For decades--well before Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) formally organized--torture survivors, community members, parents, families, attorneys, and activists worked to expose the racist torture practices of Burge and his “midnight crew” and hold them accountable. Some of the organizations who engaged in this tireless work include Citizen's Alert, the Task Force to Confront Police Violence, the Aaron Patterson Defense Committee, the Death Row 10, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and Black People Against Police Torture.
The People's Law Office devoted decades litigating civil rights and criminal cases seeking relief for the torture survivors behind bars and working to document and disseminate the information in the courts of law and court of public opinion.
In 2004, attorney Standish Willis and Black People Against Police Torture proposed these cases to be raised in international forums and later proposed the idea of Reparations in the Burge Torture cases.
In 2010, after Burge was prosecuted and convicted, CTJM came together to imagine how these cases could be publicly memorialized, recognizing Burge's conviction did not address or provide redress for all the harm that occurred. Later, CTJM initiated the successful campaign seeking reparations for the Burge torture survivors, family members, and communities. This is a timeline of the reparations campaign:
2008 – 2009: Standish Willis calls for “Reparations” for the Chicago Police torture survivors. He is the first to frame the need for significant and expansive redress using the language of reparations.
Oct 16, 2008: Jon Burge is indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice for falsely denying he and detectives at Area 2 Police Headquarters engaged in acts of torture and physical abuse in Madison Hobley’s civil rights case by the US Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois in conjunction with the US Department of Justice. [Because the statute of limitations had expired for the torture crimes he committed, he is not indicted for the crime of torture.]
May 24 -June 25, 2010: Burge torture survivors Gregory Banks, Anthony Holmes, Melvin Jones, and Shadeed Mu’min testify against Burge at his criminal trial in federal court. Andrew Wilson’s prior testimony is also read to the jury (he passed away in prison on November 19, 2007).
June 28, 2010: Burge is convicted in federal court on all 3 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Jan 19, 2011: Anthony Holmes and Melvin Jones testify against Burge at his sentencing hearing. Burge is sentenced to four and half years in prison, the maximum sentence he could receive under the federal sentencing guidelines.
Jan 23, 2011: A group of artists, activists, scholars and an attorney begin to meet to discuss the possibility of soliciting proposals for memorial projects dedicated to the Chicago Police torture cases that contend with this history of state sanctioned violence and its ongoing legacies as a way of initiating a grassroots, community-based conversation about what would constitute adequate reparations for the harm done. The group is inspired by artist and CTJM co-founder Laurie Palmer’s project Three Acres on the Lake, which invited artists and community members to submit speculative proposals for projects that make use of the undeveloped land known as Du Sable Park to honor Jean Baptist Point(e) Du Sable and look to this project as a model.
June 28, 2011: CTJM holds its first public event at Jane Addams Hull House Museum and issues an open call for speculative proposals to memorialize the Chicago Police torture cases.
July, 2011: CTJM begins a residency at Mess Hall for the month of July. The exhibit, “Forgetting to Remember: The Meaning of Memorials,” and concurrent programming introduces the police torture cases and explores other memorial projects that reckon with state violence.
Aug 7, 2011: CTJM hosts a Design Charette at Experimental Station.
Oct 29, 2011: CTJM organizes a Torture Survivors Roundtable at NEIU’s Center for Inner City Studies with David Bates, Darrell Cannon, Mark Clements, and Anthony Holmes. Each describes their experience of torture and shares their insights on the kinds of memorials they imagine.
Nov 10, 2011: CTJM and Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT) host a community conversation on “Creative Activism and the Chicago Police Torture Cases” at the Southside Community Art Center. Torture survivor Marvin Reeves shares his idea for a memorial in which the names of all those exonerated and the date they were released from prison are etched into the stones surrounding Buckingham Foundation. Marvin’s proposal inspires CTJM’s First Annual Participatory Memorial Action on April 4, 2014.
Mar 17, 2012: CTJM hosts an open house at Jane Addams Hull House Museum.
Apr 25, 2012: CTJM and BPAPT meet with UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez to discuss reparations in the Chicago Police torture cases.
Oct-Dec, 2012: CTJM’s “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture,” an exhibit of the over 70 memorial project submissions, opens at the Sullivan Gallery at SAIC. The first version of the Reparations Ordinance, authored by Joey Mogul with input from the community, is one of the speculative memorials on exhibit.
May 11, 2013: CTJM holds a retreat, at which the group decides to focus its efforts on introducing reparations legislation in the coming year.
Sept 11, 2013: Chicago’s City Council approves a $12.3 million settlement in Burge torture survivors’ Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves’ wrongful conviction cases. Both were exonerated after serving 21 years in prison for a quintuple murder they did not commit. Ronald served most of his time on Illinois’ notorious death row.
After the settlement is raised in City Council, Chicago Sun Times reporter Fran Spielman confronted Mayor Emanuel and asked if this settlement serves as an apology for the torture cases. Mayor Emanuel responded:
This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago. I want to build a future for the city of Chicago. I don’t want to just deal with the past. But we have to close the books on this. We have to reconcile our past and start to write a future and a new chapter for the children of the city of Chicago and for the city. So yes, there has been a settlement, and I do believe this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened here in the city . . . I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on.
While the mainstream media heralded this as an apology, CTJM and the vast majority of the Burge torture survivors feel insulted by Mayor Emanuel’s desire to “move on.”
Sept -Oct 2013: CTJM members enlist Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins to serve as sponsors for the Reparations Ordinance.
Oct 16, 2013: CTJM holds a press conference with Aldermen Moreno and Brookins to announce the filing of the Ordinance.
The Ordinance is referred to the Finance Committee chaired by Alderman Ed Burke, a former Chicago Police Officer and member of “Vrdolyak 29,” which opposed Mayor Harold Washington and his administration.
Oct 11 –Dec 24, 2013: CTJM’s “Reparations On My Soul” opens at Art In These Times. The exhibit and concurrent programming explores reparations schemes for human rights violations around the world.
Dec 12, 2013: CTJM launches movement t-shirts featuring Carla Mayer’s memorial proposal. The image of a Chicago flag with an additional, fifth star to represent the devastating impact that the Burge torture cases has had on survivors, their families, and communities throughout the city of Chicago, becomes the iconic image of the reparations campaign.
Jan 2014: CTJM meets with executive staff of Amnesty International, USA (AI) to discuss partnering with AI on a new domestic program addressing human rights violations in the US, including those committed by law enforcement officials and highlighting the Burge torture cases. CTJM and AI agree to work together to pass the Reparations Ordinance.
Mar 4, 2014: The Finance Committee hearing on the Reparations Ordinance is cancelled. CTJM attempts to reschedule the hearing but is unable to do so for over a year.
Apr 4, 2014: CTJM and AI partner on producing CTJM’s First Annual Participatory Memorial Action at Daley Plaza during AI’s annual conference. 118 flags, each bearing the name of one of the 118 known Burge torture survivors and the date they were tortured, fill the square, as each name is read aloud.
Aug 4, 2014: CTJM and AI coordinate a Teach-In on lobbying and enlisting aldermanic support for the Ordinance. At this time, CTJM has fewer than 10 alderpeople who have agreed to endorse the Ordinance.
Aug 28, 2014: CTJM holds a retreat to develop a strategy to gain support for the Ordinance in City Council and to raise the profile of the Ordinance amongst the general public.
Sept 10, 2014: A CTJM member attends a City Council meeting and work with Alderman Brookins, Moreno and Sawyer to secure the support of 24 alderpeople.
Oct 2, 2014: CTJM and AI hold a press conference on the day Burge is released to a halfway house after serving less than four years of his four and half year sentence. CTJM points out the cruel irony that Burge gets to begin his life anew with the benefit of his taxpayer funded police pension, while scores of Chicago Police torture survivors continue to suffer from the psychological effects of the torture they endured without any compensation, assistance, or legal recourse for redress. CTJM also announces that the Ordinance has been endorsed by over half of the alderpeople in City Council, by Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) President and mayoral candidate Karen Lewis, and mayoral candidate Dr. Amara Enyia.
Oct 15, 2014: Mayor Emanuel appears before the Chicago Sun Times editorial board seeking their endorsement in the upcoming Mayoral election. In response to pointed questions by Chicago Sun Times reporter Fran Spielman, Mayor Emanuel acknowledges for the first time that the torture survivors are entitled to financial restitution, saying: “Because the law says the statute of limitations are over doesn’t mean our obligations are over.”
Oct. 22, 2014: We Charge Genocide (WCG) releases its shadow report to the UN Committee Against Torture condemning the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department for systemic racist violence.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), BPAPT and CTJM, in collaboration with the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, also submit shadow reports to the UN Committee Against Torture on the Chicago Police Torture cases condemning the City of Chicago for this history of police torture and the lack of reparations or any form of redress for the torture survivors and family members.
Oct 24, 2014: CTJM and AI join forces with Project NIA and WCG to organize a Twitter power hour and launch the hashtag #RahmRepNow, calling on the public to tweet at Mayor Emanuel and demand his support for the Reparations Ordinance.
Nov 12, 2014: The UN Committee Against Torture holds hearings with a U.S. Delegation to determine whether the U.S. Government has complied with the UN Convention Against Torture. WCG sends a delegation of Chicago youth of color to present WCG’s report and findings to the UN Committee. CTJM and the Transformative Justice Law Project of Chicago also send representatives to Geneva, Switzerland.
The delegation also make the decision to walkout during the second day of the proceeding and initiate a historic protest inside the UN during the presentation of US Government representatives, garnering the attention and respect of watchers worldwide.
Nov 28, 2014: The UN Committee Against Torture condemns the City of Chicago for failing to provide adequate redress to Burge torture survivors, noting that the “vast majority of those tortured” most of whom are African American “have received no compensation for the extensive injuries they suffered, and calls on the U.S. Government to support the Reparations Ordinance pending in Chicago’s City Council (para 26).
In response to WCG’s presentation and shadow report, the UN Committee also cites its concerns about police militarization, racial profiling, and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against African American and Latino youth, immigrants and LGBTI individuals, noting their particular concern regarding “police violence in Chicago, especially against African-American and Latino young people who are allegedly being consistently profiled, harassed and subjected to excessive force by Chicago Police.” The Committee further expresses “deep concern” about frequent and recurrent shootings and fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals, and the appalling use of tasers resulting in death, including the tragic death of Dominique Franklin, Jr. in Chicago and the “alleged difficulties” of holding police officers accountable for such abuses.
Dec 11, 2014: WCG reports back to the Chicagoland community on the UN Committee Against Torture’s findings to an audience of hundreds at Roosevelt University. Mariame Kaba, Executive Director of Project NIA, member of WCG, and advisory board member of CTJM, calls on those in attendance to join the newly formed CTJM/AI/Project NIA/WCG coalition’s fight for reparations for the Chicago Police torture survivors.
Dec 16, 2014: CTJM/Project NIA/WCG/AI organize a Holiday Action to Pass the Reparations Ordinance that begins with a march from Chicago Police Headquarters to City Hall and culminates in the delivery of a petition with of over 40,000 signatures in support of the Ordinance and the construction of an ad hoc memorial for torture survivors in front of the Mayor’s office. During the march to City Hall, Alderman and Mayoral Candidate Bob Fioretti announces his support for the Ordinance.
Dec 27, 2015: Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organizes an action at Daley Plaza in support of the Reparations Ordinance as part of their #BlackHolidaze Kwanzaa week. BYP100 call on supporters to pressure Alderman Ed Burke to convene a hearing on the Ordinance.
Jan 15, 2015: On the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, CTJM/Project NIA/WCG/AI organize a sing-in outside Chicago’s City Council’s Finance Committee meeting. This prompts journalists to ask Mayor Emanuel about the Reparations Ordinance and he goes on record saying that he will meet with the aldermanic sponsors and that he believes some form of redress is necessary.
Jan 15, 2015: WCG, BYP100, the Chicago Light Brigade, Project NIA, the Palestinian Youth Collective of Chicago, the Village Leadership Academy and others organize a march to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center as part of a nationwide series of actions to #ReclaimMLKDay. In addition to condemning racist police violence and the racist targeting of Black youth, organizers call on the hundreds in attendance to support the Reparations Ordinance.
Jan 19. 2015: After intense lobbying, mayoral candidate Jesus Chuy Garcia publicly endorses the Reparations Ordinance.
Jan. 21, 2015: CTJM/AI/Project NIA/WCG organizes an action at the Chicago City Council meeting. When Alderman Brookins calls for an immediate hearing for the Reparations Ordinance, a 50-person contingent stands up to demonstrate their support while others stage a die-in outside of chambers.
Jan. 24, 2015: Project NIA and WCG convene the “Watching the Watchers Conference: Strategies to End Police Violence” at Roosevelt University. Hundreds attend and participate in CTJM’s postcard campaign demanding Mayor Emanuel and Chicago alderpeople support the Reparations Ordinance. Within weeks, over 1,000 postcards are sent to Mayor Emanuel’s office.
Feb. 6, 2015: The Chicago Light Brigade and Project NIA stage a “Reparations Now” light installation outside Mayor Emanuel’s house and call on him to support the Reparations Ordinance.
Feb. 8, 2015: Project NIA introduces Reparations Sundays and calls on religious organizations to introduce their congregants to the campaign and ask for their support. Participants include Trinity United Church of Christ and New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, where torture survivor Darrell Cannon addresses the congregation.
Feb. 14, 2015: Over 250 people attend CTJM/Project NIA/WCG/AI’s Rally for Reparations: A People’s Hearing at the Chicago Temple on Valentine’s Day. Speakers include torture survivors Darrell Cannon, Mark Clements and Anthony Holmes, chief aldermanic sponsors Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins Jr., mayoral candidate William Doc Walls, coalition members and other allies, all of whom urge the crowd to support the Ordinance.
Everyone attending the rally receives a “Who Is Right on Reparations?” voters’ guide to bring to the polls on election day.
Feb. 17, 2015: In response to the growing movement and on the heels for the Rally for Reparations, the Corporation Counsel calls CTJM to set up a meeting to discuss the Reparations Ordinance. AI and CTJM representatives Martha Biondi, Dorothy Burge, Ernest Coverson, Jasmine Heiss, Joey Mogul and Flint Taylor serve as the negotiating team and meet with the Corporation Counsel and other members of Mayor Emanuel’s administration on February 23, March 12, and April 2. The negotiating team demands a public hearing on the Reparations Ordinance.
Feb. 21, 2015: WCG and the Chicago Light Brigade organize a #TrainTakeOver for reparations on the eve of the Mayoral and Aldermanic election.
Feb. 24, 2015: Mayor Emanuel fails to win 50% of the vote and is forced into a run-off against Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia.
Mar. 2, 2015: WCG and the Chicago Light Brigade organize Reparations Not Black Sites: A Rally For the Run Off at Daley Plaza in response and to call attention to The Guardian’s exposé of the Chicago Police Departments’ Homan Square, where Chicago residents continue to be subjected to torture, physical abuse and harassment.
Mar 16, 2015: CTJM organizes an action to pack the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee meeting and demand a hearing. The night before, CTJM is informed that Mayor Emanuel’s administration will agree to have a hearing on the Ordinance during a special session of the Finance Committee on April 14, 2015.
Mar 18, 2015: WCG/Project NIA/CTJM hosts a Pop-Up Exhibition outside Mayor Emanuel’s Office at City Hall.
Mar. 9–Ap. 14, 2015: CTJM and Project NIA launch #Teach Burge calling on educators, organizers and activists to lead teach-ins on the Burge torture cases. 13 teach-ins are held across the city.
Mar. 30, 2015: Kuumba Lynx members perform “Reparations are owed to the 110 black men” at the 2015 Louder Than A Bomb Chicago Youth Poetry Festival.
Mar. 31, 2015: CTJM and Project NIA organize a speak-out and protest outside the 3rd and final Mayoral debate between Mayor Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia at WTTW Studios.
Apr. 7, 2015: Mayor Emanuel is re-elected.
Apr. 9, 2015: AI takes out an advertisement in the Red Eye urging Mayor Emanuel to support the Reparations Ordinance.
Apr. 14, 2015: Chicago’s City Council’s Finance Committee holds a hearing on the Reparations Ordinance.
On the eve of the hearing, the negotiating committee and Mayor Emanuel and his administration agree to a reparations package that requires the City to provide 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 10thgraders; the construction of a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and a $5.5 million Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims to compensate survivors for the torture they endured.
Hundreds pack the City Council’s chambers. Chicago Police torture survivors Anthony Holmes, Darrell Cannon, Mark Clements, and Mary L. Johnson, whose son was tortured by Jon Burge, testify to their harrowing experiences of torture and describe the on-going pain and trauma that they and their families continue to suffer.
Long-time advocates and CTJM members Dorothy Burge (also a member of BPAPT), Joey Mogul, Flint Taylor and Mario Venegas also testify at the hearing to explain why the each part of the reparations legislation needs to be enacted.
May 6, 2015: Chicago’s City Council unanimously passes the reparations legislation and becomes the first municipality in the US to provide reparations for racially motivated law enforcement violence.
In passing this legislation, the City of Chicago finally agrees to acknowledge the City’s responsibility for gross human rights violations and to commit significant resources to begin the process of repairing the harms inflicted on the torture survivors, their families and communities throughout the city.
This historic win was the product of decades of activism, litigation and investigative journalism as well as of the intense and inspired work of an intergenerational and multi-racial coalition who, over the course of 6 months, worked tirelessly to win reparations for the Burge torture survivors in the context of the ongoing activism around #BlackLivesMatter.