Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) aims to honor and to seek justice for the survivors of Chicago police torture, their family members and the African American communities affected by the torture. In 2010 CTJM, a group of attorneys, artists, educators, and social justice activists, put out a call for speculative memorials to recall and honor the two-decades long struggle for justice waged by torture survivors and their families, attorneys, community organizers, and people from every neighborhood and walk of life in Chicago. This effort culminated in a major exhibition of 75 proposals and a year-long series of associated teach-ins, roundtables, and other public events in 2011-2013.CTJM now turns its attention to a campaign for reparations for those affected by Chicago Police torture, and to working in solidarity with other groups and individuals for racial justice and to end police violence and mass incarceration.

Left: the electrical device used for torture during interrogations by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge.

 CTJM PROJECT PRESENTATION

Download a slideshow presentation about the CTJM project including a gallery of the memorial proposals that appeared in the Opening the Black Box exhibition.

download

“The fight for justice in the torture cases will not be over until all Burge torture victims receive compensation for their suffering, the men in jail get fair hearings and Burge’s pension is taken from him.”

–– Ronnie Kitchen, torture survivor


Contact Us

justicememorials@gmail.com

Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM Project)
c/o People's Law Office
1180 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, Illinois 60642

Get Connected

Subscribe to our newsletter

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

 

O R D I N A N C E

 

REPARATIONS FOR THE CHICAGO POLICE TORTURE SURVIVORS

 

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago acknowledges that former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command systematically engaged in acts of torture, physical abuse and coercion of African American men and women at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 through 1991; and 

 

WHEREAS, the acts of torture committed by Burge and detectives under his command included electrically shocking individuals on their genitals, lips and ears with an electric shock box or cattle prod; suffocating individuals with plastic bags; subjecting individuals to mock  execution with guns; physical beatings with telephone books and rubber hoses; and other forms of physical and psychological abuse; and

 

WHEREAS, Burge and his men committed these acts of torture and abuse to extract confessions from the victims which were subsequently admitted against them in their criminal prosecutions resulting in their wrongful convictions; and

 

WHEREAS, these acts of torture, physical abuse and coercion violate state, federal and international law and such acts are universally condemned worldwide; and  

 

WHEREAS, the trauma and damage caused by these heinous acts continue to deleteriously effect the torture survivors, their family members, African American communities and the City of Chicago; and

 

WHEREAS, the trauma and damage caused by these heinous acts will continue to cause egregious harm to those affected unless the City of Chicago and other municipal bodies enact reparations to mitigate the harm; and

 

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago has been complicit in the torture practices and tacitly supported those acts by expending more than $20 million of taxpayers’ funds to defend Burge and other detectives implicated in civil litigation brought by the torture survivors, and

 

WHEREAS, Mayor Emanuel has recently acknowledged that the torture scandal was a dark chapter in the history of the City of Chicago that stained its reputation and that he was sorry for it;

 

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago must officially acknowledge the torture that occurred in the City and resolve to never allow such acts to go undeterred and unpunished ever again, now therefore,

 

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF CHICAGO AND

THE MAYOR OF CHICAGO:

 

'   Hereby issues a formal apology to the torture survivors, their family members, and other affected individuals and communities on behalf of the City of Chicago for the violations and harm incurred by these torture practices.

 

'   Hereby creates a Chicago Police Torture Reparations Commission that is responsible for administering financial reparations to the torture survivors to compensate them for the torture they endured.

 

'   Hereby creates a center on the south side of Chicago that will provide psychological counseling, health care services and vocational training to the torture survivors, their family members and others affected by law enforcement torture and abuse.

 

'   Hereby provides that all torture survivors and their family members be allowed to enroll in City Colleges and receive their education and degree for free.

 

'   Hereby calls on the Chicago Public School system to incorporate into its curriculum a history lesson about the Chicago Police torture cases and the struggles to hold those accountable and to seek reparations for the survivors and affected family members.

 

'   Hereby calls on local law enforcement officials to provide evidentiary hearings to the torture survivors who remain behind bars who had their coerced confessions used against in their criminal proceedings resulting in their wrongful convictions, and moreover, supports the torture survivors’ rights to have a full and fair opportunity to present evidence that demonstrates they were physically coerced into giving a confession.

 

'   Hereby commits to supporting the creation of public memorials that memorialize the Chicago Police Torture survivors and the struggle for justice on their behalf.

 

'   Hereby provides a minimum of $20 million to finance the Chicago Police Torture Reparations Commission, the center on the Southside Center, the creation of a curriculum and to fund the creation of public memorials set forth herein.

 

'   Hereby directs the Corporation Counsel to take whatever legal steps are available to support the stripping of Jon Burge’s pension.

Reparations Ordinance Hearing

March 4, 2014, 5:13 p.m. – 5:13 p.m.

City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St, 2nd floor, City Council Chambers

The Finance Committee will be having a hearing on the reparations ordinance, date TBA. The proposed Ordinance calls for a formal apology to the survivors; creates a Commission to administer financial compensation to the survivors; creates a medical, psychological and vocational center on the south side for the survivors and their family members; provides free enrollment in City Colleges for the survivors and family members; requires Chicago Public schools to teach a history lesson about the cases; requires the City to fund public memorials about the cases; and sets 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.

A FILM FESTIVAL AGAINST TORTURE

Dec. 15, 2012, noon – 7 p.m.

Sullivan Galleries
33 S. State St., 7th Floor

A screening of three powerful films about torture, featuring discussions with the filmmakers:

 

12:00–2:00 p.m.

THE END OF THE NIGHTSTICK by Peter Kuttner, Cyndi Moran, and Eric Scholl

As victims speak out, THE END OF THE NIGHTSTICK investigates charges of institutional racism, violence and cover-up. It also tell the story of a resistance movement, as local activist groups, including the Task Force to Confront Police Violence, refuse to let testimonies of police violence remain buried. 

 

2:15–3:30 p.m.

TO TURN A BLIND EYE by Jackie Rivet-River and John Lyons

This short documentary film, TO TURN A BLIND EYE, exposes police torture of African American Suspects by former police Commander Jon Burge. As investigative journalist Jon Conroy said, “…they all knew, all the officers, the State’s Attorneys as did many judges…and later there are 18 and there are 28 and there are 56 and now it’s at 112.  These are just guys we know about, there are many we don’t.

 

4:00–6:00 p.m.

BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD Ines Somer and Kathy Berger.

BENEATH THE BLINDFOLD interweaves the personal stories of four torture survivors who now reside in the U.S., but originally hail from different parts of the globe: South and Central America, Africa, and the U.S. This documentary paints a holistic portrait of survivors’ experiences, their path to healing, and life after torture.

I AM MEMORY: CHICAGO WRITERS AGAINST TORTURE

Nov. 29, 2012, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Sullivan Galleries: 33 S. State St., 7th Floor

Reception 5:30pm

Join us for an evening of fierce words with some of Chicago’s finest writers: performances and readings by Kevin Coval, Darby Tillis, Archy Obejas, Gary Younge, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Krista Franklin, and others. This reading is dedicated to the survivors, families, and communities who endured unspeakable acts of torture at the hands of Chicago police.

Presented as part of the Sullivan Galleries exhibition Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture 

organized by the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project, on view through December 21.

Opening the Black Box—Reception

Oct. 5, 2012, 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Sullivan Galleries
33 S. State St., 7th floor
The show will run October 4 – December 21, 2012

Flier for the Opening the Black Box show at Sullivan Galleries.

Challenges in Combatting Torture: A Conversation with Juan E. Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

April 24, 2012, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.

International House Assembly Hall
1414 E. 59th St.
Hyde Park, Chicago

Chicago Torture Justice Memorials is a proud co-sponsor of this important conversation on torture:

"Challenges in Combatting Torture: A Conversation with Juan E. Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture"

Tuesday, April 24, 7pm

Presented by the University of Chicago Human Rights Program

Juan E. Mendez is the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the author ­ with Marjorie Wentworth ­of Taking a Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights. Until May 2009, he was the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Concurrently, he was Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide (2004­-2007). Between 2000 and 2003 he was a member of the Inter­-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States, and its President in 2002. He teaches human rights at American University in Washington and at Oxford University (UK). In the past he has taught also at Notre Dame Law School, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins. He worked for Human Rights Watch (1982-­1996) and directed the Inter-­American Institute on Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica (1996-­1999). As a labor and human rights lawyer in Argentina, Mendez was himself imprisoned and tortured during Argentina's "Dirty War."

Free and open to the public with a book­signing to follow.

republished from http://www.propellerfund.org/

For Proposals

The Chicago Torture Justice Memorial

 

Artists, Architects, Photographers, Writers, Poets, Musicians, Performers and Everyone Concerned with Justice!

We invite artists and those who seek justice to submit proposals for a speculative monument to memorialize the Chicago Police torture cases. Over 100 African American men and women were tortured by white Chicago police officers and forced into giving confessions under former Commander Jon Burge. These memorial projects will serve as a public reckoning with police torture in Chicago and honor those who fought to stop it. We aim to make visible the social and political conditions that made torture possible, as well as the acts of courage that ended—or at least brought to light—the culture of impunity that thwarted justice for so long in this instance. Every submission will be an act of solidarity with torture survivors. We welcome proposals of radical imagination as we seek to honor the survivors of torture, their family members and the African American communities affected by the torture.

All submitted proposals will be exhibited at one or more of the following venues: Chicago area art galleries, community centers, and a dedicated website. We hope this project will help to build a social movement strong enough to deter these and other acts of torture and transform our broken criminal justice system.

 Download the call poster and help spread the word.

Sponsor
Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project
(CTJM Project)

Deadline
Ongoing

Venue
Sites throughout the Chicagoland area and a website

Eligibility
Submissions may be made by a person of any age and nationality.

Criteria for Proposals
A proposed monument may take any form – from architecture to haiku, from website to mural, from community organization to performance, from bronze plaque to large-scale memorial.

Submission Process
The submission can be in the form of a PDF, PPT, webpage, or other accessible electronic format. Non-electronic submissions will also be accepted.

email contact
justicememorials@gmail.com

mail to
Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project
c/o People's Law Office
1180 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, Illinois 60642

The Reparations Ordinance and Frequently Asked Questions Oct. 20, 2014

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

The Chicago Police Torture (Burge) Cases and the Reparations Ordinance

 

Background

From 1972 to 1991, former Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives working under his command tortured over 110 African American and Latino men and women. Torture tactics included: electrically shocking genitalia or other body parts with a handmade shock box or cattle prod, suffocation with plastic bags, beatings with rubber objects or telephone books, and staging mock executions. The vast majority of the torture survivors were also subjected to racial slurs and epithets throughout their interrogations. Burge and his men committed the torture in order to extract confessions. These confessions were then used to wrongfully convict scores of people and send 11 of the torture survivors to Illinois’ death row.

Burge was fired from the CPD in 1993. Burge was tried in federal court and, in 2010, convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury for lying when he falsely denied that he and others committed acts of torture. After serving approximately 3 ½  years in federal prison, he was released from prison to a halfway house on October 2, 2014.

 

What Does the REPARATIONS ORDINANCE Seek to Provide?

The Ordinance:

  • serves as a formal apology to the survivors, their family members, and the communities of color affected by this systemic torture that lasted close to two decades;

  • creates a Commission to administer financial compensation to the survivors;

  • creates a community center on the south side of Chicago that would provide psychological counseling, vocational training, referrals and other services to the torture survivors, their family members and the communities affected;

  • provides free enrollment in City Colleges to the survivors and their family members;

  • requires Chicago Public schools to teach a history lesson about the cases;

  • requires the City to fund public memorials about the cases; and

  • sets aside $20 million to finance this redress


Why Should the Ordinance Be Passed?

Scores of Chicago Police Torture survivors and their families continue to suffer from the psychological effects of the torture they endured without compensation or assistance. The majority of survivors have no legal recourse to obtain any redress whatsoever. Further, evidence exists that implicates the City and County in actions that led to ongoing torture and its cover up.

 

Has the City of Chicago Taken Any Steps Towards Redress?

No. While Mayor Emanuel has repeatedly called the Burge era a dark chapter in the history of Chicago and apologized on behalf of the City, no steps have been taken by the Mayor or the Chicago City Council to provide redress to those who survived the torture. The City remains complicit in this institutionalized violence, until it provides the survivors of torture redress for the suffering they endured. The passage of this Ordinance will help complete this unfinished business.

 

Haven’t All of the Torture Survivors Received Financial Compensation from the City?

No. The vast majority of the torture survivors have received no financial compensation from the City whatsoever. Only 16 people (out of over 110) have recovered financial compensation through lawsuits for their wrongful convictions.

 

Can Torture Survivors Sue Now to Get Financial Compensation for the Torture They Suffered?

No. Torture survivors can no longer sue because the statute of limitations expired on any civil claims decades ago. The overwhelming majority of torture survivors did not bring claims at the time they were tortured because they were occupied defending themselves in criminal cases. Further, at the time they were tortured, survivors were not believed and did not have the benefit of exculpatory evidence that the City of Chicago and implicated detectives actively took steps to withhold and cover up for the last 25 years.

 

Who Is Eligible to Receive Financial Compensation from this Ordinance?

All individuals or the families of deceased individuals who can establish that they were tortured by Burge or one of the detectives working under his command at Area 2 or 3 police headquarters (and have not received a minimum compensation from lawsuits) are eligible.

 

Why is the Amount of Total Compensation $20 Million?

$20 million is the amount the City has spent to defend Burge, other detectives and former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the Chicago Police Torture (Burge) cases. The City has also spent tens of millions of dollars more answering requests for information in federal and county investigations into the torture and in settlement amounts to a limited number of survivors’ in their civil cases.

 

How Would Financial Compensation Be Determined and Distributed?

The ordinance sets up a commission responsible for establishing rules and procedures for how people can claim that they are eligible for financial compensation. Each individual would receive the same amount of money from the commission.

 

How Do Survivors Establish They Are Eligible For Compensation?

Generally, a person would have to demonstrate that they were arrested and interrogated by Burge or an officer working under his command during the relevant time period. They can put forth evidence from their criminal cases wherein they claimed they were tortured or otherwise coerced, or they can present other outcry evidence noting a complaint of torture during or near the time of their interrogations.

 

How Will Criteria Related to the Other Parts of the Ordinance (Counseling Center, Access to City Colleges, High School Curriculum) Be Established?

The commission convened to determine financial eligibility will also determine who is eligible for the other redress in the ordinance.

 

Can Torture Survivors Currently Get Psychological Counseling Services from the City?

No. There are no psychological services or centers that provide counseling, vocational training or other therapeutic treatment to police torture survivors in Chicago or its environs. The Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center in Rogers Park is a community site that provides counseling and other therapeutic programs to international torture survivors only. Federal funding restricts their capacity to serve domestic survivors of torture.


Are There Any Burge Torture Survivors Who Remain Behind Bars?

There are approximately 19 Chicago Police (Burge) Torture survivors who remain in prison and whose conviction rests in whole or in part on their coerced confessions. Many have not been allowed to present evidence of their torture allegations, even given new evidence demonstrating the systemic nature of the torture uncovered over the last 25 years. The Ordinance also requires the City of Chicago to go on record in support of such evidentiary hearings.

 

Does the Ordinance Apply to all People Who Have Been Tortured By the Chicago Police?

No. There are uncounted individuals who have been tortured by officers in the CPD over many decades; including some who worked with Burge but engaged in acts of torture or abuse after he was separated from the Department. This ordinance is limited to providing financial compensation and redress to those tortured under Burge’s tenure in the Department in light of the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that this systematic pattern and practice of torture occurred under his command.  We would hope that the community center on the south side of Chicago could serve the needs of all Chicago police torture survivors and victims.

 

Artist Anne Elizabeth Moore speaks about her submission to "Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture" April 8, 2013

ANNE ELIZABETH MOORE WITH VIRGINIA KONCHAN

Reposted from http://theconversant.org

In an increasingly neoliberalized literary market, “surface” readings constitute today’s most prevalent form of cultural criticism within and beyond the academy. In pop as well as literary culture, amid critical dispositifs of disinterest and “zaniness”—described by Sianne Ngai as an aesthetic of laboring and playing under the new “connexionist” spirit of capitalism—the pressure to trade in nuanced perspectives for shallow punditry or personal diatribes subtends what Avital Ronnell calls our “default of the political.”

For writer Anne Elizabeth Moore, the evasion of national and global crises, in order to maintain the status quo through unexamined obsequies or the revalorization of the private sphere, is a problem for all capitalist subjects, particularly for those seeking to find voice and form for radical critiques: “Nestled within these difficulties is a particular (although not exclusive) challenge to the female of the species, relegated to a gender role rewarded for silence and prized when emotional…. As a culture we value niceness, particularly in women, even at the expense of truth.”

I caught up with Moore to discuss her current multi-media installation for the School of the Art Institute’s “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture” exhibition (70 collected works of witness memorializing more than 100 reported cases of torture by Chicago Police from 1972 to 1991); her current and upcoming projects; and her post-election response to questions concerning U.S. free trade laws, labor politics and censorship in a neoliberal market.

Virginia Konchan:  In your election-day speech on the 19th amendment at the Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago, you argued that merely participating in patriarchal institutions isn’t necessarily an actual gain, if those systems don’t represent through a governing body or in the private interests they serve, the needs of women for safety, civil rights and economic development. What are some guerilla tactics for women to change the system (or, ourselves, as you suggested), from within?

Anne Elizabeth Moore: That election-day piece will be published in a book on inauguration day, but if you can’t wait I do have an audio version of it here.

I personally don’t advocate change from within a system which has thoroughly disempowered us—or, for that matter, any system that thoroughly disempowers as a matter of course. There are tons of people who do and that’s great. I totally see the value of having more women in congress, more female politicians, more politicians of color and the general diversification of all institutions, organizations, systems and neighborhoods. But what we lose in that debate is the reminder that legislation is not the only way to achieve change. Going out and making the change happen on your own is one slightly more effective way of spending your change-making efforts, especially when everything else has stalled out. That election-day piece is an update of an Emma Goldman essay and what she argues, which I think still holds true, is that the big challenge is convincing women to see this, to not be beholden to a system that relies on their continued oppression. So “guerilla tactics,” which has this totally dirty, underground sense to it. . . it’s not about acting beyond the law necessarily. But about doing what you believe to be right in the world. I don’t think that takes tactics. I think for most people it just takes a little silence and self-trust—maybe a bit of education or experience, too.

VK: We live in the age of media’s seeming democratization (blog culture, citizen journalism); the means for self-publishing or publishing with independent presses and magazines abound. Is controlling the means of production everything, do you think, or only half the battle? In other words, does content suffer from the commodification of intellectual capital for the marketplace, and is the relationship between reader and writer compromised by media’s digitization?

AEM: We don’t control the means of production of everything, and we don’t know what it would be like if we did. Publishing has always been limited by economic class, first and foremost, and by gender and education, secondarily. So keeping in mind that we are already dealing with a limited field of a potential range of cultural output, which itself necessarily limits the potential for new and exciting directions for future content, we also note that content is right now also being held back by that value system I mentioned earlier—the one that prizes financial reward over, say, intellectual achievement, thoughtfulness or integrity. You can see it in fiction, in nonfiction, in visual work, in film. Take journalism, for example. I mean, most of what passes for it these days is literally an ad. On top of what that’s doing to us as humans, my real problem isn’t with the ethical shift. My real problem is that I am totally bored by it. So I don’t know necessarily that readers and writers’ relationships are changing. Some are, some aren’t (I had this conversation with Mary Gaitskill the other day about Twitter. She was like, “That sounds really stupid”). And I know that as a writer I am unchallenged. Although I really like Twitter.

VK: Social media and cyberactivism played a key role in drawing awareness to recent revolutions (from the Zapatista National Liberation Army to the Occupy movements). What is the next step after cyberactivism (on the level of policy reform or law?)

AEM: It’s popular to claim all these miraculous attributes for social media, as it is for all new products when they appear on the market, but using social media is not cyberactivism, and it’s definitely not activism. Making use of a tool in the manner for which it was designed to be used is just not activism. It’s communication, and that’s great, and important, but “raising awareness” is the lamest kind of armchair policy advocacy at best, which is about 80 steps short of change-making. It’s totally great that people are educating themselves and each other about issues and events, especially as these unfold. But until that translates into shifts in behavior, whether legislated or not, it’s just not going to matter. Anyway—when did that kind of behavior go from being considered “preaching to the converted” to being “cyberactivism”? Maybe the way we talk and think about social media is changing, but its effect on us isn’t. Definitely, our standards are slipping.

I think we can actually see this in the Rolling Jubilee fallout. Rolling Jubilee, the Strike Debt project of Occupy Wall Street, is this interesting but very flawed response to the debt crisis. Some really smart writers, including Doug Henwood and Yves Smith, have done great investigative work about the larger problems that this supposed solution actually creates. Here I still think the action might be worth the critical response, because we are giving debt a common lexicon: but there may well be some people seriously screwed over as a result of this OWS well-intentioned action, so I hesitate to say for sure.

And that’s kind of what I mean: we’re really willing to retweet the first message that comes across our screens, not even thinking through the action behind it. Yves Smith made some excellent points in his essay on—again, not even policy reform, but holding people to existing laws—as a way of undoing this damage. You know? Let’s do that.

VK: Was the black box in your recent installation at the School of the Art Institute your proposed means for a prisoner or detainee to disclose incidents of torture during interrogations?

AEM: Actually, the mailbox is for fellow officers to report wrong-doings, and the plaque above it simply restates the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor they each took when becoming police officers. I think prisoners of torture already have enough going on in their lives and shouldn’t be responsible for repeatedly reporting their own abuses. They should be able to file a complaint, and an investigation should occur. Our charge as a society is not to burden the oppressed with further potential for oppression, especially when it’s become so abundantly clear that most systems are set up to ignore prisoners’ needs. The officers and detectives working under Jon Burge knew—hundreds of them. They were duty-bound to come forward, and only one did, 18 years later. My piece “Rest Area” is about holding the police force responsible for its own misdoings, which is exactly what they agreed to do when taking on the duty in the first place.

I generally find that new laws and policies aren’t necessary to address most of the crap that goes down in the world these days, but holding people to the laws and policies that already exist means doing two things that don’t happen very often: 1) people need to be already aware or made aware of current agreements and legislation and 2) the wrong-doers need to be held to these. Right now, ego and exceptionalism are, I believe, behind all of the most egregious violations of our social contract and laws. And it’s going to take a lot more to undo those than passing a new law that says “by the way, laws apply to everyone, including people who think they don’t.” It’s going to take education, introspection, reflection, time, and a culture that values facts over loudness, authority, and repetition.

VK: What kept the victims of torture (facing everything from mock executions to cattle prods) from communicating what was happening: fear of further retaliation? The black box suggests that anonymity would encourage more victims to speak out, if they knew they were being heard. Did some of the victims of torture by the Chicago police attempt to speak out, and to whom?

AEM: Well, the point is that they weren’t all kept from communicating what was happening. People just weren’t listening to those who were speaking out. That kind of silencing is very, very toxic. I’ve been writing about it in relation to Cambodia for years. When victims speak up about abuses, but their voice is silenced with extreme and excessive violence, guess what? Other people stop talking. That not only means that the original torture and abuse often continues, but silence becomes a learned behavior. Already we’ve seen other varieties of self-silencing on the south side of Chicago, because there has been no justice around this issue. In Cambodia, the silencing that happened around the Khmer Rouge continues to this day, almost forty years on—as does the resultant, unavoidable trauma. Don’t think for a second that over a hundred black folks tortured in a small area of a single city won’t have as strong and as lasting an effect. (And, you know, don’t think that the history of segregation and racial violence and racism here didn’t help foster a situation in which John Burge could go as nuts as he wanted, seemingly with full support of the entire city.)

VK: The memorials are, as the project statement says, “proposals for speculative ways to memorialize the torture cases.” This double hypothetical confused me. Are there plans for implementing these projects (e.g. the Virtual Chicago Torture Justice Memorial), or is the larger point that restitution remains, in the legal system, insufficient and only speculative?

AEM: Hmm, it is a confusing sentence—and an extremely confusing notion. The project as I interpret it is to create public recognition around the particular set of police torture cases initiated by John Burge. I don’t believe there’s any plan in place to implement these exhibitions beyond the current gallery set-up, but I’ve been asking about that too. On one hand, it would be great if these pieces (all of them, or several of them) were placed in various spaces around the city, to widen awareness of the problem and artfully present responses to it. It would be great if the city itself would acknowledge its wrongdoings and not only fund this, but begin making restitutions to the torture victims and their families in the first place. On the other hand, regarding my piece in particular, I would be really sad if the city acknowledged that no current mechanism exists for the humanizing of police officers except to install mailboxes and plaques in bathrooms at the detective areas where folks could very secretly reveal wrongdoings they had witnessed. My piece is a nice conceptual response to a lot of different kind of wrongs currently embedded in a totally fucked system, but a more thorough overhaul of how officers behave and who allows for it and why would be a far more effective real-world solution.

VK: In considering the many cases of women publically beaten and killed during the Arab Spring uprisings (by police, as well as the public), and the continued human rights violations that occur in the Middle East and globally (genital mutilation, “honor” killings, public stoning of women), and most particularly in times of political instability (rape camps, or, for example, the sexual violence directed at female earthquake survivors living in Haitian tent cities), what do you think needs to be done on the level of foreign intervention (of course Egypt is a member-state of the U.N.)?

AEM: Here in the U.S., women are abused publicly as well, sometimes beaten or killed, sometimes sexually assaulted—by police as well as the public. The problem is not on the same scale as in Egypt, but it is the same problem. So the logic of U.S.-backed foreign intervention, whether military or via the U.N., totally eludes me. U.N. peacekeepers have their own history of sexual assault, keep in mind. It will never be a good idea to send an abuser in to respond to abuse, whether on an individual level or a national level. So what I advocate in such situations, always, is that we get some reliable studies of women’s rights organizations doing gender justice work on the ground, ask them what they need in terms of support, and then give it to them. Anything beyond that is more or less colonialist and wrong-headed.

VK: You are the author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing and the Erosion of IntegrityHey Kidz, Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People; andCambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh. All these books fight back against corporate and governmental censorship. In Cambodian Grrrl you describe your self-publishing course taught to 32 girls in Phnom Penh, shortly after the final press run of your indie magazine of 13 years, Punk Planet. In interviews you have noted the neoliberal free market’s alliance with corporate ideology and inUnmarketable, DIY projects’ and alternative media outlets’ co-optation by capitalism, or our internalization of the capitalist to create what John Seabrook calls “the marketer within.” With Obama in office for the next four years, what are some effective strategies—local, national or global—of resistance for “underground” movements, feminisms, and hybrid/fringe identities? How can these avoid being reinscribed by wage-labor capitalism, cyborg culture, and media-generated consumer desire? Is there, in your opinion, an “inside” or “beyond” to capital?

AEM: Ah, well, there’s also The Manifesti of Radical Literature (and the comics), but it’s true that strategizing against silencing and self-silencing under governmental, corporate, and other pressures is “my beat.” Neoliberalism values certain things and devalues others; that’s our political economy at this moment, and Obama may have been the lesser of two evils in terms of how quickly this value system gets legislated, but he’s not going to dismantle it—even if it unjustly discriminates against women (technically 51% of the U.S. population, although 57% of the folks living in poverty). And don’t even get me started on how thoroughly neoliberalism discriminates against folks who do not place themselves on a gender binary, or how race fits into that matrix. (All of this being what my Truthout column Ladydrawers looks at.) Take drones, for example: the Facebook of warfare. We’re really beyond a point where traditional notions of “anti-capitalist resistance” are going to do anything about drones. So this particularly pernicious form of late-stage capitalism we find ourselves in right now, that strives always for austerity and privatization while freeing only market oversight…it’s a little beyond questions of capital. These are questions of human survival. A friend just called after he’d assigned Unmarketable to his college students. They had no idea what was being lost in the race for market dominance. But what’s being lost is a fundamental respect for people, for ourselves. And we don’t have much ground to lose there anymore.

I mean, I get asked this question a lot: what are the solutions? What are the upbeat answers to all these yucky problems? And, you know what? Those are questions totally fueled by capitalism, by a logic that demands that if we point out a problem we must fix the machine so production can continue. But there aren’t flaws in the machine. This is what the machine does. I think it’s enough at this point to all get on the same page about that. As far as what comes next, I don’t know, and I don’t think any of us will for a long, long time.

VK: In your 2012 Truthout article about the 3,000 mass faintings, during the previous year, at Phnom Penh garment factories (supplying goods to Puma, Gap, H&M, and American Eagle Outfitters stores), you note the failed 2010 union strikes in Phnom Penh (followed by rounds of illegal firings), and state that until U.S. consumers are willing to “double what they pay for cheap fashion,” this system of exploited labor will continue. Of course that system might even worsen. In May 2012 the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement was approved, making 80% of U.S. consumer and industrial exports (and more than 50% of U.S. agricultural commodities exports) to Colombia duty-free. Obama supported this and other deregulated free-trade agreements, and pledged an increase of $130 million U.S. funds to Columbia to “bolster security” and hunt down narco-traffickers and gangs in the region. Bill Clinton’s 1997 Apparel Industry Partnership initiative aside, what kinds of citizen action can be done to protest wretched labor conditions in the U.S. and elsewhere? Do you think selective purchasing agreements (e.g. those instituted in Berkeley and Cambridge, boycotting companies or corporations producing goods in Burma) or ethical investment drives are effective at the local level? Or does change need to come from putting pressure on Obama to impose sanctions on companies with sweatshop compounds that commit human labor violations in Nigeria, Indonesia, Cambodia, China and the Philippines?

AEM: Hmm, that’s a good question, and it’s going to take a lot of strategizing. Obama was in Cambodia yesterday and, thanks to some amazing on-the-ground activists, he spoke out against some human rights abuses the prime minister, Hun Sen, has been committing. But that’s a pretty weird moment; if you think about it, there are a ton of human-rights abuses that go on in garment factories every day that Obama didn’t even need to travel to Cambodia to fix. He could easily just say, “Yo. H&M, Inditex, the Gap, and Nike: let’s get you on a timeline to pay a living wage wherever you manufacture, or we’ll have to start holding you responsible for the human rights abuses that occur on the floors of the factories that make your clothes. We’ll start charging you a massive human-rights-abuse import tax I just drew up BECAUSE I AM THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.N.ITED STATES.” Then, you know, we’re so close to the election everyone would just cheer and go out and voluntarily pay double for all their clothes for the week.

You know what I’m saying? Like the way we’re even defining human-rights abuses here is crazy. Obviously our national sense of self-worth is overblown (American exceptionalism, again) if we think we deserve $7 dresses made by folks who are earning a fraction of that per day, around the world.

But it’s a mistake to pretend that only people who make money are capitalists, of course. The real problem of capitalism is that we’re all involved, whether we like it or not, whether it benefits us or not in any imaginable way.

In terms of changing the discussion, we have seen some great success from a performance based on the faintings called FEINT I did with some folks downtown last year. Those have now proliferated around the country through an activist organization called the Clean Clothes Campaign, and H&M, the world’s second-largest clothing company, is now responding to some of the problems this organization has raised. But people remain desperate to find a way to get out of paying more for stuff, because getting something cheap makes us feel special. Maybe the real trick is finding a less damaging way to feel special.

VK: You were raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation (Sioux) in South Dakota and have worked on the Cheyenne River Reservation. What do you see as the most significant challenges facing indigenous communities today, and what did your work there entail?

AEM: So these are both Lakota reservations. So my experience living in indigenous communities in the U.S. is fairly limited. But Lakota women are stalked and sexually assaulted at rates much higher than the national average for women. They have a harder time in school, suffer from greater self-esteem issues. It’s unbelievable, when you see it all together, even if you walk around with this received knowledge that, yes, these are the survivors of long-standing genocidal policies put in place by the U.S. government. And, it’s not just women: last spring a blind tribal elder checked into the hospital with chest pains, and when he got out, he found KKK symbols had been carved into his chest by the non-Lakota hospital staff. So it’s not even that these policies have fallen out of disuse. They’ve just, like everything else, become privatized. I was last there over a decade ago, running a camp for at-risk youth in some of the harshest conditions of poverty I’ve ever seen in the world, and I’ve been hoping to get some funding to return this summer to do my Adventure School for Ladies project there, but I’m not sure that funding will come through. If it doesn’t, we’ll put it off until next year—at which point a bunch of radical gender-minded queer folks will spend some time on the reservation, thinking through questions of social justice and translating them into cultural products or studies. Adventure School is really hard, and really frustrating, and more work than you can imagine, but pretty much the most fun ever.

VK: New projects on the horizon?

AEM: New Girl Law, the follow-up to Cambodian Grrrl, should be out in the spring. Ladydrawers has been invited to do some cool stuff coming up, so keep an eye on the blog for details. And a couple journalism projects. A lot of stuff, actually! So the cats are not going to be very happy with me.

 


Writer and activist Anne Elizabeth Moore is a Fulbright scholar, U.N. Press Fellow, Truthout columnist behind “Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the U.S.,” and the author of five books, most recently Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present, a lyrical essay discussing Cambodia’s recent economic development. Moore writes and lectures on independent media, globalization, and women’s labor issues.

Project NIA Pamphlet: Historical Moments of Policing, Violence & Resistance April 4, 2013

Project NIA pamphlet - survivor poem

Project NIA's pamphlet series titled "Historical Moments of Policing, Violence, and Resistance" created a pamphlet that provides the history of the torture cases, stories from survivors, and points for further discussion. Take advantage of this incredible resource!

 Download the entire pamphlet as a pdf.

The Torture of Darrell Cannon: A Case that the City of Chicago Cannot Win Jan. 9, 2013

By Flint Taylor, People’s Law Office

On November 2, 1983 three charter members of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s torture crew took African American murder suspect Darrell Cannon to an isolated area on the South Side of Chicago and tortured him. They repeatedly pressed an electric cattle prod to his testicles. They allowed him to believe they had loaded a shotgun, rammed it into his mouth, and pulled the trigger, repeating this mock execution three times. They tried to lift him off the ground by the handcuffs that secured his hands behind his back. At another location, they drove the cattle prod into his mouth. They beat him with a police flashlight.1 Eventually, Cannon succumbed and falsely confessed to participating in the murder. Thus started a twenty-nine year legal odyssey that continues to this day and presents the City of Chicago with a case that it cannot win.

Cannon’s false confession led to his conviction for murder and a life sentence. He won a reversal of the conviction, but he was again convicted at a second trial. On appeal, Cannon’s lawyers informed the court of 28 newly discovered cases of torture and abuse by the same Burge henchmen who had tortured Cannon, and the Court issued a landmark decision granting Cannon a new hearing at which he could use this evidence to show that his confession was tortured from him.2 The case was again returned to the trial court, and, after a protracted evidentiary hearing that focused on the pattern and practice of police torture, the State of Illinois dismissed Cannon’s case in 2004. After another lengthy legal battle, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board finally rescinded a parole hold that was premised on the dismissed murder conviction and Cannon was released from prison in 2007 – - 24 years after he was wrongfully convicted.

In 1986, while ensconced in the bowels of the Illinois prison system, Cannon had sought to vindicate his constitutional rights in Federal Court. He filed a handwritten complaint alleging that he was tortured and seeking money damages from his torturers. Unbeknownst to him, his court appointed lawyer, and the public at large, his torture was part and parcel of a widespread secret pattern and practice that was spearheaded by Burge and implemented by the crew of detectives who tortured him. As a result of this ignorance, in 1988, well before the newly discovered evidence of torture had surfaced, Cannon accepted the City of Chicago’s offer of a nuisance value settlement of $3000, of which he netted $1247.

After Cannon was exonerated in 2004, he filed a new suit in Federal Court, seeking damages for the more than two decades of wrongful imprisonment that he suffered as a result of his tortured confession. In this suit, he described the decades-long conspiracy to cover-up by high level Chicago and Cook County officials, and added Burge, a series of police superintendents, as well as the City itself, as newly named defendants who had not been named in the original suit. The City and the police defendants moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the 1988 settlement agreement barred Cannon from pursuing further compensation against any and all City officials. In 2006, the trial Judge rejected this argument, ruling that the massive conspiracy to cover-up the torture constituted a fraud by the police defendants and the City which thereby rendered the 1988 settlement a nullity.3

In 2007, the Chicago City Council held hearings on the Burge torture scandal, with a special emphasis on ending the City financed defense of Burge in five pending civil damages cases, including Cannon’s. Several Council members publicly called on Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City’s legal department to settle all of the outstanding torture cases, including Cannon’s. In response, the City settled four of the five cases for a total of $19.8 million, but refused to offer a nickel to Cannon, arguing that he was not entitled to a second bite of the apple. Instead of settling, the City poured $1.75 million in legal fees into further contesting Cannon’s case, and in 2011 its lawyers convinced the Judge to reverse her field and grant the City’s motion for summary judgment. In so doing, the Judge deemed the cover-up irrelevant to the issue of fraud because Cannon knew he had been tortured and therefore, in her view, was not deceived.4

Cannon appealed the decision, and on August 8, 2012 his lawyers from the People’s Law Office and the MacArthur Justice Center filed his brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.5 The appeal presents to the Court the fundamental question of whether Burge, his crew of now notorious “Asskickers,” and the entire City power structure can utilize their wholesale cover-up of the worst police scandal in the history of the City of Chicago to deprive a torture victim of his fair day in court and his right to reasonable compensation. Whatever the Court of Appeals decides, the City cannot win this battle in the court of public opinion, as its steadfast position in the Cannon case reaffirms, without question, that it continues to be on the side of the torturers rather than the tortured, preferring to spend millions to peddle the proposition that a torture victim’s suffering is worth $1247, regardless of the official fraud perpetrated on him, if he accepts the pittance.

See more information on Cannon's case on the People's Law Office website

chicagotorture.org

Propeller Fund project page for Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project

CTJMP article in E+D Sept. 8, 2012

Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture

Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., 7th floor
October 4–December 21
Reception: Friday, October 5, 4:30–8:00 p.m. 

Before the exhibition opens in October, check out an article on CTJMP's project in E+D (page 6-7)

republished from http://www.propellerfund.org

The organizers of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) Project:

Dorothy Burge is the Internship Coordinator for Associated Colleges of the Midwest. She also teaches seminars on systematic racism, criminal justice, and social problems.

Sali Vickie Casanova, educator/artist/activist, is a member of the US Human Rights Network and Black People Against Police Torture. Much of her cultural work with youth and educators confronts abuses of justice in the U.S. juvenile system especially in communities of color. She holds the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) from Columbia College, MBA and BA degrees from Indiana University, and recently received the Award for Excellence in Urban Studies and Community Development from IU Northwest. Ms. Casanova's efforts as teaching/performing artist are dedicated to empowering youth and activists to transform the movement for social justice and human rights.

Adam Green is Associate Professor of History and the College and Master of the Social Science Collegiate Division at The University of Chicago, concentrates in U.S. history and African American history. He is author of Selling the Race: Culture Community and Black Chicago, 1940-1955 and co-editor of Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism. Adam has lectured on campuses and community venues, and has appeared on WTTW (PBS) Chicago, WBEZ Chicago (radio), Al-Jazeera, BBC (radio) and C-SPAN. He’s been involved in community initiatives in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles related to police accountability and educational justice.

Alice Kim is a cultural organizer, writer and a longtime anti-death penalty and criminal justice reform activist. She is on the editorial board of In These Times magazine and the advisory board of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law School. She is also the director of The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council, that creates spaces for public conversations about social, political and cultural issues.

Carla Mayer's primary work focus is as an arts administrator and program manager for a municipal agency. She is a committed youth developer and creative activist. As an installation artist and sculptor, her work focuses on silenced voices, elemental materiality and including non-artists in the process of art-making. She has a master’s degree in interdisciplinary art from Columbia College, a bachelor’s degree in literary theory from Brown University and is a state certified art teacher.

Joey Mogul, is a partner at the Peoples Law Office in Chicago, Illinois and director of DePaul University' civil rights clinic.  Mogul has been involved in the campaign for justice for Chicago police torture survivors for the past fourteen years both as an attorney and as an activist.  Mogul was one of the founding members of the Campaign to Prosecute Police Torture and traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to successfully present the Chicago police torture cases to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2006.

A. Laurie Palmer is an artist, writer, and teacher. She has shown her visual work, which takes various forms as sculpture, installation and public projects, nationally and internationally, and she has published her writing in art journals and as independent projects. Her work has received support from the Louis Tiffany Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Graham Foundation, the ArtCouncil (now Artadia), and the Radcliffe Institute. Palmer teaches in the Sculpture Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Amy Partridge is an artist, activist, and Associate Director of Gender Studies at Northwestern University. As a Mess Hall "key-holder," she has organized events, exhibitions, and extensive collaborative projects with Iraq Veterans Against the War/Warrior Writers, Tamms Year Ten, White Rose Catholic Worker, Sewing Rebellion, AREA, Project NIA, and a reading group with Danville prisoners. She is a collective member of Cheap Art for Freedom Collective, Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor, and the Slow-Motion Research-Action Collective. From 2009-2011, she was a community representative and Chair of the "Arts & Other" Committee in the 49th Ward Participatory Budgeting Process.

Mary Patten is a visual artist, video-maker, writer, educator, and political activist. In all her work, she seeks to address collisions as well as alignments between the worlds of “politics” and art-making. Her book-length essay, Revolution as an Eternal Dream: The Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective, was recently published by Half Letter Press. She has exhibited and screened her work widely, and has directed, curated, and participated in many large-scale collaborative art projects for over thirty years, including Pathogeographies (with Feel Tank Chicago), “Depression: What is it Good For?” at the Gene Siskel Film Center; Project Enduring Look; Group Material’s “Your Message Here” (with ACT UP/Chicago); Artists’ Call against Intervention in Central America; and Cityarts Workshop. She teaches in the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sarah Ross is an artist who creates forms like clothing, signage and postcards to visualize struggles around space, class, access, and gender.  She often works collaboratively on projects such as Compass and Regional Relationships. Sarah teaches at The School of the Art Institute Chicago and works with incarcerated artists at an Illinois state prison. Images and ideas can be found at www.insecurespaces.net

Ellen Rothenberg's work is concerned with the politics of everyday life and the formation of communities through collaborative practices. She is a recipient of grants from the NEA, the Bunting (now Radcliffe) Institute, Engelhard Foundation, LEF Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. Rothenberg's work has been presented at London's Royal Festival Hall; Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen; National Museum for Contemporary Art, Bucharest; Museum London, Ontario; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art and Museum of Fine Arts; and CUNY’s James Gallery NYC; among others. Rothenberg teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ben Stagl is an interdisciplinary artist, activist, and community educator. He received his BFA from Oregon State University and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His projects range from sculptural installation to digital media and he is largely concerned with how humans continue to address and experience shared spaces. His projects have received support from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Cultures Council, The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, The Chicago Pop-Up Loop Alliance, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids. Stagl instructs casting and patina workshops at colleges around Oregon and Illinois and he currently works as Director of Development at an artisan casting service located in Chicago.

Brett Stockdill is an educator, writer, and activist. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Latino & Latin American Studies at Northeastern Illinois University.

Jan Susler, a lawyer since 1976, has been a partner at the People’s Law Office since 1982, with a focus on police misconduct civil rights, political prisoners and prisoners’ rights including litigation, advocacy and educational work around control unit prisons. Her work with the Puerto Rican Independence Movement and with progressive movements challenging U.S. foreign and domestic policies has been a constant throughout her career. Attorney for the Puerto Rican political prisoners for over three decades, she served as lead counsel in the efforts culminating in the 1999 presidential commutation of their sentences. She continues to represent those who remain imprisoned.

The Advisory Board for the CTJM project include:

  • Locke Bowman, Legal Director of the Mac Arthur Justice Center
  • Darrell Cannon, Chicago Police Torture survivor
  • Sali Vickie Casanova, Cultural Artist/Educator, Black People Against Police Torture
  • Bernardine Dohrn, Northwestern Children Family and Justice Center
  • Mary Fabri, Director, Torture Treatment Services & International Training of the
  • Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center
  • Susan Gzesh, Executive Director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago
  • Anthony Holmes, Chicago Police Torture survivor
  • Mariame Kaba, Founder and Director of Project NIA
  • Kevin Kaempf, Artist and Educator
  • Ronald Kitchen, Chicago Police Torture Survivor
  • Mary L. Johnson, Activist and mother of Chicago Police torture survivor Michael Johsnon
  • Andrea Lyon, Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases, DePaul University College of Law
  • Erica Meiners, Critical Resistance, Chicago
  • Mary D. Powers, Coordinator of Citizens Alert
  • Michaela Purdue, Community Organizer and Human Rights Advocate
  • Therese Quinn, Activist/Teachers for Social Justice
  • Jane Ramsey, Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
  • Howard Saffold, Positive Anti-Crime Thrust
  • Mario Venegas, Human Rights Activist
  • G. Flint Taylor, People's Law Office
  • Standish Willis, member of National Conference of Black Lawyers, founder of Black People Against Police Torture