Chicago Organizers Seek Police Torture Reparations

By Emily Gray Brosious | Originally published at Gapers Block | Feb. 17, 2015

Hundreds of people gathered at the Chicago Temple (77 W. Washington St.) Saturday afternoon calling on city council to pass a reparations ordinance for survivors of Chicago Police torture.

Frankie Miller recites poem "Give Me Freedom 'Til My Soul Don't Doubt It" at the people's hearing on Chicago police torture reparations. (Photo by Emily Gray Brosious)
Frankie Miller recites poem “Give Me Freedom ‘Til My Soul Don’t Doubt It” at the people’s hearing on Chicago police torture reparations. (Photo by Emily Gray Brosious)

Organizers with Amnesty International USA, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Project NIAand We Charge Genocide billed the event as a “People’s Hearing” on the impacts of police torture and the need for reparations.

Torture survivors, organizers, faith leaders and politicians spoke out during the gathering, which was held the day after former Chicago police commander Jon Burge was released from house arrest at a halfway house after serving four and a half years on perjury charges.

The Chicago Police Torture Survivors Reparations Ordinance would “provide redress to over 100 men and women of color – the vast majority of whom are African American men – tortured by notorious former police Commander Jon Burge and detectives operating under his command,” organizers said.

Aldermen Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins Jr. (21st Ward) first introduced the ordinance to Chicago City Council on Oct. 16, 2013, but it’s been stalled for over a year in the finance committee — despite support from a majority of city council members, local civic and faith groups and The United Nations Committee Against Torture.

“It is appalling to think that, not only were people brutally tortured by U.S. authorities, but that decades have elapsed without meaningful reparations to the victims,” Amnesty International USA executive director Stephen W. Hawkins said in a statement.

Former police commander Burge and his detectives perpetrated racially motivated torture including electric shock, sexual abuse, suffocations and beatings, organizers said.

“Scores of survivors still suffer from the ongoing impact of the trauma they endured — without compensation, assistance or recourse,” they said.

Organizers say Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recognized and apologized for the torture but has not “taken meaningful steps” to pass the reparations ordinance. They say torture survivors have waited long enough for reparations and want the mayor to act now.

“Empty words and apologies are not enough. It’s time for Mayor Emanuel to walk the walk and declare his full and public support for the Reparations Ordinance,” organizers said in a statement.

Hashtags for the afternoon included #RahmRepNow, #HaveHeart and #ReparationsNOW.

According to organizers, the proposed ordinance would specifically:
• Serve as a formal apology to the survivors
• Create a Commission to administer financial compensation to survivors
• Create a medical and psychological center on the south side of Chicago
• Provide free enrollment in City Colleges to the survivors
• Require Chicago Public Schools to teach a history lesson about the cases
• Require the City to fund public memorials about the cases
• Set aside $20 million to finance this redress [“The same amount of money the City has spent to defend Burge, other detectives and former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the Chicago Police torture cases.”]

“It’s been 43 years since Jon Burge started torturing African American people in Area 2 Police Headquarters,” said Project NIA founding director Mariame Kaba. “And it’s past time that the survivors of this violence are compensated for the harm.”

Click below to Hear Frankie Miller recite poem “Give Me Freedom ‘Til My Soul Don’t Doubt It” at Saturday’s event:

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