Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday denounced a cartoon the Chicago Teachers Union posted on Twitter - depicting her tied in a rope and surrounded by the characters from "Scooby-Doo" - as racist and "deeply offensive."
"If that kind of tweet, which is clearly racist, had been put forward by a right-wing group, we would rightly be denouncing them and I think our scorn should be no less because it was put out by the CTU," Lightfoot said when asked about the image at a news conference, admitting that she had not yet seen the tweet itself but that it had been described to her.
The tweet in question was an image of the cartoon characters from "Scooby-Doo" surrounding Lightfoot, depicted wearing a Chicago police uniform and tied up in rope like one of the show's villains. One of the characters appears to be holding a mask of a police officer above her head.
Posted Wednesday night, the tweet garnered hundreds of comments and retweets, several decrying the image as racist, with the characters of the show - who are all white - surrounding the city's first Black female mayor tied up in a rope. The caption of the tweet reads "Y'all too much sometimes" with laughing emojis and the hashtags #DefundthePolice #PoliceFreeSchools and #CopsOutCPS.
The union tweeted the image hours after a measure to remove police officers from Chicago Public Schools and end the district's $33 million contract with the Chicago Police Department failed to advance in City Council. Lightfoot had previously said she does not support the effort to remove officers from schools, and has resisted calls to decrease funding to the Chicago Police Department.
Both of those proposals have been central to several of the protests that have taken place daily across Chicago and around the world following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
"It's certainly disappointing when a group that professes to be educators, people who are in our classrooms teaching our young people, would engage in these kinds of really deeply offensive and disappointing tactics," Lightfoot said of the meme Thursday.
"It's concerning to me because our young people are always watching. They're always watching our leaders," she continued. "And so it's, I think, the more the CTU engages in this kind of thing, the less and less relevant they are to important narratives in our city and I think their actions really speak for themselves."
"I don't think I need to say more than I think the scorn that they rightfully earned on Twitter with people being outraged and attacking them for stooping to such tactics," Lightfoot added. "It is borrowing a playbook from the right wing and it's disappointing."
The CTU said in a statement on the image and the mayor's comments that the organization found it "striking that so many of those outraged over a meme have little to nothing to say about the nullification of those most responsible for this moment."
"Black organizers and activists have been risking their lives to advance a set of clear demands to begin to correct injustices perpetrated by our racist system: to establish a civilian accountability police board, to defund the police and invest directly in our communities, to remove CPD from our public schools and invest in students' well-being, to institute an elected civilian review board to govern our police, and to establish Juneteenth as a paid civic holiday just as was done for Columbus and Pulaski," CTU spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said. "To every demand, this mayor and this administration has offered a resounding 'no.'"
"In this time of deep emotional anguish over visceral images of racial hatred, we empathize with our Black brothers and sisters who are triggered by any image that reminds us of the violence perpetrated against us in this land for over 400 years and counting of repression and violence," CTU's statement continued. "Our intent was, as it always has been, to stir the powerful from their slumber and stand steadfast behind those Black people – and especially young Black leaders – in their struggle for a new Chicago built on real justice, not failed policies and broken promises."
The relationship between Lightfoot and the CTU has long been contentious, as the two clashed in the first six months of her term in office over contract negotiations, resulting in an historic 11-day teachers strike last fall.