Chicago (AFP) – Chicago police were thrust Tuesday into a political debate over kneeling during the US national anthem, after a photo of two officers in the protest pose appeared on social media.
The photo was posted Sunday by anti-violence activist Aleta Clark on her Instagram account. By Tuesday it had graced the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and earned the officers a reprimand.
The kneeling pose during the national anthem is a symbolic protest over racial injustice popularized by American football player Colin Kaepernick.
It has become the object of a public feud between President Donald Trump and the National Football League (NFL).
The Instagram photo showed Clark posing with two uniformed Chicago police officers kneeling with one hand raised in a fist. Clark told AFP she had gone to two police stations to ask officers to pose for the photo.
“I wanted to see if there were officers that were in agreement that racism was wrong and that police brutality was also wrong,” Clark said.
Officers at the first station she visited, whom she described as “Caucasian,” declined. Two African-American officers at the second station agreed.
“It takes a lot for a person to sacrifice, to possibly jeopardize their careers, for something they believe in. That’s heroic,” Clark said of the officers.
Chicago, the third largest US city, has one of the highest number of shootings and murders in the country. Its police department also has a strained relationship with black communities, following a history of abuses.
The police department would not name the officers in the photo, but said that their actions had violated department policy.
“We… addressed this in the same way we handled a previous incident of potential political activity while in uniform (officers with a MAGA hat),” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told AFP by email.
Guglielmi was referring to the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“The officers will be reprimanded and reminded of the policies concerning appearance and conduct while on-duty and in uniform,” he said.
Trump called for players who engage in the kneeling protest to be fired, prompting a public outcry and more than 150 NFL players over the weekend engaging in symbolic protests at games.