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Chicago Police Scandal Exposes Homan Square To New Criticism

Chicago is under renewed pressure to close Homan Square, the city’s infamous “black site,” in the wake of a growing police scandal after the death of Laquan McDonald.

Despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel firing former police chief Garry McCarthy yesterday, activists for police accountability say they are pressing on with a planned hearing into the secretive location, where an unknown number of mostly non-white victims were subject to abuse and deprivation of their constitutional rights.

Yesterday, The Guardian, the first news source to document Homan Square, explained the connection between Homan Square and Laquan McDonald’s death, in a story in which Shadowproof’s Kevin Gosztola contributed reporting.

According to Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin, who is calling for a public investigation into Homan Square, “The murder of Laquan McDonald and the attempted cover-up of that murder over a period of 13 months casts even more doubt on the repeated police denials of wrongdoing at Homan Square.”

“As recent events have shown, when left to its own devices, the Chicago police department will revert to a culture that suppresses wrongdoing and protects wrongdoers,” added Boykin. He has repeatedly pressed Barack Obama’s administration to examine a facility where his former chief aide and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has said his police “follow all the rules” — despite more than 20 people who have come forward with claims of unconstitutional abuse and detention.

Alongside the increased public scrutiny, activists plan to keep the pressure up, with a protest planned at Homan Square for December 10:

Frank Chapman, field organizer of Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression’s Stop Police Crimes project, said the police chief’s firing was “appropriate and long overdue.”

“Our movement to have Homan Square closed also impacted the mayor’s decision, but it hasn’t impacted enough to make him close Homan Square, which he has the executive power, responsibility and duty to do,” Chapman added.

Chapman additionally noted, “We wouldn’t have found out about [Homan Square] if it wasn’t for The Guardian because no Chicago newspaper whispered a word about it.”

In October, Gosztola covered a pending lawsuit against the site:

Three black men from Chicago sued police officers and the city of Chicago for detaining them at Homan Square and subsequently framing them for manufacturing and delivering heroin.

The lawsuit, which the People’s Law Office filed on October 19, is one of a handful of complaints brought against police over allegations of off-the-books detention and interrogation at the center.

Atheris Mann, Jessie Patrick, and Deanda Wilson each allege Chicago police rounded them up on October 21, 2013. Police drove the men to Homan Square where they were subject to strip searches, handcuffed for hours in dark rooms, denied food, water and access to bathrooms, and denied requests to contact their lawyers and family. Wilson specifically claims an officer held a knife to his throat.

In May 2012, TarheelDem, a Firedoglake correspondent, was detained in Homan Square, along with multiple activists, before the large Occupy-inspired protests against the NATO meeting held in Chicago that month.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and Occupy.com.