He’s going, but he’s not going anywhere. In fact, John Catanzara will be bigger, bolder, and quick-tempered than ever.
On Tuesday, the controversial President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 quit his job as a patrol officer while also declaring that he would challenge his enduring archenemy, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in 2023.
The Chicago Police Board was ready to consider sacking Catanzara on the recommendation of the Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, according to investigations by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Department.
The highly controversial, ever-biased union leader was elected by the 12,000-strong FOP in May 2020, despite having spent much of his 26-year police career under investigation.
He was charged with violating 11 police service rules related to 18 allegations, including abusive and controversial statements on social media, disobedience and hoax.
Catanzara has collected at least 35 complaints in his career, and previous police commissioners have tried twice to fire him, according to the Chicago Tribune.
This time he’s a climber, which makes the current counts disputed.
In response, Mayor Lightfoot got it straight to the point.
“No surprise that a man of hatred – as John Catanzara has proven time and again that he is – would flee responsibility,” she said in a statement.
The FOP bylaws allow retired police officers to serve as union officials. Catanzara remains popular with the masses.
A mayor’s run gives him a mega platform and huge megaphone to polish up and increase his power. He can position himself as the main spokesman for a growing anti-Lightfoot contingent.
Here’s a taste of the references you won’t see in Catanzara’s campaign literature:
On a social media post, in response to the shooting of a Wayne State University policeman, he wrote, “It is seriously time to kill these (expletives).”
In another social media post about Muslims, he commented, “Savages all deserve a bullet.”
In an interview with WBEZ, he stated that the January 6th Capitol uprising was a mere “inconvenience”. Despite “not attending” the event, he suggested that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Defending the rioters, he said, “If the worst crime here is trespassing, so be it. But to call these people traitors is more than ridiculous and ignorant. “
These comments sparked a riot, and he later apologized.
Catanzara will certainly be a non-traditional mayoral candidate. He is a political freshman with no experience managing a large government agency, let alone a city.
All the same. In these tense times, in a city in turmoil, Cantanzara is sure to appeal to voters in law enforcement and public safety, as well as other labor and union jobs.
He can build on the national media profile he earned through his pointless crusade against the city’s vaccination mandate.
Get ready, Chicago, for a slash and burn campaign. It will be “us” versus “them” and “let’s take our city back” from “these people”. Catanzara will rage against Lightfoot and Cook County Attorney Kim Foxx for pampering criminals and succumbing to “wakefulness”.
“This city is a shadow of its former self,” Catanzara told reporters last week. “It’s disgusting, and unless we do something sooner rather than later to change it, I don’t know if it can ever be restored.”
This kindred spirit of former President Donald J. Trump will fuel the flames of racism, bigotry and fear. Unfortunately, this is a campaign that could resonate in some neighborhoods of this divided and divisive city.
Laura Washington is a political analyst for ABC-7 Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @mediadervish
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