A Chicago cop was suspended for playing “Sweet Home Alabama” during a weekend Black Lives Matter protest over alleged police brutality against black men. The Lynyrd Skynyrd song is considered “racially offensive” by some, according to Chicago police officials.
Chicago protesters were marching and carrying signs to register their angst over the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice deaths. A video of the unidentified Chicago cop listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” surfaced not long after the Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday.
A statement about the “Sweet Home Alabama” incident from the Chicago police officer said that he was playing the song as a “fan of the University of Alabama.” The college was playing the University of Missouri for the SEC championship and for a shot at the NCAA playoffs.
A release from Chicago police officials said that the department “fully understands the sensitivities related to the song and regardless, we cannot condone any behavior that may be viewed as disruptive or disrespectful to any protester or resident. CPD is dedicated to ensuring residents’ right to free speech and peaceful assembly.”
The Chicago cop was suspended for 10 days because he played the “racially offensive” song. Exactly why “Sweet Home Alabama” is offensive or racist, was not explained by police officials. Gabriel Michael, a resident of Humboldt Park, attended the West Side Chicago protest to take photos of the event. While there, he said he heard “Sweet Home Alabama” coming from a vehicle which appeared to be an unmarked police car – and started shooting video.
“Some of the lyrics in themselves aren’t racist, but I know it’s also been co-opted by groups, maybe bigoted groups, as an anthem of Southern pride and those Confederate-type values. That’s what was so jarring to me. To hear that playing from a police car at the end of a protest against police brutality and the murder of African Americans, it was just jarring,” Gabriel Michael, 31, said.
The Chicago police launched an investigation into the officer playing “Sweet Home Alabama,” and called Gabriel to discuss the matter.
“This matter is under investigation. As a department, we are committed to community policing and fostering stronger relationships, based on trust and understanding, with the communities we serve,” a voicemail left by CPD reportedly stated.
Gabriel said that many of the Black Lives Matter protesters were marching ahead of the police escort, so he is unsure exactly how many actually heard Chicago cop playing “Sweet Home Alabama.” Once the video he posted went viral, Michael Gabriel claims he garnered supportive comments from others who shared his concerns about a racially offensive song dealing with Southern pride being played within possible earshot of a majority black crowd by a police officer.
“It’s a pretty disgusting thing, it’s really shocking, and we just want to know what (police have) been thinking and get an explanation,” Gabriel added.
The Southern Poverty Law Center feels that “Sweet Home Alabama” is “a kind of neo-Confederate anthem” which was written in response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” song.
“It certainly does look like the officers were taunting the marchers. I suppose there’s a tiny chance that these officers were huge University of Alabama fans, but I kind of doubt it,” senior fellow Mark Potok said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also reportedly feels that “Southern Man” contains lyrics pertaining to slavery and racism.
What do you think about the Chicago cop being suspended over playing “Sweet Home Alabama?”
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