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Faith leaders condemn Chicago police for keeping Proud Boys member on the force

As the federal trial of the Proud Boys group begins in Washington, D.C., Black faith leaders in Chicago are condemning the top brass in the city’s police department for not firing an officer who is a member of the white supremacist group.

The calls come as jury selection begins in the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C., for five Proud Boys’ members charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021. If convicted, each member could face a minimum of 20 years in prison.

Proud Boys
Robert Bakker

Robert Bakker was not terminated but suspended for just 120 days in October after the Chicago Office of the Inspector General report said he lied to the department about his participation in the Proud Boys chat group in 2020. The report said during an investigation, Bakker “made a contradictory statement” to the department’s internal affairs. After his involvement with the Proud Boys, Bakker was outed by the online publication Vice.

 

He is expected to be back on the job in mid-February next year. But last week at the Columbus Park Refectory on the West Side, Pastor Ira Acree and Rev. Marshall Hatch held a press conference and did not mention Bakker’s name but expressed their disgust at the police department for not firing him.

“I’m a Civil Rights Pastor who has fought against white supremacy my entire adult life,” says Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church, who is a co-chair of the Leaders Network. “How can CPD justify allowing any hateful individuals to patrol our community? I demand the department terminate this officer and all officers who associate with hate groups.”

David Cherry, president of the Leaders Network, said, “The Chicago Police Department must have a zero-tolerance policy toward these far-right extremists. CPD’s policy should be that anyone associating with this racist, antisemitic, misogynist, homophobic insurrectionist group has forfeited their opportunity to wear a badge and carry a gun with CPD. Why is this officer or any other officers like him allowed to remain on the force?”

Chicago police officials began investigating Bakker after reports emerged in January, 2021, showing that he participated in chat logs planning meetings, as he was invited to a Proud Boys event and using threatening language to refer to progressive activists. The 2020 incident was reported in Vice.

Bakker wrote in the group chat, which was called “F— Antifa,” and said he would use his position as a police officer to identify and locate antifascist activists, according to the shared screenshots.

The screenshots also revealed that Bakker helped organize Proud Boys’ meetups in Lincoln Square and Andersonville and bragged about his access to “high police.” The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights had previously sent a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, aldermen and Superintendent David Brown, calling for harsher penalties for Bakker.

Bakker was initially suspended for only three days before he was allowed back on the street as a police officer, after Civil Rights activists at the time forced the police department to conduct a thorough investigation.

The Proud Boys was founded in 2016 during former President Donald Trump’s first year in office. Since then, the groups have been accused of spewing misogynous hate while engaging in violent behavior against Blacks, Islamic and gays.

On December 12, 2020, members of the Proud Boys attacked and vandalized property of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic Black church in Washington, D.C., because of its congregants’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement. A lawsuit was filed in D.C. Superior court to hold the Proud Boys, its leadership and certain of its members accountable.

At the federal trial in Washington, D.C., prosecutors will argue that the five defendants, including Enrique Tarrio, the group’s former chairman, led their own troops and other “tools” in the mob to breach the Capitol building as they sought to stop the Senate from certifying the 2020 election results after Joe Biden defeated President Trump, who falsely claimed the election was stolen. Prosecutors say the attempt was all part of a plot, to stop the lawful transfer of power and ensure that Trump remained in office.

The trial comes less than a month after Stewart Rhodes, the leader of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers militia, was convicted along with one of his lieutenants of seditious conspiracy at a separate trial in the same courthouse, which sits within sight of the domed Capitol building.

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