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Chicago Alliance calls for unity to free survivors of torture and wrongful conviction

By Kobi Guillory

Chicago People's Hearing on Police Crimes.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Chicago, IL – “You can't throw a stone and not hit someone who is affected by police torture and wrongful conviction here in Chicago, the torture capital of the United States,” said Merawi Gerima, a co-chair of the Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Torture (CFIST.)

Gerima was speaking at the annual People's Hearing on Police Crimes on Saturday, February 24, at the office of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) in Woodlawn neighborhood on the predominantly Black South Side.

Activists and organizers raised demands for freedom for survivors of torture, wrongful conviction and political imprisonment. They called for improvement of conditions in prisons, accountability for cops who killed and tortured people, an end to cruel practices like solitary confinement, and renewed the call for community control of the police.

“Growing up in Englewood, I saw my brother get beat up by the police. My nephews got beat up by the police,” said Norma Scales, the aunt of Douglas Livingston, who was wrongfully convicted due to Sergeant Brian P. Forberg, emphasizing the widespread nature of police crimes in Chicago.

“It's mind boggling that hundreds of people have been tortured by police into confessing to crimes they didn't commit. It's even more mind boggling that many of them are still in prison 20, 30, or 40 years later,” said Frank Chapman, CAARPR field organizer, explaining the history of police torture in Chicago.

Chapman particularly focused on Detective Jon Burge, who trained a whole generation of CPD detectives in torture techniques he learned from the U.S. war on Vietnam. CAARPR initiated the Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Torture in 2019 to demand mass pardons for Burge’s victims and all survivors of police torture.

Chapman also spoke about cases of survivors of wrongful conviction who had gotten their charges dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

“Kim Foxx started budging because of the noise people made and the outreach people was doing to bring awareness to these cases,” said Jasmine Smith, one of the co-chairs of the Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Torture, describing how the strategy of mass pressure works to free survivors.

“We need masses of the community coming out and speaking on behalf of our loved ones,” said Marylin Mulero of Innocent Demand Justice, who spent 28 years incarcerated for a crime she didn't commit.

“The police are still using torture, not just in Chicago but all over the country,” said Curtis Ferdinand with the Chicago Torture Justice Center (CTJC), explaining how torture and other police crimes in Chicago are connected to the system of white supremacy throughout the United States.

Many other survivors and loved ones of people harmed or killed by the police and prisons, including Cassandra Greer, Adolfo Davis, Melba Brown and David Lincoln, spoke about the violence committed by the state and how they have been fighting for justice. Speakers made connections between police crimes and other crimes of the ruling class, such as the genocide in Gaza, homelessness, deportations and exploitation of workers.

“This movement is about survival. It’s about resistance. We don’t just preach against injustice. We fight injustice, and it’s not just Black people, it’s everybody who needs to join together and fight,” stated Frank Chapman said before reciting a poem about solidarity with Palestine. “We can’t give up hope and we can never give up unity.”

“These stories remind us of why we have to unify and transform our society into one where these things can never happen again,” said Gerima before describing how the movement for community control of the police has already taken steps towards empowering oppressed people in Chicago to stop police crimes with Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS).

The People’s Hearing ended with chants of “free them all!”

#ChicagoIL #InJusticeSystem #PoliceCrimes #Torture #PoliceBrutality #OppressedNationalities #CAARPR #CFIST #ECPS #Feature