On Saturday, Northwest Side Alders Sposato (38th), Napolitano (41st) and Gardiner (45th) organized a rally in direct response to a protest calling for justice in the police killing of 22 year-old Anthony Alvarez in Portage Park.
At the rally, Sposato explained, “I got a bunch of calls Thursday night about this anti-police rally. So people just asked me if we could do something.” Despite saying he organized the event in direct response to the Justice for Alvarez protest, Sposato later claimed this was not in fact a counter-protest, “It’s not a [counter] protest…it’s just our rally to show that this world is not about these people. It’s about our kind of people.”
It’s unclear who “these people” and “our kind of people” may be.
Social media posts circulated by police made it crystal clear this was a counter-protest and not an independent and coincidental “Defend the Police” rally as Sposato later claimed. Former Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham posted, “Per Alderman Napalitano [sic]/Gardiner there will be an Anti-Police protest at 016 District Saturday @ noon. All POs, Family, Friends show up to counter the crowd.”
The original protest was attended by the family of the slain Alvarez. At times their chants and statements were drowned out by police supporters’ motorcycles and jeers. One motorcyclist who repeatedly rode by taunting the family and protestors reportedly wore a confederate flag patch on his vest. Our kind of people.
According to one of the protesters in this Block Club report, “The [counter protester] guys were very aggressive, coming into our crowd of people and hassling them. They almost ran over our guys.”
Rather than allow Alvarez’s family and their supporters to exercise their right to protest in peace, the police and Northwest Side Aldermen instead chose to organize an event featuring taunts aimed at the victim’s family and supporters. Some of the aldermen themselves joined in taunting the protesters.
A video posted online shows Sposato “defending police” by yelling witticisms at protestors like “Go back to your mom’s basement!” In the video, Chicago Police Lieutenant and four-time failed political candidate, John Garrido, stands at Sposato’s side during this repartee.
Aldermen continued to try to clean-up the perception that their counter-protest against a victim’s family was a counter-protest. Brian Nadig of Nadig Newspapers, who has established himself as the official mouthpiece for Ald. Gardiner, posted about the two events as if they were independently planned, coincidental events at the same time at the same location.
Ald. Ray Lopez took the attempt to reframe the event a step further, claiming the police rally was just an event to thank officers for working overtime — nothing at all to do with the simultaneous protest against a police extrajudicial killing.
Both Gardiner and Nadig’s ties to Solano go back to before Solano shot and killed Alvarez. In 2019, Gardiner attended a Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce award ceremony honoring Solano. The Chamber has honored Solano with several awards over the past couple of years, so he is no stranger to Gardiner nor Nadig.
Brian Nadig is a long time board member of the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce, a former President, and the organization’s current Vice President, a relationship he fails to disclose in his reporting on local events.
Gardiner is currently being sued in federal court for allegedly violating a resident’s civil rights. The lawsuit accuses Gardiner of abuse of power and conspiring with Chicago police to have the man falsely arrested and detained overnight over a phone misplaced by Gardiner’s ward superintendent.
Outside of this event, area police have harassed residents and family who created a memorial and held vigils for Alvarez. The memorial has been destroyed and removed three times. Police deny they have removed the memorials.
Despite police denials, yesterday Ald. Lopez applauded the police removal of the memorial.
Video of the shooting, released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), shows police officer Evan Solano shoot Alvarez in the back. Alvarez had a gun in his hand, while running away from police. Police have yet to explain why they were chasing Alvarez in the first place.
In videos widely circulated online, on May 21 officer Solano was seen waving a gun in the middle of the street in Logan Square as he appears to have initiated a road rage incident. Despite having a gun in his hand, and waving it around among bystanders in broad daylight, Solano was not shot by police. Solano, already under investigation by COPA, is now under an Internal Affairs investigation for this latest incident, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Despite two active investigations into Solano’s decision to shoot Alvarez while running away with his back to the officer and his decision to angrily wave his service revolver at citizens in a road rage incident, these Northwest Side Alders all chose to organize a rally in his defense, while some of them, along with “our kind of people”, hurled insults at the victim’s family.