• Press Release

Activists at Chicago City Hall Demand Hearing for Reparations for Chicago Police Torture Survivors

January 14, 2015

CHICAGO – On January 15, activists from Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Project NIA and Amnesty International USA will hold a sing-in for justice outside of Chicago City Council at 9:00 a.m. as the city’s finance committee meets for the penultimate time before the 2015 elections.

On the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, people will raise their voices to demand passage of the Reparations Ordinance for Chicago Police Torture Survivors – landmark legislation that has garnered the public support of more than half of the sitting aldermen and the United Nations Committee Against Torture but remains stalled in City Council, pending passage through the finance committee. Activists are demanding that Finance Committee Chair Ed Burke call for a hearing of the legislation in committee, and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel help to pave the way for a prompt public hearing and passage of the ordinance.

The ordinance would provide reparations, as required under international law, to survivors of a brutal legacy of racist police torture under the direction of former Commander Jon Burge. Between 1972 and 1991, Burge and the officers under his command systematically tortured more than 100 people of color on Chicago’s South and West Sides – most of them African American men. The vast majority of the torture survivors were also subjected to verbal abuse where they were repeatedly called racist slurs throughout their interrogations. There is overwhelming evidence that unequivocally demonstrates that the city of Chicago effectively condoned Jon Burge’s use of torture by failing to put an end to the systematic use of torture to extract confessions and/or trying to cover it up.

Decades later, the torture survivors have been denied the reparations they need to heal. The United Nations Committee on Torture (UNCAT) has twice remarked on the Burge torture cases during review of the U.S., first in 2006 and most recently in October 2014. The committee called on the U.S. Government to provide redress by supporting the passage of the reparations ordinance.

“It is only fitting that Chicago advocates are gathered to demand reparations for a legacy of racist police torture on what would have been Dr. King’s 86th birthday,” said Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins. “Dr. King called for law and order to be utilized to advance justice, rather than to block social progress. It is time that the Chicago authorities heed his words and international law, and to stand on the right side of history.”

Mayor Emanuel has already acknowledged that Chicago has enduring obligations to the survivors of Chicago Police torture, but has expressed reservations about the proposed $20 million of reparations.

“The city of Chicago has already spent more than $20 million to defend Burge – why is Mayor Emanuel balking at spending the same amount on survivors?” asks Alice Kim of Chicago Justice Torture Memorials. “Empty words and apologies are not enough – it’s time for a break with the past. The trauma wrought by Burge and his men left scars on these survivors and on the city of Chicago that can never be quantified. The Mayor should show his commitment to true progress by immediately paving the way for a prompt public hearing.”


Singers and activists will convene at City Hall before the Finance Committee meeting to demand a hearing on the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance for those tortured by Chicago Police under former Commander Jon Burge.


Thursday, January 15, 2015, 9:00 am


City Hall, 2nd Floor


Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins; Torture Survivors Darrell Cannon, Mark Clements and Anthony Holmes; Ernest Coverson of Amnesty International USA; members of Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project (CTJM) and Project NIA.