Chicago police said they are investigating an incident caught on video during a weekend “Black Lives Matter” protest in which a police escort car cranked “Sweet Home Alabama,” a song some interpret as a tribute to the US South’s segregationist policies.
The song by Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd has been deemed by some as sympathetic to former Alabama Governor George Wallace and the segregationist policies he supported, especially in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. The band has said that interpretation is misguided.
DNAinfo pointed out that the song could have been a nod to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship football game that was played that same day, in which the University of Alabama soundly beat the University of Missouri.
Nevertheless, that ambiguity fueled suspicion from onlookers. The footage was captured by photographer Gabriel Michael.
“That’s called terrorism,” a man walking in front of Michael’s camera can be heard saying in the video as the police squad cars trailed behind the bulk of assembled protesters.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because you have to know the history of that song and the meaning,” Michael told DNAinfo Chicago. “It didn’t makes sense to me. It was [either] a horribly ironic joke that desensitized cops were playing, or it was intentionally disrespectful and intimidating.”
He added that he was sure the music was coming from the squad car, either from inside or from the car’s PA system.
“It was intimidating. It was aggressive. It was totally out of place,” Michael said. “It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, and they ended it with that.”