Chicago Police Union President Likens Vaccine Mandate to Nazis: 'Step Into the Showers'

The head of the Chicago police union pushed back on a requirement that police officers be vaccinated against COVID-19, comparing the assurances about the vaccines to how Nazis told their victims the gas chambers were ordinary showers.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Wednesday that all city employees, including police officers, must be fully vaccinated by October 15. Lightfoot, like other officials that have announced the mandate, faced pushback but stood by her decision, calling it irresponsible to interact with members of the public on a regular basis without being vaccinated.

But John Catanzara, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday that, "we don't want to be forced to do anything."

"This ain't Nazi f***ing Germany, [where they say], 'Step into the f---ing showers. The pills won't hurt you.' What the f***?" he said.

Catanzara previously told the Sun-Times that there are "no studies for long-term side effects or consequences" from coronavirus vaccines and reiterated the belief on Wednesday. He said no one knows what the long-term effects could be and "anybody who says they do are full of s***."

The concern over potential long-term side effects is one reason some people remain hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. While there have been cases of people experiencing serious side effects after getting vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have noted that it's rare and that the known benefits "outweigh the known and potential risks."

Catanzara isn't the first person to compare mask and vaccine mandates to the rules imposed under Nazi rule in Germany, and his comment was swiftly condemned.

The Anti-Defamation League called the comparison "factually incorrect and deeply offensive to the millions of innocent people killed at the hands of the Nazis." The organization added that Catanzara should apologize and "stop his continued use of incendiary and deeply offensive language."

Chicago's Jewish Community Relations Council also condemned the comparison, calling it "ignorant" and a means of defiling "the memory of the murdered."

Lightfoot addressed Catanzara's comment on Thursday during an interview with MSNBC. She characterized it as an "offensive outburst," but said it wasn't entirely surprising. The mayor also called the police union head a "horrible guy" and that she wouldn't let him detract from the message that getting vaccinated is the best path forward.

"We've got police officers in hospitals right now very sick, very sick and three-quarters of the ones that are in, unvaccinated," Lightfoot said. "It doesn't make sense."

The Chicago mayor pointed to data from the CDC that found COVID-19 to be a leading cause of death among first responders and said there's "no substitute" to getting vaccinated. While some may be pushing for a testing option, she said that wouldn't provide protection but a starting point for when a person was infected.

"We have an obligation when we're engaging with members of the public to keep ourselves safe and keep others safe," Lightfoot said. "I have to do what is necessary to protect our residents from this terrible, deadly virus."

Newsweek reached out to Catanzara for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Chicago police union president and vaccines
The head of the Chicago police union pushed back on a requirement that police officers be vaccinated against COVID-19. In this photo, a car involved in a shooting sits outside Chicago Police Departments Morgan Park District station on July 7, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images