While pundits and elected officials wonder how the Capitol Police could have allowed a group of white supremacists into the U.S. Capitol to loot some of our country’s most sensitive information and violently attack those inside, these actions actually remind us at Color Of Change that the men and women of the Capitol Police are actually represented by one of the largest and most powerful hate groups in the country: the Fraternal Order of Police.
Some of the only people in the country who had no problem with the insurrectionist mob in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.
John Catanzara, president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, told Chicago radio station WBEZ, “It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way. … There’s no fights. There’s no, obviously, violence in this crowd. They pushed past security and made their way to the Senate chamber. Did they destroy anything when they were there? No.” He added separately that the actions of the mob were “very different” from the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer.
The national Fraternal Order of Police has since released a statement condemning the Capitol riot, but the statement rings hollow given the organization’s unequivocal support for President Trump. Moreover, the Chicago chapter’s willingness to defend the white Capitol Hill mob springs from deeply rooted racist police culture. That same culture led Capitol Police to leave the Capitol nakedly undefended when facing a mob of white nationalists just months after law enforcement fortified the complex with armed troops to face Black racial justice protests.
It is the FOP that acts as the guardian, enforcer and perpetuator of this racist police culture.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes a hate group as an organization that has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, as based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities. It’s clear from the actions of the Fraternal Order of Police after the Capitol siege, and over the last decade, this organization fits the bill.
Let’s start by looking at activities. For over 100 years, the Fraternal Order of Police has defended racist violence against Black people. Since its founding, the Fraternal Order of Police has fought against even the most basic police accountability measures: It has sought to hire officers dismissed for violent behavior, fought budget cuts, defended aggressive policing in Black communities and blocked common-sense reforms. In doing so, it has given police free rein to surveil, threaten and terrorize Black communities. In the Breonna Taylor case, the Louisville Fraternal Order of Police advocated for a slower judicial process and called on the city to take down #JusticeForBre banners across Louisville.
Meanwhile, the FOP has also advocated for and won unconscionable protections for officers, making instances of misconduct all but impossible to prosecute. It has protected police officers who use white supremacist and misogynistic language and images and created an environment that allows racist police violence to continue.
Every hate group has a symbol and the Fraternal Order of Police has informally adopted the Blue Lives Matter Punisher, a skull referencing a violent comic book character, with the “blue lives matter” flag overlaid. The Chicago FOP even sells it in its online shop. A rioter carrying zip ties in the Capitol was wearing the logo.
The Fraternal Order of Police’s statements also meet the hate group definition.
In 2017, Philadelphia FOP President John McNesby called Black Lives Matter protestors a “pack of rabid animals” at a rally the union held. He was applauded for his remarks.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police targeted progressive prosecutor Kim Foxx with aggressive public efforts, including organizing a rally against Foxx in 2019 with members of Proud Boys and the American Identity Movement attending (both hate groups, per SPLC).
There’s no question that the Fraternal Order of Police is a hate group, and in the interest of public safety, we need to start treating them as such. That starts with holding leaders like John Catanzara accountable for their words and actions and removing them from office. The deeply rooted racist culture of the police cannot be undone while this organization holds so much sway over policy and politics. As we all saw at the Capitol, that culture is not just a threat to the Black community. It’s a threat to our entire society, our democracy, and our vision of America.
Scott Roberts is the senior director of Criminal Justice Campaigns for Color Of Change. He leads digital campaigners, researchers and field organizers in rallying support to end mass incarceration, fight the way our society criminalizes black people, and secure more humane treatment for all those in contact with the justice system.