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 president John Catanzara.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara speaks to reporters outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in October 2020 after Shomari Legghette was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times file

Catanzara argued his sympathetic remarks to WBEZ-FM Radio were made after he had watched television coverage of the Capitol siege for only 30 minutes — before the damage, destruction and deaths were revealed. He said his only mistake was in taking the call.

“My comments were not tone deaf to the information I had at the time. … It’s easy Monday- morning quarterbacking the next day. ... It would be like watching the Bears game and saying, ‘They look great. They’re gonna destroy ’em.’ And then, they get killed. And you look like an idiot the next day because you didn’t watch the rest of the game,” Catanzara told the Sun-Times.

“I’m not ashamed. Do I have regret for ... answering that phone call? Sure. It would have been a much different statement if he had called an hour later. I can assure you that. And it would have been even a more different statement if it was three hours later. … What happened there was 100% wrong. And when I had more information, that was exactly what I said.”

Though an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, Catanzara nevertheless accused the president of inciting the riot.

He argued that Trump’s mistake was not only using incendiary language to urge his supporters to march to the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election, but also exhorting those supporters to gather en masse in Washington in the first place.

“In the nation’s capital probably wasn’t the place to have it. That just set the scene for a bad situation to begin with,” Catanzara said.

But the fiery FOP president also questioned why there is a singular focus on the “couple hundred lawbreakers and idiots” who stormed the Capitol and no attention being paid to the “thousands and thousands” of people who went to Washington to peacefully protest “because they believe something odd happened in that election.”

“When throngs of mobs all across this country were burning cities in this country all summer long, all we heard was, ‘Don’t pay attention to the violence. This was a peaceful protest.’ That’s all they ever said,” he said.

“Our city burned down two separate times. It was all about peaceful protests that [were] hijacked. … That isn’t the case here. Why? Because there’s an agenda. It’s a left-wing agenda who wants to shut down any opposition to anything they stand for no matter what. They are literally willing to let cities burn to get their way. And they’ve proven it time and time again.”

Asked if he believes the election was stolen, Catanzara said, “It certainly was not fair. … State legislatures control election rules. But yet, in a few states, it seems that individual politicians wanted to arbitrarily change how the election process was gonna happen in violation of their own state constitutions. … That’s the Republicans’ fault for not dealing with that prior to the election.”

FILE - Trump supporters use their cell phones to record events as they gather outside the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington as Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Many in the mob that ransacked the Capitol did so while livestreaming, posting on Facebook and taking selfies.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week she understands the “outrage” generated by Catanzara’s “tone-deaf” remarks about the “vigilantes and domestic terrorists” who stormed the Capitol.

“The fact that he waved that off as nothing says a lot about the character of him,” she said.

On Thursday, Catanzara accused Lightfoot of turning the media spotlight on his remarks to deflect from her own “lies” about what she knew and when she knew it about the botched raid on the home of Anjanette Young.

“Everybody instantly forgot about the mayor’s lies. ... It stopped instantly last week. Even Stevie Wonder could see that. She does it every single time … to deflect from her own failings and lies,” he said.

“It’s on to the next shiny object as quickly as possible. Sadly, that’s what your profession has turned into. And they take advantage of it every single time.”