Apr 1, 2024 - News

Chicago Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez sidesteps City Hall censure push

Photo of a voting chamber in a city hall

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez speaks to City Council on Monday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Chicago Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez avoided City Council censure Monday after a group of conservative alders tried but failed to punish him for speaking at a rally where an American flag was burned.

The big picture: The issue highlights continuing ideological wars within Chicago government and local division over the Israel-Hamas war, an issue that has now driven three acrimonious council votes.

Between the lines: The 29-16 defeat of the resolution seeking to remove Sigcho-Lopez's committee chairmanship marks a win for the council's progressive faction, which has recently faced close votes on key measures, as well as the failed Bring Chicago Home referendum.

State of play: After speculation that progressives would boycott Monday's council vote, they showed up in full force, along with a gallery full of spectators from both sides.

  • When Sigcho-Lopez (25th) entered the chamber, he was greeted with applause mixed with shouts of "traitor."
  • Several alders offered impassioned speeches defending the Pilsen alder's integrity, while others questioned his judgment for speaking at a rally hosted by what they believe is an extremist group.

The intrigue: Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who had spearheaded the resolution, ended up voting against it, after he and Sigcho-Lopez spoke Sunday night. "I can accept his apology, and that is enough for me [instead of] removing him from this position," Taliaferro said.

Catch up quick: On March 22, Sigcho-Lopez, a Democratic socialist and close ally of Mayor Brandon Johnson, attended a rally condemning Israel's actions in Gaza, which also called for the cancellation of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

  • At the event, a veteran burned an American flag in protest of U.S. support of Israel — an action Sigcho-Lopez has said he wasn't aware of and that happened before he arrived.
  • The following week, a group of 15 alders, most of whom are conservative, sent a letter to the mayor calling for Sigcho-Lopez to lose his leadership position on the powerful Housing Committee.

What they're saying: In a fiery speech on Monday, Sigcho-Lopez apologized to anyone offended by his actions, but he defended the veteran for exercising his First Amendment rights.

  • "Under the false premise of advocating for veterans, I think the hidden agenda was to strip people of their First Amendment rights," Sigcho-Lopez said after the vote.

Johnson said he was pleased to see Sigch0-Lopez and Taliaferro reach "a mutual understanding."

  • "I once again applaud members of City Council for their thoughtful debate and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to address the urgent needs of all Chicagoans."

The other side: "What really disturbed me about this was not the flag burning … but the fact that it seems that Ald. Sigcho-Lopez came to this at the invitation of an organization that is seeking to incite violence during the DNC," Ald. Bill Conway (34th) told Axios after the vote Monday.

  • "And while he certainly has the First Amendment right to speak freely, he doesn't have a First Amendment right to be part of the mayor's leadership team."

Flashback: In November, City Council members tried to censure another mayoral ally, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). He narrowly avoided reprimand when the mayor used his authority to break the tie in Ramirez-Rosa's favor.

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