Survivors of police torture share stage with Angela Davis
Chicago, IL – Nearly 700 Chicagoans united to celebrate the coming home of over three dozen wrongfully convicted torture survivors during the People Power Weekend, hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression on June 16 and 17.
On June 16, 100 community members gathered at Trinity United Church of Christ to hear powerful testimonies from police torture survivors about the horrendous abuse inflicted by Chicago Police Department officers. The following day, a crowd of 600 people returned to Trinity U.C.C. to welcome home the released torture victims and demand an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council in Chicago.
The Welcome Home Rally featured keynote speaker Dr. Angela Davis, former co-chairperson of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and lifelong activist and prison abolitionist. Davis spoke about the history of the Alliance, the connections between racism and violence, police crimes and the elephant in the room: capitalism. She called for the abolition of the criminal justice system because it is beyond reform. Davis also specifically mentioned the struggle for Palestinian liberation as the “model for freedom struggle to the rest of the world” and called for international solidarity to strengthen national liberation movements. She noted, “The Alliance has always worked in support of Palestine, most recently against the deportation of Rasmea Odeh.”
Davis closed out her remarks by stating despite Chicago’s “difficult stories,” the city “represents hope” and said, “the city is a great place to be if you are a radical activist.” “This is the place to be if you want to bring about change in this country.”
Other speakers included Armanda Shackleford, mother of Gerald Reed and Alliance member for nearly 20 years. Shackleford spoke about how Chicago Police detectives brutalized her son and forced him to sign a false confession, leading to his 27-year incarceration. Barbara Ransby (Resist Reimagine Rebuild Coalition), Aislinn Pulley (Black Lives Matter-Chicago), and Michael Brunson (Chicago Teachers Union) were also speakers.
The People’s Forum on Police Crimes and Torture, held on June 16, featured an 11-person panel of torture survivors and their families. Panelists included La Tanya Sublett, a woman tortured by Detective Jon Burge who was beaten to the point of miscarriage; Enrique Valdez, a torture survivor who became emotional discussing the night he was brutalized by Detective Kenneth Boudreau; and Tyrone Williams, a torture survivor who was recently held incommunicado by Judge Vincent Gaughn for speaking one word during a Jason Van Dyke hearing in March. The survivors spoke with great difficulty as they recounted their experiences with detectives using methods like electrocution and physical assault.
All of the panelists were CPAC supporters and spoke about the need for community control of the police in order to end police torture. Bertha Escamilla, the mother of police torture survivor Nick Escamilla, said, “We need to make sure something is done to these police officers. If CPAC was around when my son was tortured, none of this would have happened because they would’ve been in jail instead of our sons.”
People Power Weekend comes weeks after the Community Discussions About Civilian Oversight, five hearings held by the Public Safety Committee of the city council to discuss four pieces of police accountability legislation. CPAC dominated the discussion, receiving the most support from community members and activist at every hearing.
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression Field Organizer Frank Chapman calls these developments historic, stating, “We must now muster new forces and harness this new energy our movement has created to storm the citadels of power and begin the liberation of our communities from the powers that be.”