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President Asked to Support City Council Ordinance Granting Reparations to Survivors During Chicago Visit Tomorrow

CHICAGO – On the eve of his visit to Chicago, Amnesty International USA sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to support reparations for those tortured while in the custody of Chicago Police over a span of decades.

Between 1972 and 1991, under the oversight of former commander Jon Burge, officers 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.

Although Burge was convicted in federal court for perjury and obstruction of justice, neither he nor any of the detectives he supervised have been prosecuted for committing torture. Statutes of limitations not only prevent survivors from obtaining justice for these crimes, but also from obtaining financial reparations. On February 14, Burge walked free of house arrest after serving fewer than four years in prison.

An ordinance was introduced in the city council last fall to provide financial compensation, psychological and vocational counseling and other redress for survivors. Twenty-eight members of the Chicago City Council have sponsored and or publicly supported the ordinance, but it remains stalled pending a hearing.

President Obama will be in Chicago tomorrow to designate the Pullman district, the birthplace of the nation’s first industry-wide walkout and the first African American labor union to win a collective bargaining agreement with a major US corporation, as a national monument.

“Your return to the South Side of Chicago to honor Pullman also speaks to your own deep connection to the community,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA in the letter. “Before you were the President of the United States, your work first as a young community organizer and then as executive director of the Developing Communities Project brought you into some of the same predominantly African American communities that Jon Burge and his infamous ‘midnight crew’ targeted with arrests, interrogations and torture. I ask that you, once again, take these men and women’s stories personally, and meet with survivors of Chicago police torture during your visit to Chicago.”