Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Lt. Jon Burge, a decorated former Chicago police lieutenant accused of suffocating, shocking and beating confessions out of scores of suspects was convicted Monday of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the torture.
He will remain free on bond until his Nov. 5 sentencing, when he faces up to 45 years in prison.
For decades, dozens of suspects - almost all of them black men - claimed Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
Burge was charged with lying about the alleged torture in a lawsuit filed by former death row inmate Madison Hobley, who was sentenced to death for a 1987 fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son, and pardoned by Ryan.
Hobley claimed detectives put a plastic typewriter cover over his head to make it impossible for him to breathe. Burge denied knowing anything about the "bagging," or taking part in it. The indictment against Burge never said Hobley was tortured, but that Burge lied with respect to participating in or knowing of any torture under his watch.
Burge testified in his own defense at the four-week trial, denying he ever physically abused suspects or witnessed any other officers doing so. Prosecutors presented testimony from five men who said Burge and officers under his command held plastic bags over their heads, shocked them with electric current and put loaded guns in their mouths during the 1970s and 1980s to elicit confessions.
The testimony of those men echoed what others have long said: Black men suspected of crimes didn't leave interrogation rooms at Chicago's Area 2 police station until they told detectives what they wanted to hear.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said it was sad that it took until 2010 for it to be proven in a courtroom that torture once occurred in Chicago police stations. More than 100 victims have said the torture started in the 1970s and persisted until the 1990s at police stations on the city's South and West sides.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Ryan said Burge had extracted confessions from them using torture. The four later reached a $20 million settlement with the city.
Burge was fired from the police department in 1993 over the alleged mistreatment of a suspect, but he never was criminally charged in that case or any other, leading to widespread outrage in Chicago's black neighborhoods. The community anger intensified when Burge moved to Florida on his police pension and his alleged victims remained in prison. It wasn't immediately clear how Monday's verdict would affect the pension.
Burge never deserved a pension. He should have been in jail decades ago. It was common knowledge that Burge was a abusive, torturer. So, he got to enjoy most of his life free but hopefully he will spend the rest in prison where he sent so many innocent men.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Our children and all Americans need to understand that the ancestors of Americans of African descent were not free but slaves during the nation's first Independence Day celebration, on July 4, 1776, the "4th of July". It wasn't until 89 years later, during the nation's first Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration, on June 19, 1865, the "19th of June", in Galveston, TX, that the last group of slaves in America learned of their freedom over two and a half years following the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.
Here is the July 5th 1852 speech by Frederick Douglas.
This speech "What to the American Slave is your 4th of July? is read at many officially observed Juneteenth celebrations in 36 states.
As we all know the speeches that commemorate the July 4th holiday, we should all take in these words as well. To most they may words of times long gone. But to me, I still see effects of this time every single day.
Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that the dumb might eloquently speak and the "lame man leap as an hart."
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. Am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me.
This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn that it is dangerous to copy the example of nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people.
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! We wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorry this day, "may my right hand cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.
My subject, then, fellow citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondsman, making his wrongs mine. I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.
Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate, I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just....
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not as astonishing that, while we are plowing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, and secretaries, having among us lawyers doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; and that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and above all, confessing and worshiping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!...
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply....
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgiving, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.