After months–and decades–of grassroots struggle, the Chicago City Council passed the reparations package for the Burge torture survivors and their family members on Wednesday, May 6, 2015!
The reparations package, based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced in October of 2013 by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward), provides concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members, which includes: a formal apology for the torture; specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members on the South Side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and family members (including grandchildren) as well as prioritized access to other City programs, including help with housing, transportation and senior care; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools to 8th and 10th graders; the construction of a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that will allow the Burge torture survivors with us today to receive financial compensation for the torture they endured.
Chicago is the first municipality in the history of the United States to ever provide reparations for racially motivated law enforcement violence. In doing so, the City of Chicago is agreeing to acknowledge the City’s responsibility for gross human rights violations and to commit significant resources to begin to help repair the harms inflicted on the torture survivors, their families and the communities they come from. The enactment of this legislation sends a strong message that activism and organizing matter in the ongoing struggle for human rights and social justice.
Amnesty International - USA, CTJM, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide
This historic legislation is the product of decades of activism, litigation and journalism and the culmination of a concerted six-month inspirational, intergenerational and interracial campaign co-led by Amnesty International - USA, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide. We want to thank our partners who were absolutely critical in making this win a reality. It has been an a privilege and profound pleasure to work with you.
Police Torture Survivors
We recognize, honor and are indebted to the torture survivors, some whom were tortured under Burge’s reign of terror and others who were not, who have courageously spoken out and testified about the torture they suffered and sought justice for themselves and others for decades.
We recognize, honor and are indebted to the family members, particularly the mothers of the torture survivors, who also courageously spoke about the torture inflicted and made great sacrifices seeking justice for their loved ones and others.
Standish Willis and Black People Against Police Torture
We recognize, honor and thank Standish Willis for his brilliant vision to take the Burge torture cases to international fora and to Stan and Black People Against Police Torture for the original idea and call for reparations for Chicago Police Torture survivors.
We thank the following organizations for endorsing the ordinance, some of which held their own actions in support of the ordinance and many of the members who persistently and consistently came out to support our events: Amnesty International, Group 50; American Friends Service Committee – Chicago (AFSC); Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago; Black and Pink, Chicago; Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Chicago; Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression (CAARP); Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo; Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights; Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights; Chicago Light Brigade; Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN); Children and Family Justice Center at Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University; Center for Victims of Torture; Citizens Alert; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Chicago Chapter (CBTU); Community Justice For Youth Institute; Connect Force; 8th Day Center for Justice; Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago; Elephant Rebellion; First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA); Gay Liberation Network (GLN); Grassroots Collaborative; Grassroots Curriculum Task Force; Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center; Illinois Coalition Against Torture; Illinois Institute of Community Law and Affairs; International Human Rights Institute, DePaul University College of Law; Kuumba Lynx; L.E.A.D.E.R’s Network; #Let Us Breathe Collective; Lucky Pierre; MacArthur Justice Center; Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR); National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated; National Lawyers Guild, Chicago Chapter (NLG); National Police Accountability Project (NPAP); John Howard Association; People’s Law Office; Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP); Revolutionary Poets Brigade, Chicago; Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP); Tamms Year Ten; Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP); UE Western Regional; United Auto Workers #551, Union Solidarity Committee; Uptown People’s Law Center; Witness Against Torture.
Institutional Offerings of Space
We thank the Jane Adams Hull-House Museum, People’s Law Office, Experimental Station, Mess Hall, In These Times, Southside Community Arts Center, Grace Place, Sullivan Galleries and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Social Justice Initiative Pop Up Just Art (PUJA), NEIU Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine, the Chicago Temple and Silver Room for providing CTJM, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide space to host our events and art exhibits over the last four years.
Contributors of Art
We thank all the people who contributed their art and artistic labor - - banners, flags, posters, photographs, videos, documentaries, spoken word, holiday card, memes, songs, poetry, graphics, installation pieces, syllabi, blog posts, speculative memorials - - to this cause both in visioning what a public memorial could be, creatively presenting our demands, and documenting the campaign that served to inspire us to continue fighting on.
Movement Activists and All
We thank everyone who came to a rally; march; sing-in; demonstrations; charrette; art exhibit; spoken word event; round table discussion; film showing; hosted or attended a #TeachBurge teach in; participated in a twitter power hour; met with their alderperson; emailed, wrote, called, or tweeted at Mayor Emanuel or their alderperson (#RahmRepNow); signed a post card, holiday card or a petition; or donated funds to support the reparations ordinance and campaign.
We thank the Crossroads Fund, the Propeller Fund, the People’s Law Office, the University of Chicago Pozen Family Center for Human and the Center for Race, Politics and Culture of the University of Chicago for awarding us grants or providing funds or other in kind services that enabled us to mount this campaign.
We want to recognize all of the decades of activism, litigation and investigative journalism that preceded the reparations campaign that served as the necessary basis for making this reparations campaign a possibility, including: the campaign to get Burge fired from the CPD in the early 90s; the struggle for the Death Row 10, Aaron Patterson and against the death penalty in the late 90s and early 2000s; the campaign seeking a special prosecutor to investigate the crimes committed by Burge and others in the early 2000s; the coalition to raise these cases in international fora; the push for the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute Burge and his men; the campaign that passed the Torture Inquiry Relief and Commission Act (TIRC); and those who continue to support the on-going struggle to get evidentiary hearings for the torture survivors who remain behind bars.
The Work is Not Over
We take this moment to cherish this hard fought victory, but we must recognize that this work is not over. While the legislation has passed, we still need to work hard to make sure it gets properly implemented. We continue to ask for you to get involved in the campaign and support us in creating a community center on the Southside of Chicago to provide the specialized trauma services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members. If we are successful in developing this center we hope that its mission can expand to provide these necessary services to others harmed by law enforcement violence. We also need your participation and support to ensure the Chicago Public School curriculum and permanent, public memorial are designed and implemented in a way that we can all be proud of.
To this day there are approximately 20 or so Burge torture survivors, and countless others, who continue to languish behind bars who were wrongfully convicted because their physically coerced confessions were used against them. All of them are entitled to have evidentiary hearings to present the newly discovered that corroborate their allegations that they were physically forced to confess. If a Court finds they were physically coerced, they are entitled to have their convictions vacated and to be re-tried without the use of a physically coerced confession.
Further, we have always recognized that torture by law enforcement officials did not begin or end with Burge. It is unfortunate that the reparations are limited to the Burge torture survivors and family members in this instance. We hope, however, that this legislation can serve as a precedent and can help support redress packages for others who suffered from law enforcement violence.
Finally, we continue to see the ravages of racially motivated police violence affecting mostly young Black people today, whether it be the degrading but common practices of stop and frisk, the egregious use of tasers, or the far too frequent shootings of people. This work continues and CTJM stands in solidarity with our partners and other groups seeking to eradicate this violence. We call on you to support this on-going work.