After a weekend of sideline demonstrations that roiled football fans and a divided nation, the Chicago Police Department is investigating a photo of what appears to be two uniformed officers who were photographed “taking a knee” in the lobby of a South Side precinct.
The two African-American officers are seen kneeling beside a woman whose head is bowed. While the woman’s face is not clearly visible, the photo was posted Sunday on the Instagram account of Englewood community activist Aleta Clark, who is best known for selling T-shirts with the slogan “Hugs No Slugs.” Clark, who posted several photos of herself striking a kneeling pose at several locations with children and neighborhood residents, did not immediately return messages for comment Monday.
The pose became controversial last fall, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose last season to kneel during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality. Several other players have chosen to make similar, silent protests during the anthem this year, prompting an outraged series of tweets from President Donald Trump over the weekend that seemed to galvanize players.
The photo shows the woman kneeling between the two officers, all three with their fists raised, beside the caption: “That Moment when you walk into the police station and ask the Men of Color are they Against Police Brutality and Racism & they say Yes… then you ask them if they support Colin Kapernick [sic] … and they also say yes… then you ask them to Kneel!”
The photo, which had more than 1,700 hearts by Monday afternoon, was one of a series of photos posted on the account showing Chicago residents taking a knee in support of Kaepernick and his protest.
CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Monday the department was aware of the photo.
“We are aware of the photo, and we will address it in the same way we have handled previous incidents in which officers have made political statements while in uniform, with a reprimand and a reminder of department policies,” Guglielimi said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kaepernick went unsigned by any NFL team this off season, but his protest has only become more polarizing, as other players have chosen to strike the pose or have opted to remain on the bench during the anthem.
Chicago Bears players locked arms in a show of team solidarity for the anthem Sunday at Soldier Field, while the visiting Steelers players opted to remain in the locker room until kickoff.
On a video posted to her Instagram account, Clark indicates she asked officers to join her in kneeling to show support for Kaepernick and opposition to police brutality.
In a video posted on her Instagram account, Clark complains that “European” officers refused to join her in kneeling.
“Not surprisingly, not one would kneel,” she said.
The department’s code of conduct bars uniformed officers from participating in any “partisan political campaign,” a rule that supervisors reminded all rank-and-file officers about following a January incident in which a Twitter user posted a picture of a CPD vehicle parked near an Inauguration Day protest with a red “Make America Great Again” hat on the dashboard.
Guglielmi said officers involved in both the hat incident and the Sunday photo received reprimands and were counseled on department policy. On Monday afternoon, one of the officers who was pictured was on duty at the 6th District desk, though he declined to comment and referred a reporter to police News Affairs.
Commenters on the “Second City Cop” blog were almost uniformly appalled by the photo, with several referencing the up the Make America Great hat incident and department rules. One commenter said CPD should “Fire the Sons of Bitches,” possibly a paraphrase of a recent Trump speech in which the president suggested NFL owners should fire any player who participates in an anthem protest and “get that son of a bitch off the field.”