Trampling over detainees’ Constitutional rights isn’t just for terrorism suspects anymore. According to a report by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian on the awful conditions at Chicago’s Homan Square, the city’s police department has been using the warehouse facility to interrogate suspects without booking them or granting the right to an attorney. There have also been numerous reports of police beatings and people being shackled to benches, eliciting comparisons to the CIA black sites that became synonymous with torture during the Bush administration.
The initial report focused largely on the ordeal of Jacob Church and the so-called “NATO 3” – a group that was hit with terrorism charges after being arrested for protesting the NATO summit in 2012. Church was handcuffed to a bench for roughly 17 hours and interrogated without being read his Miranda rights before finally being allowed to speak to a lawyer though the chain-link fence of a metal cage.
Though Church is white, most of the victims of the abuse at Homan have been working class men of color. Just yesterday, a follow-up report told the story of Brock Terry, confined for three days on marijuana charges during which he was fed only twice. A related piece at The Intercept includes claims by a man named Deandre Hutcherson that an officer punched him in the face and stepped on his groin while he was strapped to a bench.
Stories of secret interrogation facilities have been terrorizing the public imagination for years now, ever since details of CIA black sites came to light. But the idea that something similar could exist in a major U.S. metropolis is truly horrifying. Suspects’ arrest reports don’t even show that they have been to Homan, and they can be kept indefinitely until they are eventually sent to a district station to be processed. Some of the people held there were as young as 15, and lawyers who tried to reach their clients inside were turned away.
Though the Chicago Police Department refused to comment for the Guardian article, it did offer a rote statement of denial after the article was published: “CPD [Chicago police department] abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them…There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square.” Yet when a reporter and photographer showed up at Homan on Wednesday, they were greeted with a bizarre sight: a man in a jumpsuit and ski mask circling around in an SUV before joking: “You can take a picture. We’re all CIA, right?”
Thankfully, the report has raised some alarms within Chicago politics. Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin called for the Justice Department to investigate allegations of what he called “CIA or Gestapo tactics.” Chicago Congressman Danny Davis also demanded an investigation, as did Amnesty International. Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s notoriously unlikeable neoliberal mayor (who is currently in an election runoff with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia) has been notably silent.