ALBANY PARK — A political organizer who works to get progressive candidates elected on Chicago’s North Side has been forced to step down from his post after making fun of two police officers who were killed by a train earlier this week.
Carl Nyberg was on the steering committee for Northside Democracy For America (also known as Northside DFA) when he tweeted in response to a Block Club Chicago story on the deaths of officers Eduardo Marmolejo, 37, and Conrad Gary, 31.
Marmolejo and Gary were chasing an alleged gunman when they were struck by a commuter train Monday night near 103rd and Cottage Grove. Police said the officers did not see the train that struck them from behind — they were facing a northbound train headed in their direction as the southbound train hit them, according to CBS Chicago.
“Two people too stupid to avoid getting hit by a train were given firearms & the authority to kill people by Chicago Police Department,” Nyberg tweeted hours after the officers died.
The tweet led to outrage from hundreds on social media, with some members of the public calling on elected officials associated with Nyberg to disavow him. Though not employed by any politician, Nyberg did volunteer for Ald. John Arena’s (45th) campaign in the past.
A spokesperson for Arena said Nyberg will not be welcome to volunteer for the alderman’s office in the future.
“Mr. Nyberg’s comments about the tragic deaths of Officers Marmolejo and Gary were astounding and disgusting,” Ald. Arena said in a statement. “I am outraged by the callousness of his words as the families of Officers Marmolejo and Gary, and the entire city, continue to mourn.”
The Northside DFA, which recently endorsed several candidates in the municipal election, describes itself as a “grassroots political organization dedicated to electing socially progressive, fiscally responsible, ethically committed Democrats to all levels of government.” The group holds forums and provides candidates with boots on the ground political help.
The group posted on Facebook in response to the firestorm late Tuesday morning:
“Last night, a Northside Democracy for America (NDFA) Steering Committee member made a post on his personal Twitter feed regarding the tragic deaths of two Chicago Police officers. NDFA wishes to make clear that the views expressed by that Committee member are his and his alone. His views do not represent the views of Northside Democracy for America or any of its members,” the post read. “NDFA grieves with all of Chicago for the deaths of Chicago police officers. NDFA has no further comment.”
On Wednesday, the group tweeted that Nyberg had been removed from his position:
Though they did not respond to requests for comment, the organization issued a statement Wednesday night:
“The personal Tweets from Mr. Nyberg were demeaning to the two officers killed in the line of duty, hurtful to their grieving families, and insulting to the friends they leave behind,” the statement read. “By association, Mr. Nyberg’s comments were also unfairly damaging to the reputations of hundreds of NDFA volunteers, our voting members, and all associated campaigns – many of whom have taken to social media to express their personal anger and disgust.”
Nyberg has been a member of the group’s steering committee since 2011. Despite the backlash, he doubled down on his comments — even arguing with another alderman on Twitter.
“This from a @DFAaction & @NorthsideDFA board member. Remember that when they ask for vote. #pathetic,” Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) tweeted at Nyberg.
“Dear Ald. Lopez, of all the police misconduct, torture and wrongful deaths caused by police, was your worthless ass on the side of the victims in any of those cases?,” Nyberg tweeted in response.
Speaking with Block Club on Wednesday, Lopez said elected officials need to “disavow” Nyberg for the tweet, which he described as a kind of “hate speech.”
“To add insult to injury, even Northside DFA have told him to apologize. And he doesn’t, he refuses to apologize or offer any kind of sympathy to the families,” Lopez said.
Nyberg did not respond to requests for comment.
On Oct. 22, 2013, about three years into Nyberg’s tenure with the Northside DFA, the progressive group gave a $500 contribution to Friends of 45, a committee chaired by Arena focused on his election to 45th Ward Democratic Committeeman.
Friends for Fritz, a committee focused on the electing Fritz Kaegi for Cook County Assessor, also paid Nyberg $3,000 as a consultant on Feb. 2.
“Mr. Nyberg was paid as a contractor for work he did for the campaign during a brief, two-month period,” a source close to the Kaegi campaign told Block Club. “His comments are detestable. Officers Marmolejo and Gary died while making our city a safer place, the kind of work their fellow officers do every day. That is how we will remember them. Our thoughts are with their families.”
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