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On Day of Action Against Police Brutality, Grassroots Group Presents Report on Chicago Police Violence

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A grassroots organization set up to bring attention to the “voices and experiences” of young people of color most targeted by police violence in Chicago issued a “shadow report,” which has been submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

The group, We Charge Genocide (WCG), was formed in June after a young African-American man named Dominique Franklin was killed by Chicago police after a taser was used on him three times. He was already in handcuffs when police used the taser and hit his head on a metal pole, which put him in a coma. He later died.

Franklin had known organizers, and one lead organizer in Chicago named Mariame Naba recognized a feeling of disempowerment among youth, according to Page May, who is a part of WCG. Naba decided youth needed an “outlet” for addressing the injustice being experienced and put out a call.

The name of the organization “comes from a petition submitted by the Civil Rights Congress to the United Nations in 1951, which documented 153 racial killings and other human rights abuses, mostly by the police.” It was delivered to the UN by Paul Robeson and William L. Patterson under the title “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.”

The United States government worked to thwart the civil rights leaders’ efforts to bring evidence related to tens of thousands of lynchings that had occurred since slavery was abolished. Patterson arrived in Paris and found that copies of the petition he had mailed to London and Paris had never arrived. Patterson was retaliated against for making these allegations against the US government and became the subject of national security state efforts to discredit and label him as disloyal to America.

May presented the report, which WCG put together over the past few months. It was submitted to the Committee Against Torture in Geneva as part of the periodic review process that stems from being a party to the Convention Against Torture.

“We know that there is this long tradition of documenting human rights violations. But as far as we know this is the first youth of color led one which is really important,” May declared.

Civil society organizations are invited to submit reports in addition to what the US government provides. This gives the UN an opportunity to hold the US government accountable by asking questions about issues that officials may not want to discuss openly.

The report examines harassment, use of excessive force, use of deadly force, sexual assault, mass arrest and detention, and inaction and impunity. Data and examples related to this abusive conduct is filtered through the language of articles in the Torture Convention to make the case that the Chicago Police Department is committing routine violations.

“Not only is harassment and abuse taking place,” May explained, but “invasive and degrading harassment is happening at really alarming rates. We’re seeing intimidation. We’re seeing invasive and abusive searches. We’re seeing theft of property. We’re seeing verbal abuse.”

“Between 2002 and 2004,” the report states, “Chicago residents filed 3,837 illegal search complaints. Only 0.03% of these complaints were sustained and only one resulted in a meaningful penalty (defined as a suspension of a week or more). This confirmation of stop-and-search abuse is especially powerful in light of the CPD’s fundamentally inadequate documentation protocol.”

“The thing about Chicago is that it’s really hard for us to document sort of the daily grind of harassment that people of color are experiencing in this city. I think a really common thing that people think of when they think of harassment is stop and frisk, and we know that happens in Chicago.” But, the way that the city documents “encounters between police and civilians doesn’t allow us to find out how much stop and frisk is happening,” May added:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."