On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, after decades of grassroots struggle, the Chicago City Council passed the reparations package for the Burge torture survivors and their family members.

WHAT IS THE REPARATIONS ORDINANCE?

The Reparations Ordinance provides concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members. 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, which was first introduced in October of 2013 by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward), sends a strong message that activism and organizing matter in the ongoing struggle for human rights and social justice.

THANK YOU TO:

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 - USAChicago Torture Justice MemorialsProject 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. 

Family Members
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.

Prior Activism
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 the work of the Chicago Torture Justice Center on the Southside of Chicago as they provide specialized trauma services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members.  In the years to come, we will work with the Center to support its mission to expand and provide these necessary services to others harmed by law enforcement violence. We also need your participation and support to ensure the success of the Chicago Public School curriculum and that a permanent, public memorial is 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. 

Photograph above by Sarah-Ji Rhee