WEST TOWN — A man hurled a drink at Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) as he was biking through West Town with supporters Friday night during a campaign event, the alderman and witnesses said.
La Spata and about 50 neighbors were biking across the ward to examine existing bike infrastructure and brainstorm improvements, he said. That’s when the situation turned ugly.
As the group rode along Erie Street and approached Ashland Avenue, they came across a message in chalk that read, “F*** La Spata.” Then, a man came running toward the group yelling and flung beer from a red solo cup at the alderman, La Spata said.
“It’s just not cool,” La Spata said. “I don’t expect politics in Chicago to be pretty and respectful, but it doesn’t have to be [throwing drinks], either.”
La Spata or the bikers didn’t know who threw the drink. But Bob Zwolinski — who lost a 2016 election for Illinois state representative — took credit for the incident on Twitter.
“Last night, I threw a solo cup of cider onto the street towards Daniel La Spata, and yelled an expletive at him, while he rode his bicycle down the street I live on. I want to make it clear that I acted alone in this; no one else was involved,” Zwolinksi tweeted.
Zwolinski, who accused his opponent’s daughter of attacking him with a staple gun during the 2016 race, didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Although Zwolinski said he acted alone, La Spata said he saw former 1st Ward Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, who’s challenging La Spata for the seat, amongst the group of people the drink thrower was with. Moreno’s spokesperson said he wasn’t involved in the incident.
Moreno was appointed in 2010 but lost his 2019 reelection bid to La Spata amid multiple controversies. During the election, police investigated whether Moreno falsely reported his car stolen, Chicago Democrats criticized his campaign for using photos without permission and a former aide accused him of sexual harassment. Moreno denied the aide’s allegations.
Shortly after losing his aldermanic seat, Moreno was charged with felony insurance fraud and obstruction of justice in May 2019. Authorities said Moreno falsely reported his car stolen which resulted in a woman he was dating getting arrested while driving a car he had loaned her. He pled guilty in July 2021 to obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct, and received two years probation.
In late 2020, while out of bond on the insurance fraud case, Moreno was charged with drunk driving after crashing into eight parked cars in Gold Coast, prosecutors said. He also pled guilty in that case. Since then, Moreno said he’s gone through treatment, worked at a printing company and done community service at a local food pantry, according to the Tribune.
It’s unclear if Zwolinski is connected to Moreno’s campaign and he emphasized in his posts that he was acting alone and that he “dislike[s] LaSpata and his leadership.”
People have made threats against La Spata before but nothing like this has happened to him before, he said.
La Spata, who didn’t report the incident to police because he “was more concerned with making sure everyone had a safe and fun time,” said the incident met the legal definition of assault.
“It was jarring and classless no matter who it was,” La Spata said. “I’m really glad that both in the moment and in general, none of those cyclists were deterred. … I’m really glad that none of them were hurt or scared by what happened.”
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Kyle Lucas, co-founder of Better Streets Chicago, was among the bikers Friday night and saw the incident unfold. He said La Spata was “cool as a cucumber” while briefly addressing what happened.
Lucas remembered that La Spata told the group he saw Moreno with the person who threw the drink and said something along the lines of, “these are the kinds of people we’re up against.”
“I think it just shows how different of a leader he is than what’s expected in Chicago,” said Lucas, who attended the event to support La Spata because he’s inspired by what he’s been able to accomplish surrounding street safety.
“I think it speaks to the kind of people Alderman Moreno surrounds himself with, that they’d be targeting a ride talking about safe street infrastructure, throwing beers at someone they don’t like. I think it speaks a lot to their character,” Lucas said.
La Spata said the incident only further motivated him to push for safer bike infrastructure across the city.
“It’s really sad that this is how people try to engage with issues in the city. I think folks are really motivated by actions like that, and the understanding that what we’re trying to do doesn’t come without enemies and opposition,” La Spata said. “… I want people to know that it doesn’t deter me and other advocates from keeping this work going.”
Attorney Sam Royko and Logan Square Preservation President Andy Schneider are also running for the 1st Ward seat.
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