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Chicago News Radio Show Mocks, Laughs & Downplays Guardian Story About Chicago Police ‘Black Site’

Screen shot of Roe Conn’s Twitter profile photo

Radio hosts for WGN, a major AM radio station, have mocked, laughed and downplayed a story from The Guardian suggesting the Chicago Police Department operates a “black site” or secret interrogation site at Homan Square, where people arrested have been disappeared, abused and denied due process.

Hosts Roe Conn and Sylvia Perez of “The Roe Conn Show” reacted to the Guardian story by Spencer Ackerman during their afternoon show after it broke on February 26. Conn essentially sought to kill the messenger in order to diminish the significance of what was alleged.

CONN: The whistleblower here is a kid by the name of Brian Jacob Church, who you might recall was a member of “NATO 3.” And, he says when he was arrested—Remember this, these were the guys that all came here. One of the guy had like those Chinese throwing stars in his bag.

PEREZ: During the NATO time, do you remember all the protests going on in the streets? It was very heated, and he was one of them arrested.

CONN: Right, and they were in like this like flop house with other protesters who were just coming to town for this. And that flop house had been infiltrated by Chicago police undercover officers who were befriending these guys. And then, depending on whose version of this you wish to believe, either talked them into or witnessed them deciding they wanted to do a spree of terrorism bombings in the city. And so, then they went to trial. They were found not guilty of the terrorism charges but guilty of incendiary, possession of incendiary devices and things like that.

Well, anyway, this kid now—Brian Jacob Church—is saying Homan Square is a place he claims that you just go to disappear.

The show played clips from an interview The Guardian produced with Church. They laughed at him for saying police “just disappeared us” because, to Conn, the fact that the “NATO 3” showed up in court over 48 hours means they were not “disappeared.” He added it was all over the news and joked, “It was on the T and V.”

The hosts mocked his suggestion that it was similar to a CIA black site in the Middle East.

PEREZ: Isn’t that interesting he compared it to what essentially goes on in the Middle East? You know, how does he know? [chuckling]

CONN: [laughing] Right, when was the last time you were in one of those black sites? Or have you been held by ISIS recently? Cause that doesn’t end well for people who are being held by them.

Later, in a 17-minute segment, a criminal defense lawyer and legal analyst, Mike Monico, provided his insights.

“Consider the source here. I mean, these were troublemakers,” Conn argued. He added, “They came here to cause trouble and they were convicted of possessing incendiary devices and stuff like that.”

Monico appropriately reminded him that “the trouble is Chicago now has a history with Burge and other folks who we know were beating people up.”

“Every big city police department in the country has cases where they’ve got cops who’ve gone over the line,” Conn responded. “In some cases, there have been systemic situations where either specific commands were corrupted all the way through to the top of the command structure to the bottom. That’s not what we’re talking about here. And we understand that’s a bad thing.”

Just hours after the story broke, it was not clear what was being talked about here. Church was not the “whistleblower” of the story. There were attorneys referenced, who described what their clients had experienced at Homan Square. But, even if he was the sole source, the notion that Church is making this up and isn’t credible because the hosts remember he faced terrorism charges is belied by the fact that he was taken to Homan with eight other people. They experienced similar treatment, where they were denied access to their attorney and left shackled for many hours.

The quip about ISIS is atrocious, especially because Conn essentially is telling Church to shut up and be happy he was not detained by terrorists. Then he would have definitely disappeared (haha haha haha…). But it is not really funny when what Conn is saying is the victim should be grateful to have not been treated more brutally.

Although tangential, the description of what happened in the “NATO 3” case would be hilarious if it were not so shamelessly ignorant. Yes, the three traveled from Florida to Chicago and planned to protest the NATO summit. Church had throwing stars. He had a case of various weapons, which were not illegal to possess. There was no planned “spree of terrorism bombings” planned. The three never planned anything. Chicago undercover cops could not get them to go do reconnaissance to plan any attacks. The undercover cops made a few Molotov cocktails, tried to get the “NATO 3” involved in making them with varying success and recorded the young men talking big about things they would like to do when facing down police. And, again, a jury acquitted them of terrorism charges because there never was any threat of terrorism.

The reflexive dismissal of the story, and the infotainment approach to covering the story, however, was quite telling. Conn and Perez could not bother to take seriously the legacy of Chicago police torture, even after Monico mentioned Burge. Instead, Conn did accents from “NYPD Blue” and sophomorically discussed Miranda rights. This is the coverage WGN ultimately gave to an important news story.

It largely fits in with the coverage the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times gave to the story. Both the city’s two major newspapers printed CPD’s statements without questioning their denial at all. They did not bother to contact attorneys quoted by The Guardian to see if this denial satisfied them that nothing illegal had happened to their clients. They published what amounted to a press release for the Chicago police.

Tribune published a second short story acknowledging that Amnesty International has urged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to further investigate the compound at Homan Square. It contained this sentence:

Amanda Simon, Amnesty International’s media contact listed on the news release, confirmed to the Tribune that she is married to Spencer Ackerman, the author of the Guardian series.

The only reason readers would need to know this is if they wanted to marginalize The Guardian’s reporting by suggesting it was agitprop for Amnesty International. Otherwise, it’s insignificant. In fact, The Guardian does not hide this fact and it is mentioned at the end of one of the published follow-ups to initial Tuesday story.

The Tribune has been calling The Guardian a British newspaper like the NSA did when it wanted to make revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden go away. The story is coming from the US division of The Guardian. Through and through, it is American journalism and not the product of some foreign country trying to disparage the Windy City.

One major local media outlet has gotten it right. The local CBS affiliate did a report where they interviewed Church and his National Lawyers Guild attorney, Sarah Gelsomino.

While reporting the Chicago police’s denial, they balance it with the statements that what the police did to NATO arrestees was a “horrific” violation of constitutional rights.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

Chicago News Radio Show Mocks, Laughs & Downplays Guardian Story About Chicago Police ‘Black Site’

Screen shot of Roe Conn’s Twitter profile photo

Radio hosts for WGN, a major AM radio station, have mocked, laughed and downplayed a story from The Guardian suggesting the Chicago Police Department operates a “black site” or secret interrogation site at Homan Square, where people arrested have been disappeared, abused and denied due process.

Hosts Roe Conn and Sylvia Perez of “The Roe Conn Show” reacted to the Guardian story by Spencer Ackerman during their afternoon show after it broke on February 26. Conn essentially sought to kill the messenger in order to diminish the significance of what was alleged.

CONN: The whistleblower here is a kid by the name of Brian Jacob Church, who you might recall was a member of “NATO 3.” And, he says when he was arrested—Remember this, these were the guys that all came here. One of the guy had like those Chinese throwing stars in his bag.

PEREZ: During the NATO time, do you remember all the protests going on in the streets? It was very heated, and he was one of them arrested.

CONN: Right, and they were in like this like flop house with other protesters who were just coming to town for this. And that flop house had been infiltrated by Chicago police undercover officers who were befriending these guys. And then, depending on whose version of this you wish to believe, either talked them into or witnessed them deciding they wanted to do a spree of terrorism bombings in the city. And so, then they went to trial. They were found not guilty of the terrorism charges but guilty of incendiary, possession of incendiary devices and things like that.

Well, anyway, this kid now—Brian Jacob Church—is saying Homan Square is a place he claims that you just go to disappear.

The show played clips from an interview The Guardian produced with Church. They laughed at him for saying police “just disappeared us” because, to Conn, the fact that the “NATO 3” showed up in court over 48 hours means they were not “disappeared.” He added it was all over the news and joked, “It was on the T and V.”

The hosts mocked his suggestion that it was similar to a CIA black site in the Middle East.

PEREZ: Isn’t that interesting he compared it to what essentially goes on in the Middle East? You know, how does he know? [chuckling]

CONN: [laughing] Right, when was the last time you were in one of those black sites? Or have you been held by ISIS recently? Cause that doesn’t end well for people who are being held by them.

Later, in a 17-minute segment, a criminal defense lawyer and legal analyst, Mike Monico, provided his insights.

“Consider the source here. I mean, these were troublemakers,” Conn argued. He added, “They came here to cause trouble and they were convicted of possessing incendiary devices and stuff like that.” (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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

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