Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT) held a community press briefing, March 25, at St. Rest Country Kitchen on East 87th Street, to inform the local community and media about the organization’s plans.
Heading up the committee is longtime civil rights attorneys Stan Willis and Larry Kennon and executive director of the Afro-American Police League, Patricia Hill. Although these three individuals have taken on the leadership role, the other BPAPT participants are individual leaders in their own right.
According to the group’s press release, “Black People Against Police Torture, a coalition of community activists, citizens, groups, clergy, police officers, educators, human and civil rights attorneys, and the conscious masses, mobilized in the pursuit of justice on July 27, 2006 in response to the public’s outcry and dismay with the freshly-released conclusions of the four-year investigation by the Cook County Special Prosecutor, The Burge Report.”
In response to that report, which BPAPT says did little to hold anyone accountable, a grassroots town hall meeting was convened at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies by Willis, Kennon and several civil rights attorneys.
“Black People Against Police Torture (BPAPT),” they say, “was organized in the spirit of action to pursue justice for the nearly 200 African-American men of Chicago who were subjected to systematic torture at the hands of the Chicago Police Department and former Police Commander Jon Burge over a period of 20 years, which spanned through the 1970s to the 1990s.”
At Sunday’s press conference, Willis outlined BPAPT’s progress thus far, which includes community teach-ins that took place last August and September, a silent mass protest demonstration in downtown Chicago in October, Olympic legend John Carlos joining BPAPT in a February press conference opposing Mayor Daley’s effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, a 250-page notebook filled with reports and newspaper clippings about the Burge cases that was forwarded to the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, and a March 7 gathering in Washington Park in a effort to meet with the visiting Olympic officials. According to Willis, Hill and Kennon, the officials never got off the bus. Mayor Daley decided to keep them on board because there was snow was on the ground.
Willis and Kennon continue to lobby the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a federal investigation of Jon Burge and what they are calling the Cook County State’s Attorney Office’s cover-up. BPAPT, attorney Flint Taylor and many others say Chicago must stop paying the legal fees and pensions of torturers.
Many articles written over the years and a number of court judgments, they say, acknowledge that torture took place during Burge’s reign. Even the Chicago police investigators admitted in a 1990 report by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) that they found 50 cases of torture and abuse at Area 2. The abuses took place in Areas 2 and 3.
Finally in 1993, Area 2 Commander Jon Burge was fired, but he continues today to collecting his pension of $3,400.71 monthly while living in Florida. He has never been prosecuted and taxpayers continue to pay for his defense for the many lawsuits that have been filed in federal court by victims.
An example of documented torture reports that took place in the 1970s are:
8/5/72: Rodney Mastin, Lindsey Smith, Clarence Hill; beating with ashtray, kicked in groin; Burge, Listkowski, Houtsma; Area 2; sworn statement of Rodney Mastin, 7/24/04.
1973: Lawrence Poree; shown black shock box, (“This is what we got for n–ers like you”); Burge, Pienta, Yucaitis, Wagner, Hoke, Listkowski, Gaffney; court reported statement of Lawrence Poree, 4/19/04.
9/20-22/1979: Ollie Hammonds; repeatedly beaten, threatened with electric shock on penis, held incommunicado without food or bathroom for several days; Burge and Basile; court reported statement of Ollie Hammonds, 8/25/04.
The seven objectives BPAPT outlined are:
1) We believe that the community must be informed.
2) We believe that the community must act through mass mobilization.
3) We believe that the torture by Jon Burge and Chicago’s police is an international human rights issue and thus, the Olympics must be stopped.
4) We believe that the officers who tortured must be prosecuted and the judges and prosecutors who were cover-up participants must be held accountable.
5) We believe that Chicago must stop paying the legal fees and pensions of torturers.
6) We believe that Burge victims must be released or given new trials.
7) We believe that the Burge victims are owed reparations.
BPAPT has begun exploring resources for creating a Center for Torture Victims. As Willis stated, “Not only are there the victims of torture, but their families also.”