Notes

Is the election over yet? / Despite reparations, police torture isn’t over for some survivors

Notes from the 3/27/19 issue

Is the election over yet?

If there is one thing that we’ve learned from this election, it’s that Chicago still isn’t likely to see reform, even though a Daley was defeated. In the mayoral, treasurer, clerk, and aldermanic races, Chicagoans were treated to a plethora of bad faith and corrupt campaign maneuvers from a host of candidates. State Representative Melissa Conyears-Ervin, running for treasurer, was accused of fanning anti-immigrant flames with her ad against Ameya Pawar, her runoff opponent. Multiple South and West Side candidates went public with allegations of their campaign workers being harassed, beaten, and even shot while canvassing. Allegations of homophobia ran rampant, from the “gay agenda” ads distributed outside South Side churches—some have accused Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign of being behind these—to some allies and acquaintances of Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson being accused of homophobic cyberbullying by 11th Ward candidate David Mihalyfy. (Sometimes claims of homophobia turned out to be an incumbent crying wolf; see embattled 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell taking offense at being called a “dyke” by queer youth organizers or 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez claiming that young people protesting him in “Gays Against Lopez” shirts were homophobic.) However they manifested, the dirty campaign tricks were clear to most Chicagoans (at least those who haven’t tuned out elections for this very reason). It all goes to show that until candidates, especially incumbents, are willing to take up the mantle of meaningful campaign reform and ethics legislation, all Chicagoans will continue to suffer—even though we’re all ready for reform.

Despite reparations, police torture isn’t over for some survivors

Our cover story this week explores an exhibit of design proposals for a public memorial for the more than one hundred Black Chicagoans tortured by former Chicago Police Department commander Jon Burge and his officers between 1972 and 1991. The idea of a memorial—part of the historic reparations ordinance the city council passed in 2015—might seem to imply this particular chapter of Chicago’s long and ongoing history of racist police violence is in the past. But it’s not in the past for James Gibson. Gibson, beaten by detectives under Burge’s command after two days of fruitless questioning twenty-nine years ago, just had his conviction overturned by an appeals court two weeks ago. And he’s not free yet: he must wait for a new trial. An Injustice Watch article highlighted that the appeals court even assigned Gibson’s case to a new judge, because the judge overseeing his case twice refused to find the evidence he was tortured credible, which the court described as “arbitrary and manifestly wrong.”

Gibson is only one of around twenty people who were tortured by Burge and his fellow Chicago Police officers who is still in prison. Survivors who are out of prison are still living with the trauma of their experiences. Burge is dead, CPS teaches about his crimes in history class, and some survivors of his torture ring were paid reparations by the city. But as the exhibit of memorial designs takes care to emphasize, for our city’s torture survivors—and for those who experience racist violence at the hands of today’s CPD—it’s not over.

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