Chicago aldermen condemn Ald. Sigcho-Lopez for attending rally at which American flag burned

'What we hear today are the puppets of the ruling class that are trying to create political theater," Sigcho-Lopez said Wednesday

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Ald. pushes back after condemnation for speaking where flag burned
An alderman is pushing back after being condemned for speaking at a rally where a flag was burned.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of Chicago aldermen are condemning fellow Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez for participating in a rally during which someone lit an American flag on fire last week.

The group was protesting the Israel-Hamas war last Friday, and called on the city to cancel the Democratic National Convention, which will be in Chicago this August.

It was an act of protest against President Joe Biden's handling of the war.

Veteran Zachary Kam burned a flag he flew while on tour as a Marine in Afghanistan.

"An elected official should not be standing over the ashes of that. He should be there to support these families that gave the ultimate sacrifice," one man said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

The aldermen want Sigcho-Lopez to issue an apology, but he said he would not.

"Byron has the right to be inflammatory, but he has a bigger responsibility as a committee chair and member of the mayor's leadership team," 34th Ward Ald. Bill Conway said during the news conference. "This job isn't about elevating people who want to burn everything down. It's about bringing people together to build communities up."

Conway is City Council's only active member of the military.

Aldermen Chris Taliaferro and Gill Villegas are veterans. They said elected officials should be held to a higher standard.

"We are not accusing him of violating any constitutional right, but we are saying is his conduct and speech are reprehensible to a point where he needs to account for his actions," Taliaferro said.

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"Instead of taking responsibility, doubles down and says 'I'm being attacked,'" Villegas said.

Alderman Sigcho-Lopez addressed the incident earlier this week.

"I did attend, and I wasn't aware that this happened before I was there, and there were some pictures circulating, accusing me of almost burning the flag, which is not only false but malicious," he said.

The group is calling for a special City Council meeting to address the issue, if Sigcho-Lopez does not step down as chairman of the City Council's Housing Committee.

Mayor Brandon Johnson's office had "no comment" on the demands made by the aldermen and veterans Wednesday morning.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Saturday, Sigcho-Lopez said, "There is plenty of video footage of this entire event. I was not present nor witnessed what took place in other photos in the thread. Claiming otherwise is a falsehood. I joined to make remarks denouncing genocide and the DNC's failure to lead on immigration reform."

On Wednesday, Sigcho-Lopez was defending his actions.

"The most American thing we have is the First Amendment right," Sigcho-Lopez said.

He said he supports Kam's constitutional rights, but by the time he showed up at last Friday's City Hall protest, the flag was charred on the ground.

"How can an elected official stand over the charred remains of a burned American flag and advocate properly for veterans?" American Legion 2nd District Cmdr. Marco Torres said.

Not only is Sigcho-Lopez not apologizing, his office invited pro-Palestinian protesters to City Hall's third floor Wednesday to interrupt his colleagues and the veterans at their press conference.

"I cannot apologize for something I did not see; I wasn't there," he said. "What we hear today are the puppets of the ruling class that are trying to create political theater."