Sigcho-Lopez asked to step down from leadership role; mayor defends him after American flag burning

Special City Council meeting set for Monday to discuss incident

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Mayor defends alderman after flag burning at rally
Some Chicago City Council alders are calling for Byron Sigcho-Lopez to step down from his leadership role; Mayor Brandon Johnson is defending him.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson was defending an alderman Thursday who came under fire this week for speaking at a protest where an American flag had been burned.

Also on Thursday, 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez was firing back at members of the Council who have called for a special meeting to have him removed from his leadership post.

The tensions continue to build between Sigcho-Lopez and Alderman Chris Taliaferro one day after Taliaferro, a veteran, was joined by other members of the City Council to denounce Sigcho-Lopez for taking part in a rally at City Hall where protesters burned an American flag.

Sigcho-Lopez said he arrived after the flag was burned, and had no idea what had happened, even though a photo showed him standing right next to the charred remains of the flag.

He has refused to apologize for being there, and, on Thursday, doubled down on his criticism of those coming after him.

Fifteen Council members signed a letter to the mayor calling for Sigcho Lopez' resignation as chair of the Committee on Housing and Real Estate.

"I call on all those people who sign those letters to apologize to make sure that we move forward, to make sure that every Chicago is safe. It is irresponsible, what they've done," Sigcho-Lopez said.

The alderman said he is now receiving death threats, which he blames on reactionary groups aligned with his critics.

Taliaferro, with the 29th Ward, said Sigcho-Lopez owes City Council members an apology, and the special City Council meeting is being called to address the controversy in a public forum.

"I told him that, as an alderman, as a person that's elected to represent veterans and the residents that have lost their loved ones in the military, that he hasn't learned to balance activism and politics to a point where he's effective in both," Taliaferro said.

"Whether it's a noose or burning a flag, these are not particular expressions that I engage in," Johnson said.

But the mayor said he supports the constitutional right to flag burning as free speech.

And he seemed to turn the table on those criticizing Sigcho-Lopez, who's a political ally.

"The larger question that I would ask is, 'are we OK as a society that would curtail and disrupt someone's First Amendment right?'" Johnson said.

With these tensions in the Council showing no signs of easing, the stage is being set for what could be a very lively special City Council meeting on Monday.