Finance Committee Announces A Hearing on the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance April 14, 2015

CHICAGO, IL — Chairman Ed Burke of Chicago’s Finance Committee announced the committee will hold a hearing on the Burge Torture Reparations Ordinance on April 14, 2015 at 10 a.m.  Dozens of organizers and activists were present to demonstrate their support for the ordinance.

The ordinance has been stalled in the Finance Committee since it was filed in City Council on October 16, 2013 by Aldermen Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward).  Several organizations, including Amnesty International, BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade, CTJM, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide have held rallies, demonstrations, and marches over the last three months to demand a public hearing on the ordinance and to call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago’s aldermen and women to fully support the ordinance and commit to its immediate passage in City Council.

“We are pleased that we are finally going to have a hearing on the ordinance.  We look forward to having the day when the people of Chicago will hear from the torture survivors and international human rights experts as to why this must be passed,” said Alice Kim of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials.  “Burge’s reign of torture started over forty-two years ago.  It is now past due for Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago to take responsibility for the egregious harm inflicted by Burge and his men and provide the torture survivors and family members the compensation and services they so richly deserve.”

The ordinance is supported by Cook County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Jesus (Chuy) Garcia, 29 City aldermen and women, and numerous other political and civil leaders in Chicago.  This past November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture also called upon the City of Chicago to enact the ordinance.
“We are looking forward to the day when the reparations ordinance is passed by the City Council so that the survivors of Burge’s torture can receive a measure of justice for their suffering and trauma,” said Mariame Kaba, founder and executive director of Project NIA. “Until that time, we will continue to fight for justice with them. We appreciate the hearing and still need Mayor Emanuel to declare his full support for the ordinance.”

Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA said in response to the announcement of the hearing: “A public hearing on the reparations ordinance is a critical and necessary step toward the justice that Chicago police torture survivors need to heal, but the struggle is not yet over. More than four decades after Jon Burge first began his legacy of torture on Chicago’s south side, it’s long past time for city officials, including Mayor Emanuel, to stand on the right side of history and unequivocally support reparations for torture survivors,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It’s crucial that the city of Chicago ensure full and adequate reparations without any further delay so that justice delayed does not become justice denied.”

The Ordinance serves as a formal apology to the survivors; creates a Commission to administer financial compensation to the survivors; creates a medical, psychological, and vocational center on the south side of Chicago; provides free enrollment in City Colleges to the survivors; requires Chicago Public schools to teach a history lesson about the cases; requires the City to fund public memorials about the cases; and sets aside $20 million to finance all of this redress ­– approximately the same amount of money the City has spent to defend Burge, other detectives and former Mayor Richard M. Daley in the Chicago Police torture cases.

“The damage done by Burge and his men is irreversible and will remain a stain on Chicago’s reputation and collective consciousness for decades to come. It is our duty to help these victims and their families, and it is a moral and ethical imperative.  It is our hope that the healing and forgiving process can begin with the passage of this legislation.  The hearing brings us one step closer to getting this ordinance passed,” said Proco (Joe) Moreno, co-sponsor of the ordinance.

The ordinance was drafted to address the fact that over 120 African American men and women have been subjected to racially-motivated torture, including electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings by now former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991.  Although Burge was convicted in federal court for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the torture cases in 2010, he continues to draw a taxpayer funded pension, while scores of Chicago Police Torture survivors continue to suffer from the psychological effects of the torture they endured without any compensation, assistance, or legal redress.