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A Black Chicago cop suspended from her union last year after taking a stand against the violent actions that killed George Floyd is now fighting to have the punishment removed from her record.
A few weeks after Floyd’s murder, 26-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department Carmella Means posted a photo of herself kneeling with a fist raised and holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign in support of protesters outraged by the actions of Minneapolis police last summer. The photo would later go viral.
But Means’ solidarity landed her a six-month suspension from the department’s primary union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, who said her actions violated the organization’s constitution and bylaws.
Means now says she deserves to have the suspension stricken from her record as the union never stopped taking part of her pay for dues, even during her six-month suspension. She also defended her decision to kneel for the cause.
“Black Lives Matter or the movement is not trying to overthrow the government,” Means told the Chicago Tribune. “It is trying to expose systemic racism.”
Means did not immediately respond to phone calls from VICE News but told NBC-5 Chicago that she decided to post the photo in retaliation of FOP president John Catanzara’s comments about disciplining officers who aligned themselves with those calling for police reform and the better treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement.
At the time, Catanzara said officers who were caught kneeling and siding with the Black Lives Matter movement while in their uniform would face suspension and possible expulsion from the union.
“There’s no proof or evidence that race had anything to do with it. Some people are just violent by nature,” Catanzara said in an interview with WGN Radio explaining his stance. “Unfortunately, every now and then, some of those people end up wearing a badge.”
“I became very angry when I heard him make that statement, so I decided to take my own stand,” Means told NBC-5 Chicago Thursday.
Means has been an outspoken critic of police violence and a Black Lives Matter supporter ever since the photo went viral last year. She’s gone on the record to denounce deadly instances of police violence in her own city, like the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
“Just because someone wants a better police department or is standing up against corruption in the police department and police brutality, doesn’t make them anti-police,” Means told FOX 32 last July. “They’re really pro-police.”
FOP Lodge 7 did not immediately return requests for comment.
Means’ fight is nothing new. Several former Black police officers from St. Louis, New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City told VICE News they left a career in law enforcement because of the discrimination they faced from within after speaking up on the same issues. It’s part of the reason why the retention of Black police officers in several departments around the country has been on the decline in recent years.