Protest marchers lined up on Dearborn and Jackson Blvd. at the Federal Plaza, last Friday, to begin their “march of outrage” against city officials and all persons involved in the Jon Burge torture case. Since the release in July of the Burge Report, many in the legal profession, along with activists, clergy and and citizens groups have expressed outrage over its conclusions. After a four-year investigation and approximate cost of $7 million, the report states Jon Burge and several others could have been charged if the statute of limitations hadn’t run out.
Organizers could not have asked for a more beautiful day for their march. With a backdrop of blue sky, the protest banners glowed in the sunlight. Some read, “Silent March,” “Honk for Justice,” and “Black People Against Police Torture.” The protestors represented a cross-section of ethnic groups and organizations.
Leading the marchers north on Dearborn were attorneys Stan Willis and Larry Kennon as Chicago police rode alongside, either on bicycles or patrol cars. The march began and ended at Federal Plaza. Along the way, protestors stopped silently before City Hall, the state’s attorney’s office, and the County Building to make a point about official inaction.
Afterward, Kennon, who has represented many of the torture victims, said, “We had a very successful march today. It was a silent march and people asked why didn’t we say something? The depth of the torture against us is so deep, and it is so well known, we didn’t have to say anything. Just our dignified silence gave the pressure to those who are aware, and we gave by our written signs the specifics of our rejection of this torture that has been going on. What we wanted to do is to show the leaders of the criminal justice system that we are not accepting the horrendous torture against us. So our silence was not acceptance; our silence was the depth of our feelings against this and to show it in standing together. We stopped in front of each of the offices of power; state’s attorney, mayor and the county to let them see us unified in silent protest against them.”
Willis, who has also defended victims, stated, “I think the number of people here reflect a much larger constituency. There are a lot of people here. When you think about it, these are ministers from the church, so they represent congregations, African-American police representing their organizations, and many other organizations are here. But this is just the beginning. We have a lot of work to do. I think our next challenge is to make sure that judges who were involved in the torture conspiracy who are running for re-election or retention in November don’t get retained. We’re going to have to do a lot of work to get to that. We have this bill that is being finalized where we are asking the Illinois General Assembly to pass a law legislating reparations for victims, and included in that bill is a provision for those who are still in prison. To get this passed, we have to go to Springfield and get some of the legislators and try to build coalitions. Each step of the way, our people have to be very united, and we have to keep building coalitions to get the work done, so finally we can say that we got justice in this torture case.
On the issue of Burge’s pension, Willis said, “We’ve been talking to some of the legislators in the City Council about that. We’ve had people researching that. Pensions are protected by federal statute, so it might take a little longer for us to get there, and I’m not sure that we will get there with the pension. But I’m almost certain that we’ll get there by stopping money from going to Jon Burge’s defense, and I would like to see us stop money going to the so-called special prosecutor, because the report he did is an absolute joke.”
At the conclusion of the march at Federal Plaza, marchers broke their silence and began calling off names of victims written on 3 x 5 index cards and distributed to various protestors. Among the names were Aaron Patterson, Stanley Howard, Rodney Mastin, Lindsey Smith, Clarence Hill, Anthony Holmes, Lawrence Poree, Howard Collins, Virgil Robinson and Leroy Sanford.
The Conference of Black Lawyers will continue to meet each Thursday night at Inner Cities Studies, 700 East Oakwood Blvd., 7 p.m.