After President Trump attacked NFL athletes for taking a knee during the national anthem, a Chicago community activist began asking people to take part in the silent protest started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to police brutality.
On Monday, Clark, who has spent the past two days posting pictures of people kneeling on the streets and in living rooms, walked into a Chicago Police Department precinct. She asked two black officers on duty whether they’re against racism and police brutality, and if they would take a knee with her, she wrote on Instagram. They agreed — a decision praised by many, but resulted in a reprimand by the department.
A picture Clark posted on social media showed the two uniformed officers kneeling beside her as they held up their fists in the precinct’s lobby.
“We are aware of the photo, and we will address it in the same way we have handled previous incidents in which officers have made political statements while in uniform, with a reprimand and a reminder of department policies,” Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the police department, said in a statement.
Chicago police officers are not allowed to participate in partisan political activities and campaigns, according to the police department. Officers who violate the policy could be reprimanded, assigned extra work without compensation, suspended without pay for no more than 30 days, or charged before the Chicago Police Board.
The department is not naming the officers, a spokesman said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he supports the reprimand, while acknowledging the officers were caught between the need to connect with the community and follow department rules on making political statements, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“There’s a difference between an athlete wearing their uniform and a police officer who is paid by the public who’s wearing theirs,” Emanuel said.
Clark did not return a call from The Washington Post on Tuesday, but she told Fox 32 she doesn’t regret asking the officers to take a knee inside the South-side precinct.
“I think the Chicago Police Department should be ashamed of itself for reprimanding these police officers,” she said. “These officers took a knee against racial injustice. They should be acknowledged and appreciated.”
She also said she knew a picture of black officers taking a knee while on the job would cause controversy. The photo she posted has since been liked more than 2,000 times on Instagram, and was splashed across the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. Rapper Snoop Dogg has also weighed in.
“They feel the pain of the people too,” he wrote when he shared the picture on his Instagram and Twitter accounts Tuesday. “All police aren’t bad.”
Clark, who started a group that helps Chicago’s inner-city children and sells T-shirts with the group’s name, Hugs No Slugs, said she was inspired by Kaepernick, who regularly knelt in silence during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans.
“I think that it’s imperative that African Americans know their rights,” Clark told Fox 32. “I think that if you are going to stand for something, that it should get national attention because that’s what our culture is missing. Something positive to stand for.”
Clark began asking people to take a knee after Trump used profane language in deriding athletes who protest.
“Wouldn’t you love to see these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump told a crowd at a political rally in Huntsville, Ala., on Friday.
Trump doubled down on his attacks over the weekend, calling on team owners to fire or suspend players who protest, encouraging fans to boycott games, and claiming NFL attendance and ratings are “WAY DOWN.”
In an act of mass defiance, dozens of players and numerous team owners, coaches and executives either took a knee or linked arms when the national anthem was played before Sunday’s games.
Last January, a Chicago police officer was also reprimanded after a red Make America Great Again hat was seen on the dashboard of his police cruiser.
In 2014, another officer was disciplined for playing the song “Sweet Home Alabama,” a song some consider to be racially offensive, during a protest against police brutality.