Chicago “Black Site” sparks public outrage

Annie Fullwood, Staff Writer
March 27, 2015

How do you defend your innocence when nobody can find you?

Highly disputed evidence has connected the Chicago Police Department to misconduct pertaining to the police facility Homan Square, a former warehouse.

The CPD claims that Homan Square is less advertised due to its purpose in undercover operations, not due to any police covert affairs.

They have also released a fact sheet to dispute any rumors of misconduct. These denials, however, have not stopped a recent flood of personal testimonials from attorneys and possible victims who claim to have been abused inside the facility.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester arrested in 2012, said he was held in Homan Square and shackled to a bar for 17 hours. Four others have also spoken to The Guardian, providing various descriptions of their time and all agreeing that they were denied basic rights, such as knowledge of where they were being held. Some attorneys have stated that they were even kept from speaking with clients as held in Homan Square.

“Typically, (the police) are saying that it doesn’t exist,” said Mike Holman, executive director of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago to The Guilfordian. “The fact that it is run by the police does not mean in the least that it is not a black site. Black site in the sense of people get taken, denied constitutional rights, not booked when they are in there. They are not given the right to call a lawyer.”

Fellow protestors agree with Holman, citing the growing number of possible victims speaking up on their experiences.

“I am very confident, that the Guardian reporting is accurate, in terms of the big picture about what has happened in Homan Square, having met and talked with several people (whom were held in the Square),” said Billy Joe Mills, a Chicago attorney and protester who has been in contact with many alleged victims of Homan Square, to The Guilfordian. “The only alternative is if they all agreed to make up this story together, and the possibility of that does not seem likely.”

Mills also personally spoke with Joe Vergara, who told Mills of his experience at Homan Square, where he said that he and five other innocent bystanders of a raid were taken into custody and chained to a bar on the wall.

These reports have sparked a series of rallies to be held outside Homan Square. Organizers and supporters include Progress Illinois, Black Lives Matter, Gay Liberation Network, Stop Mass Incarceration Chicago, Chicago Anonymous and many more.

“We’ve been outraged,” said Gay Liberation Network cofounder and rally organizer Andy Thayer to The Guilfordian. “Our organization has done work against police brutality for years off and on. We’ve always felt that whether police brutality is against gay people or others that it is incumbent upon all people, gay or not gay, to be in support of the victims and their families.”

While attendance at the rallies has been high in the Chicago area, many are still wary of jumping to conclusions.

“In my opinion, if the evidence holds truth, CPD should face some serious consequences for sure, but I don’t know,” said Will Pizio, associate professor of justice & policy studies and a former police officer. “What goes on behind those doors could be what CPD says is happening, but it might not. There are some facts which might lead one to be a little suspicious but not enough to proclaim that there are bad things in there. I think you should wait to protest until you have all the evidence.”

Chicago Anonymous, despite having a large role in organizing the protests, has been hesitant to implicate Chicago police outright in this particular crime yet.

“We never would make claims to these accusations being true without having concluding our own investigation, which is currently ongoing,” said a representative Chicago Anonymous to The Guilfordian over Facebook. “(However), there has been word of some harassment while leaving these protests. Protesters are making claims that police officers have approached them with plenty of negative (comments). We encourage everyone not to leave these protests alone.”

Homan Square protests have faded from the public eye in the past few weeks, but protesters and Chicago citizens are still determined to hold the CPD accountable.

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