To understand what happened in the nation’s capital this week, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx suggests people look to a rally held outside her office nearly two years ago.
The two events — the siege of the U.S. Capitol and a demonstration in downtown Chicago — were sparked by vastly different issues, one the outcome of a presidential election, the other the county prosecutor’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.
But they shared a crucial common denominator: Both were heavily attended by members of organizations dubbed hate groups.
“I couldn’t for the life of me understand why white nationalist groups would feel comfortable in the company of those who were protesting the decision by my office,” Foxx says in a video she released on Thursday. “But I saw firsthand here — in Cook County, in Chicago — what was possible when those who believe that their institutions are occupied by those who they don’t think belong rise up and stand together. This is America.”
Foxx said “as appalling as it was” to see a mob storm the U.S. Capitol, “it wasn’t surprising” since members of the same groups who rioted in Washington, D.C., also organized outside of her office in April 2019.
Supporters of President Donald Trump scaled the west wall of the Capitol on Wednesday when senators and U.S. House members were meeting to certify November’s election results.
The second-term prosecutor said she was shocked by some of the images from the break-in in the nation’s capital, such as one of a man carrying a Confederate flag, but she didn’t feel the same shock many felt while watching the news.
“I would say that it is almost a privilege to be shocked by what we saw yesterday — shocked that in the United States there are those who cling to white supremacy so strongly, and so fervently that they would engage in the exercise that they did,” Foxx says at one point in the video, which runs a little over seven minutes long.
In 2019, members of the Proud Boys, the American Guard and the American Identity Movement joined a protest outside of her office that was organized by the city’s Fraternal Order of Police after Foxx’s office dropped charges against Smollett, a former actor in “Empire.”
Experts said at the time that was part of a plan by the groups to recruit new members.
Current FOP President John Catanzara, a frequent foe of Foxx’s, also attended that 2019 rally and has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the union president discussed the Capitol siege on WBEZ, arguing “there was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property.
“It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way,” Catanzara told WBEZ, adding that Wednesday’s mob action was “very different than what happened all across this country all summer long in Democratic-ran cities and nobody had a problem with that.”
Foxx says the man who spoke on WBEZ “in defense of what happened in our nation’s capital” is “the same John Catanzara who stood in front of my office two years ago with the Proud Boys and QAnon.”
Catanzara did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Proud Boys has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, though Proud Boys leaders deny that. The Anti-Defamation League has called the group “overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic,” noting that some members are “anti-Semitic and racist.”
The American Identity Movement, known as AIM, is considered by some experts to be a rebranded version of Identity Evropa, which the Southern Poverty Law Center dubs a white nationalist group, and the Anti-Defamation League considers white supremacist. Leaders at the time denied that and have distanced themselves from Identity Evropa.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has also designated the American Guard as a hate group, while the Anti-Defamation League calls the group “hard-core white supremacists.”
In her video, Foxx says the nation will “over the course of the next several days, weeks, months, ask ourselves what happened yesterday.
“How was it that so many people were allowed to infiltrate our institutions, for the purposes of a coup, to protect a man who has been unapologetic, unashamed and unabashed in his white supremacy and nationalism?” Foxx asks.
“We will ask ourselves, as we should, ‘what is it about yesterday that was markedly different … when we address the issues of civil unrest related to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd,’ we will ask ourselves and I hope, have an honest conversation about what happens when those in leadership turn a blind eye to what is clearly hateful rhetoric matched by an agenda.”