Saturday, August 15, 2020

Hundreds Salute First Responders

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Several hundred men, women and children (and even a handful of cheerful-looking dogs) marched through the west end of Garfield Ridge late Saturday morning as part of an effort to show public support for police, firefighters and all first responders.

“Thank you for your service! We love you!” a woman pushing a baby stroller shouted to a uniformed policeman helping ensure safety and order at the event. He smiled back and gave a small “Aw, shucks” wave.

The Aug. 15 event started near the firehouse at 56th and Narragansett and headed west down a sidestreet before turning north to Archer and Sayre, where it headed east on Archer and ended at Nashville.

The march was staged without a city permit by several pro-law enforcement advocates who said they were tired of seeing police abused by rioters and looters across the city. 

The event was peaceful and without incident.

“If [Black Lives Matter members] can march on the Dan Ryan without a permit, we can do the same on Archer,” said Clearing resident Stan Marek, referring to a protest march held the same day on the South Side. [Mayor] Lori [Lightfoot] can’t stop us.”

The police escorting the event had reactions ranging from stoic to cheerful.

One blue-shirted officer who asked not to be named shook his head, laughed and said, “We’re used to getting abuse thrown at us—frozen bottles of water, paint, spit, bags of urine, rocks, bricks, exploding M-80s, you name it. Today, the only things thrown at us were smiles, waves, shouted thank-yous and even a kiss or two.”

The only criticism heard were from several masked marchers heard complaining that most other participants either did not appear to have facemasks at all, or did but were letting them dangle around their necks.

No elected officials took part in the event, although two Republican candidates for public office did.

By far, the highest profile participant in the event was new Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara, who thanked marchers for their support but urged them to put slogans into action.

“I was born at 51st and Aberdeen,” he said in remarks delivered at the start of the event. “I left there when I was 5 years old. So I’ve been in this neighborhood for 47 years. I’d hate to see this neighborhood turn into what 51st and Aberdeen did—and we’re going to be forced out of here to go somewhere else.”

The firebrand union leader told the crowd that “it’s marches like this that make a difference. ‘Back the Blue’—what does it mean? It means that you believe in a civilized society and law and order. It’s really that simple…and this mayor and this governor and several of these aldermen, including the people who didn’t want to give a permit for this rally need to be put on notice that we’re not the silent majority any longer. We’re going to speak up louder than ever before and more consistently than ever before.”

His speech took even more of a political turn as he alluded to the importance of the 2023 municipal elections.

A strident critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Catanzara urged everyone to get politically active now and support “law and order” candidates in this November’s general election.

His specific mention of working to defeat Foxx drew strong applause and cheers from the audience. 

“We need boots on the ground, ringing doorbells, knocking on doors, putting signs up all across the city,” Catanzara added. “You can come here and you can say, ‘I back the police.’ That’s great, but…we will be looking for volunteers to help assist in these political action campaigns. We need volunteers to come to our rallies.

“We need citizens who are sick and tired of police being treated like the bottom of the barrel and being treated like sh~t. We have the hardest job in this country right now, hands down. We’re getting stuff thrown at us…a condition of employment right now is basically to be the victim of an aggravated battery. That’s the mindset of Kim Foxx and the mayor. That’s needs to stop.”

(Editor's note: Many thanks to several Southwest Chicago Post readers, including Randie Purtell, for sharing additional photos that helped offer a more complete view of the event.)

Congratulations to everyone who made the event a success!

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