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Police union boss slammed for comparing vaccine mandate to Holocaust

After FOP president John Catanzara compared the vaccine mandate for city employees to Nazi Germany, the mayor, Jewish groups and even a Chicago cop called his comments offensive.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times (file photo)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, local Jewish groups and a Chicago police officer slammed the head of the city’s largest police union after he made comments comparing the mayor’s vaccine mandate for city employees to the Holocaust.

With Lightfoot this week announcing that all city employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 15, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara told the Sun-Times Wednesday that the mayor had “lit a bomb underneath the membership” and began comparing the order to actions by Nazi Germany.

“We’re in America, G-ddamn it. We don’t want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain’t Nazi f---ing Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the f---ing showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the f--k?” he said.

In an interview on MSNBC Thursday morning, Lightfoot called Catanzara’s comments “an unfortunate and frankly offensive outburst” when asked about her decision to implement the mandate.

She added: “There’s no kind words for him. In all seriousness, I think the guy really needs some serious psychotherapy. And this is just another example of the kind of hatred and stupidity that he spews on a regular basis. But thankfully, I do not believe that he is representative of the vast majority of police officers.”

The analogy also drew condemnation from local Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“What he said is factually incorrect and deeply offensive to the millions of people and their families of people who were killed at the hands of the Nazis. Not only that, but it’s the latest in the FOP president’s incendiary, offensive, disgusting, racist, xenophobic comments that he’s made,” David Goldenberg, regional director of ADL’s Midwest office, told the Sun-Times. “He needs to apologize and he needs to end the continued use of such offensive and indefensible language.”

Another statement by Sarah van Loon, the director of the Chicago AJC, called Catanzara’s “offensive and categorically false comparison ... an insult to every Holocaust survivor and to the memory of the millions of lives lost during one of the darkest periods in human history.”

Criticism of Catanzara, who became FOP president last year by earning 55% of the votes in a runoff election, also came from inside the police department. Julius Givens, a Chicago cop who runs a Medium blog, denounced the comparison, which he described in a post published Thursday as “grossly inappropriate and offensive  —  not just to those who practice, love, and respect Judaism but to the whole of humanity.

“Those days of brutality and hate aren’t in some distant past and we must protect at all costs that those sentiments never rise again in mass as they did before,” Givens wrote.

Catanzara did not respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment on the demands that he apologize.

Contributing: Fran Spielman