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Chicago mayor defends council member who appeared at a pro-Palestinian rally where an American flag was burned

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson defended Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez on Thursday after he appeared at a pro-Palestinian rally where an American flag was burned.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said Thursday it would be "morally reprehensible and irresponsible" to repudiate a city councilman for speaking at a rally that featured a burning American flag.

Last week, Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez appeared at a protest outside City Hall against U.S. support of Israel and in favor of canceling the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on Aug. 19. As he spoke, veteran Zachary Kim burned a flag in front of the alderman.

Sigcho-Lopez serves as the chair of the City Council Housing Committee, a position given to him by Johnson. At least 15 aldermen have called for a special meeting on Monday to vote on whether to remove him as chair.

Sigcho-Lopez’s colleagues have called on the mayor to reprimand him for speaking at the protest, but Johnson refused to condemn the alderman.

"I can be offended by someone's presentation, and also recognize that they have a fundamental right to express that. I don't even know why this is being debated, quite frankly. It's actually quite disturbing that, as a city, we're having a conversation about protected speech in America," Johnson said at a news conference.

He also said, "Do we really want to have a society where someone's comments or someone else's comments that happened to be in the presence of someone else, that that becomes a repudiation of that particular person? I would find that to be morally reprehensible and irresponsible."

The aldermen who spoke out against Sirgio-Lopez said that city officials need to hold a higher standard.

"Byron has the right to be inflammatory, but he has a bigger responsibility as a committee chair and member of the mayor's leadership team," 34th Ward Alderman Bill Conway said. "This job isn't about elevating people who want to burn everything down. It's about bringing people together to build communities up."

29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro added, "We are not accusing him of violating any constitutional right, but we are saying is his conduct and speech are reprehensible to a point where he needs to account for his actions." 

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"Instead of taking responsibility, [he] doubles down and says 'I'm being attacked,'" 36th Ward Alderman Gil Villegas remarked.

Johnson harshly condemned their efforts, suggesting it would be "fascist" to censure him and accused some members of the council of being racist.

"Under my administration, I fully expect that the City Council recognizes its responsibility, and that it will not move forward in the type of fascist forms of expression that have left too many of our countries in desperate peril," he said.

Johnson added, "If people are as petulant as someone who would be unwilling to engage with someone that they disagree with, we wouldn't be standing here today. Do you know how many conversations Black leaders have had to have with racists? It's multiple. There are people in the City Council who have stood with open racist white supremacist organizations."

Sigcho-Lopez has defended the rally as well as the veteran who burned his U.S. flag, refusing to apologize.

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"My colleagues should actually talk to this veteran. To this day, they haven't," he said. "What he's talking about is housing for veterans, talking about mental health for veterans, talking about Aaron Bushnell, who is an airman who burned himself alive, saying that this is what the status quo, this is what the ruling class want to normalize. That's what he said. Free Palestine. That's what he was elevating."

Sirgio-Lopez added, "I have every right to say it, and I'm not going to apologize for standing up for my community and for working people."

Fox News Digital reached out to the mayor’s office for a comment.

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