Chicago police officers delivered a powerful message to Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) late Saturday after she entered the hospital where two of their comrades were transported upon being shot in the line of duty.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, more than a dozen Chicago Police Department rank-and-file officers turned their backs on Lightfoot when she approached them around midnight Saturday as they waited on the seventh floor of the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Just hours earlier, two fellow officers were attacked during a traffic stop in Chicago's violent South Side neighborhood of West Englewood. One officer, Ella French, died of her injuries; the other officer was left fighting for his life.
The Sun-Times, relying on sources who witnessed the incident, relayed what took place on the hospital floor.
Just moments before more than a dozen officers turned their backs on the mayor, Lightfoot tried to talk to the male officer's father, who himself is a retired Chicago police officer. He clearly wanted nothing to do with Lightfoot, according to two sources who were there.The father excoriated the mayor and blamed her for what had happened. One source said Lightfoot handled herself well as the father yelled at her. She listened and treated him with respect.
It was then suggested that Lightfoot say a few words to nearby grieving officers, but as she approached, "they did the about-face — it looked like it had been choreographed," said one of the sources present, calling it "astounding."
John Catanzara, president of the Chicago police officers' union, explained the "about-face" demonstrated how officers feel about Lightfoot.
"Turning their backs on the mayor was an excellent example of how the hundreds of police officers felt waiting outside the hospital," Catanzara told the Sun-Times. "They have had enough and are no longer going to remain silent anymore."
How did Lightfoot respond?
Growing animosity toward Lightfoot among the Windy City's police force is related to her narrative about the city's violence, which has focused on guns as the source of the problem.
Lightfoot, in fact, pushed that same narrative in the wake of Saturday's tragedy.
"Some say we don't do enough for the police. Others say we do too much. All of this must stop. We have a common enemy: it's guns & the violence they bring," Lightfoot said Sunday.
In response to police officers turning their backs on the mayor, Lightfoot's office released a statement Monday afternoon that condemned "divisive and toxic rhetoric," while again emphasizing "illegal guns" as the core problem driving violence in Chicago.
The full statement, via WMAQ-TV, is provided below:
This is an extremely difficult and heartbreaking time for the Chicago Police Department, and for our entire city. The Mayor was present at the emergency room to offer support and condolences to the families involved and the hundreds of line officers and exempts who were there, which she did. In a time of tragedy, emotions run high and that is to be expected.
The Mayor spoke to a range of officers that tragic night and sensed the overwhelming sentiment was about concern for their fallen colleagues. As the Mayor stated yesterday, now is not the time for divisive and toxic rhetoric or reporting.
This is a time for us to come together as a city. We have a common enemy and it is the conditions that breed the violence and the manifestations of violence, namely illegal guns, and gangs. The Mayor is focused on healing the wounds and will reject any and all that try to use this moment to drive further divisions in our city.
The Mayor remains committed to continuing supports for our dedicated and heroic police officers who risk their lives every day to keep all our neighborhoods safe from senseless violence. As the Mayor stated yesterday morning, we must come together as a city and wrap our arms around all those who knew and loved Officer French and pray for the health and recovery of her partner who continues to fight for his life today.