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Aldermen Want Chicago FOP President John Catanzara To Step Down After Downplaying U.S. Capitol Riot

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Dozens of Chicago aldermen are demanding the resignation of Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, after he downplayed last week's assault on the U.S. Capitol, falsely claiming there was no violence from those who stormed the building.

Chicago FOP President John Catanzara apologized on Friday for what he called "a lapse in judgment," after he defended the rioters Wednesday evening in an interview with WBEZ public radio.

Catanzara on Wednesday said he understood the motives behind the storming of the Capitol, which has led to at least five deaths, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died a day after Catanzara falsely claimed "There's no, obviously, violence in this crowd."

A mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers were meeting to confirm the results of President-elect Joe Biden's victory, eventually reaching the House and Senate floors. One of the rioters was shot and killed by Capitol police, and three other rioters died as a result of medical emergencies, police said. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died Thursday as a result of injuries he suffered during the riot.

Another Capitol Police officer, Howard Liebgood, died off-duty days after responding to the attack on the building. It was unclear if his death was related to the riot.

In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol assault on Wednesday, Catanzara told WBEZ he believed the incident had been exaggerated.

"There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property," Catanzara told WBEZ. "It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way."

On Friday, he apologized in a statement to FOP members.

"I was in no way condoning the violence in DC yesterday. My statements were poorly worded. I certainly would never justify any attacks on citizens, democracy or law enforcement. After seeing more video and the full aftermath, my comments would have been different," he wrote in a Facebook post.

On Monday, 35 aldermen and City Clerk Anna Valencia backed a proposed City Council resolution calling on Catanzara to step down as Chicago FOP president and to resign his membership in the union representing rank-and-file Chicago police officers.

"I introduced this ordinance because the people of Chicago need to know that those who serve their community do not share the same perspective as Mr. Cataranza, and the 36 city elected officials that have signed on reflect that. This moment also presents an opportunity for the Fraternal Order of Police to do the same and to show the city that it's members' job is justice, not lawlessness," Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) said in a statement.

The proposed resolution is expected to be introduced at the next City Council meeting on Jan. 27. It's not clear if the sponsors will call for an immediate vote, or wait for a hearing at a later date.

If Catanzara does not step down voluntarily, the proposed resolution calls on the Chicago FOP's board of directors to demand his resignation. If that doesn't happen, aldermen want CPD's Internal Affairs Bureau "to investigate John Catanzara's actions and their discredit to the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department."

Catanzara declined to comment on the aldermen's call for his resignation.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had condemned Catanzara's comments in a Twitter post on Friday, said Monday morning said Catanzara "has said and done too many things, too many things over a long period of time, which clearly underscore the fact that he doesn't believe in the rule of law, that he doesn't respect the U.S. Constitution, that he doesn't respect the Illinois Constitution."

Lightfoot said she still feels "despair and fear" watching video of the Capitol attack.

"I personally felt deeply affected by seeing those vigilantes and domestic terrorists laying siege to our nation's Capitol," she said. "The current president, in what I think is a criminal act, incited insurrection against a core part of our democracy, and attacked the legislative branch."

"I think people of good will, with their eyes wide open, saw that for what it was, which is an incredible attack on our democracy, an undermining of who we are as a nation," she added. "This wasn't people merely exercising their First Amendment rights, these were domestic terrorists who came to take hostages."

The mayor declined to say if she agrees with aldermen that Catanzara should resign for downplaying the attack, but said Catanzara has a long history of saying things that are "anti-democratic."

"The fact that he waved that off as nothing says a lot about the character of him," she said.

Lightfoot also said the fact the National FOP rebuked Catanzara for his comments shows "how egregious his conduct and his behavior is."

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