On November 20th, a far-right protest against vaccines in Millennium Park was joined by uniformed CPD officers.
The rally comes two months after a September 18th vaccine rally at the same location. A coalition of leftist organizations outnumbered that rally in a successful antifascist counterprotest. According to organizers who attended both counterprotests, the latter vaccine protest failed to reverse the fortune of the former. While upwards of 80 people turned out to counterprotest the far-right event, the anti-vaccine rally itself numbered only around 20 at its peak and did not succeed in marching to Trump Tower as planned.
However, those numbers were boosted by the participation of multiple CPD officers. According to antifascist organizers, several uniformed cops tasked with protecting the right-wing protestors eventually joined their ranks outright.
“It’s not shocking,” says Felipe B., an organizer with the Antifascist Working Group of Chicago DSA, “but the cops were super explicitly on their side, like actually part of their protest while in uniform. They did have their own anti-vax protest a few weeks ago so that’s not at all surprising.”
Although police already tend to side with right-wing elements during showdowns between rightist and leftist protests, the behavior of officers at the November 20th rally can also be seen in the context of the public fight between the Lightfoot administration and the Fraternal Order of Police over a vaccine mandate for public servants. Embattled FOP president John Catanzara announced his early retirement last week in part over this controversy, simultaneously signaling his intent to run against Lightfoot for mayor in 2023.
While Felipe sees uniformed CPD officers’ open alignment with the far-right as a disturbing trend, they are encouraged by the proven ability of Chicago’s antifascist coalition to out-organize the right:
“Around 2 (p.m.), they’d dwindled down to only like 5-ish people and were vastly outnumbered by the cops who swarmed to protect them and join their demo…I think this indicates the police are self-consciously politicizing to the far right. But I think we can say the far-right is still pretty disorganized…All in all, I think it was a major success.”