Congratulations to PLO Attorney Joey Mogul for Recieving the 2015 US Human Rights Network Movement Builders Award

Congratulations to PLO attorney Joey Mogul for the 2015 US Human Rights Network Movement Builders Awards for their dedicated work, leadership and collective organizing on the successful Burge torture reparations campaign and to Stan Willis for his brilliant vision and leadership raising these cases in the international human rights bodies and decades of principled activism.

Click here to view all the recipients of the award.

Reparations Won: An Historic Victory in the Struggle Aginst Chicago Police Torture

The 20 year reign of police torture that was orchestrated by Commander Jon Burge and implicated former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a myriad of high ranking police and prosecutorial ocials, has haunted the City of Chicago for decades. Finally, on May 6, 2015, in response to a movement that has spanned a generation, the Chicago City Council formally recognized this sordid history by passing historic legislation that provided reparations to the survivors of police torture in Chicago.

Read more about this in the July/August 2015, Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report.

Illinois Appellate Court Issues an Important Decision in Shawn Whirl’s Police Torture Case

On August 12, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court issued an important decision in the Shawn Whirl police torture case that  was litigated by Flint Taylor and Ben Elson of the People’s Law Office and Tara Thompson of the University of Chicago Exoneration Project. The Appellate Court, in a 36 page opinion, held that Whirl, who had consistently maintained that he was tortured into giving a false confession by an Area 2 detective who had previously worked for decades with Jon Burge, was entitled to a new motion to suppress hearing on the question of whether his confession was tortured from him and should consequently be barred from evidence at a new trial. The Court all but mandated that Whirl, who has spent 25 years in prison, be released without the formality of a new hearing and trial, finding that “it is impossible to conceive how the State could prevail at a new suppression hearing,” and that “without Whirl’s confession, the State’s case was non-existent.” Whirl’s lawyers have called on the Special Prosecutor, who represents the State in the Whirl case, to heed the clear message in the Court’s opinion and agree to dismiss Whirl’s case rather than pursuing further appeals at the taxpayers’ expense.

Read the opinion here.

Listen to the oral argument made by attorney G. Flint Taylor here.

Also, follow the links to the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times articles.

NLG International Committee Testimony to UN Decolonization Committee – Hearings on Puerto Rico 6/22/15

Jan Susler, partner at the PLO and co-chair of the NLG International Committee’s Puerto Rico Subcommittee, testified before the United Nations Decolonization Committee, urging that Puerto Ricans be able to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, free of U.S. colonialism June 22, 2015. Read or download the full testimony as PDF here and see the UN’s press statement about the hearing at their website here.


This was originally posted on the National Lawyers Guild website.

Reflecting Upon the Recent Police Standoff in Edgewater

A week ago, there were reports of a police standoff for five hours overnight in Edgewater that brought scores of police vehicles to a several block area and resulted in the arrests of over 30 men, women and children charged with a minor offense of disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor charge. Police were responding to gunshots that they ultimately determined came from behind the apartment and the 30 or partygoers. Many neighbors who were evacuated or told to go back into their houses, have continuing concerns about violence and drug activity in their mixed race, mixed income neighborhood. This is a sentiment they share with many urban Chicagoans. However, the incident bears reflection and raises many questions for our communities about responsible policing and the accountability of law enforcement.

Was the police action a measured response to legitimate concerns of violence? Or was the police response a show of force and intimidation directed at certain people? Why were over 30 people of color marched out of a residence and charged with minor crimes. Why was the neighborhood under siege for five hours and the streets packed curb to curb with police patrol cars, squadrols and armoured Hummer-style trucks?

We must ask these questions and others. We cannot afford to just accept a thin police narrative of events and move on. In Chicago, the police’s account of incidents has proven untrustworthy, as demonstrated by recent lawsuits that have impeached their versions of police shootings of Black men.  As civilians it is incumbent upon us to ensure our public officials are accountable to us for their actions, including law enforcement personnel as our nation becomes increasingly desensitized to police violence tactics. This is not to judge or criticize with bias but bring fairness, justice and freedom from violence for all.

This was written by PLO attorney Janine Hoft

Reparations: A Blueprint to address systemic police violence

The City of Chicago made history on Wednesday May 6 when it passed legislation providing reparations to survivors of racially motivated police torture committed between 1972 and 1991. Once implemented, it will offer a measure of hope to survivors, their family members and African American communities devastated by the legacy of torture committed by infamous former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command.

It represents a bold break with the status quo, representing the first time that a municipality reparationswon-2 (1)in the United States – - a nation with a long tradition of unanswered calls for redress for systemic race based violence, including slavery and lynchings – - will provide reparations to those harmed by law enforcement violence.   It can serve as a blueprint for what reparations might look like for systemic police abuse plaguing cities across the nation

Chicago’s reparations package was driven by the inadequacy of traditional legal remedies to make individuals and communities whole for systemic harm. After decades of litigation, activism and investigative journalism, the truth about systemic torture of African Americans by white detectives to secure confessions, involving electric shock, suffocation, and mock execution, often accompanied by racialized abuse, was exposed.  Yet full accountability proved elusive.

The statute of limitations precluded Burge and his men from being held criminally or civilly responsible for their crimes of torture (although Burge was ultimately convicted in 2010 for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the torture he and others committed). They enjoyed decades of torturing with impunity, courtesy of a cover up by the Chicago Police Department’s chain of command and governmental officials, including former Mayor Richard M. Daley.  Moreover, the limited remedies offered by civil litigation – financial settlements that were often meager and practically unavailable to the vast majority of survivors – were inadequate to address the trauma and material needs of the torture survivors, their family members and communities.

Burge’s legacy of torture left festering wounds that remain open to this day. Many survivors continue to suffer from nightmares and flashbacks, grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder that has gone untreated for decades.  They live under a shroud of shame, guilt, and anguish that undermines their ability to form relationships and share community with others.  Survivors’ family members were also left to contend with their secondary trauma in isolation, after their fathers, sons and partners were ripped from them.  As whispers of the torture spread, entire communities lived in fear that they or their loved ones would be disappeared from street corners or homes into the bowels of police stations to be tortured and terrorized.  The torture, like lynchings, served to terrorize entire African American communities.

Recognizing the lack of redress for these systemic harms, Standish Willis, founder of Black People Against Police Torture, made the initial call for reparations.  Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), a grassroots group of artists, activists, attorneys and survivors, amplified this call by asking police torture survivors and the larger community to imagine how they would publicly memorialize these cases recognizing the difficulty and immensity of depicting the harms perpetrated, while also recognizing the struggle waged by many for justice for decades.  Through art charrettes, teach-ins, creative outreach and community dialogue, CTJM sought to spark the collective imagination of communities to conceptualize what was necessary for the City to provide in order for individuals and communities to heal from torture.  This call served to redirect everyone’s attention beyond the usual cries for accountability for police brutality and to focus on holistic means of meeting the material needs of all members of impacted communities, and offering positive visions for healing and repair.

Given the glaring lack of precedent in the U.S., CTJM looked to the U.N. Convention Against Torture’s principles of restitution, rehabilitation, compensation and public acknowledgment. CTJM also consulted with Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, himself a survivor of torture in Argentina, and relied on the expansive scope of reparations provided for atrocities committed under the Pinochet regime in Chile when conceiving of the essential elements of the original legislation (a CTJM member is a Chilean torture survivor who fought for reparations in Chile as well).

Ultimately, the reparations package, brought to fruition by an inspiring multiracial and intergenerational campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, within the larger context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, achieved far more than any individual criminal prosecution or lawsuit could afford.  In addition to financial compensation to all individual survivors, it includes a legislative admission and apology by the City of Chicago for the torture committed by city employees, settling the historical record and placing this systemic pattern and practice of torture beyond dispute.  The reparations package also includes the creation of a center on Chicago’s Southside where survivors can access specialized trauma counseling services. It extends benefits like job placement, and free tuition at City Colleges for the torture survivors and their families.

Reparations are also an exercise in collective grief, catharsis and healing. As part of this process of narrating and commemorating what Burge torture survivors endured, the City of Chicago will not only create a permanent public memorial, it will also create a living memorial through an 8th and 10th grade curriculum for Chicago Public schools about the reparationswon-3 (1)Burge torture cases.  The hope is that by inscribing these cases both figuratively and literally into the collective memory, generations to come will ensure torture is never again committed in our name.

Like every reparations process, there have been fair critiques for being too narrowly focused and not ambitiously seeking redress for every case of police torture. However, while the reparations for Burge survivors focus on a finite set of particularly egregious cases, they can still serve as a model in other cities. Ultimately, each process will be unique and place specific.  But Chicago’s journey provides some guideposts for municipalities to consider beyond changes in police policies that have left both victims and communities affected by racist police violence unable to heal.

There is no question that excessive force, in many instances amounting to torture, causes physical injuries and leaves psychological scars. As noted by sociologists Amanda Geller and Jeffrey Fagan in their study of the impacts of the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk practices, even less egregious forms of discriminatory policing cause significant individual and collective emotional harm.

Municipalities need not shoulder this burden alone. There are approximately 40 federally funded centers throughout the U.S. offering psychological treatment to torture survivors – but unfortunately, they are only permitted to provide services to people who have been tortured outside the U.S.  It is time for federal government to recognize that law enforcement officials torture people in the U.S. and that survivors need access to the same services we rightfully offer survivors of torture around the world.

Ultimately, Chicago’s approach to systemic racial harm offers a glimmer of a possible future in which the nation as a whole might finally grapple with reparations for the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and its direct descendant, mass incarceration, each of which echo through the Chicago Police Torture cases.

Joey Mogul is a partner at the People’s Law Office who has represented Burge torture survivors for the last 18 years.  Mogul co-founded the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and drafted the original reparations ordinance.

A smaller version of this piece appeared in Time.Com, along with the fierce thoughts of courageous Chicago Police torture survivor and activist Darrell Cannon.

City Council Makes History in Passing Reparations Legislation for Burge Torture Survivors

The Largest Gathering of Burge Torture Survivors Witnessed the Historic Vote

This morning Chicago Police torture survivors and their family members attended a Chicago City Council hearing to witness passage of historic legislation providing reparations for the torture they and scores of other African American men and women survived at the hands of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command.  Some of the torture survivors and family members traveled out of the City and State to attend the hearing.

The reparations package is the product of decades of organizing, litigation, and investigative journalism, and represents the culmination of an inspiring intergenerational and interracial campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International, USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, re-invigorated by the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  Forty-six organizations endorsed the ordinance, the U.N. Committee Against Torture specifically called on the U.S. Government to support the passage of the legislation and scores of Chicagoans attended demonstrations, rallies, sing-ins and a Citywide Teach-ins over the last six months to urge Mayor Emanuel to support the reparations ordinance.

“Over the course of the past 6 months, a coalition of individuals and groups organized tirelessly to achieve this goal. Today’s historic achievement, passage of the reparations ordinance, is owed to the decades of organizing to bring some justice to the survivors of Burge and his fellow officers’ unconscionable torture. We have successfully organized to preserve the public memory of the atrocities experienced by over 110 black people at the hands of Chicago police torture because we refuse to let anyone in this city ever forget what happened here,” said Mariame Kaba, founder and executive director of Project NIA.

The reparations resolution represents the first time Chicago’s City Council has formally acknowledged and taken responsibility for the police torture that occurred in Chicago, and recognized its obligation to provide concrete redress to the survivors and family members.  In addition to the establishment of a $5.5 million Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims, the City will provide survivors and their families specialized counseling services at a center on the South side, free enrollment in City Colleges, and priority access to job training, housing and other city services. Additionally, a history lesson about the Burge torture cases will henceforth be taught in Chicago Public schools and a permanent public memorial will be erected to commemorate the torture and survivors.

“It is the first time that a municipality in the United States has ever offered reparations to those violated law enforcement officials,” said Joey Mogul, a co-founder of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, partner at the People’s Law Office and drafter of the original reparations ordinance. “This holistic model should serve as a blueprint for how cities around the country, from Ferguson to Baltimore, can respond to systemic racist police brutality.”

The final legislation was the product of an agreement reached with Mayor Emanuel, CTJM and Amnesty International, USA on the eve of an April 14, 2015 hearing on the original reparations Ordinance introduced into City Council by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward) in October of 2013.

While torture survivors, family members, and activists were pleased with the reparations package passed today, they noted that much more work needs to be done to address racially motivated police violence in the City of Chicago.

“Today is an important and historic day, and the result of a courageous, decades-long effort to seek justice. But this is not the end. We must make sure that this curriculum places torture under Burge in a broader context of ongoing and endemic police violence. We must expand counseling and treatment services so they’re available for all survivors of police violence. And more broadly, we must fight for an end not only to these horrific acts of torture, and police shootings of Black youth, but also against the daily police harassment and profiling of young people of color in Chicago and across the country,” said Page May, an organizer and activist with We Charge Genocide.

The Reparations Ordinance was drafted to provide redress to approximately 120 African American men and women subjected to racially-motivated torture, including electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings by now former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991.  Although Burge was convicted on federal charges for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the torture cases in 2010, he continues to draw a taxpayer funded pension.

Landmark Torture Reparations Agreement Announced at Historic City Council Hearing

People’s Law Office partners Joey Mogul and Flint Taylor, who are also members of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, and have represented many Chicago police torture survivors over the decades, were involved with CTJM and Amnesty International in the lengthy negotiations that brought the historic torture Reparations agreement with the City to fruition. Mogul and Taylor, who, together with torture survivors Darrell Cannon and Anthony Holmes, and several CTJM members testified at the April 14th hearing before the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee, released the following joint statement:

We are gratified, that after so many years of denial and cover-up by the Daley administration, Mayor Emanuel and his Corporation Counsel have recognized the needs of the torture survivors and their families and negotiated this historic reparations agreement with the survivors’ representatives. It is the first of its kind in this country, and its passage and implementation will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the city.

For further information, see: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, CTJM Statement.

Hearing on Reparations Ordinance – Mayor’s Office Announces Support

Mayor’s Office Announces Support for Reparations Legislation; Supporters Pack City Council chambers

This morning, members of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), Amnesty International, USA and representatives of the Mayor’s Office announced an agreement on a reparations package for survivors of torture by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command before a special session of the City Council Finance Committee. The package, based on the Reparations Ordinance introduced in October of 2013 by Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and Howard Brookins (21st Ward), provides concrete redress to the torture survivors and their family members, which includes: a formal apology for the torture; specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members on the South side; free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and  family members; a history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in Chicago Public schools; a permanent public memorial to the survivors; and it sets aside $5.5 million for a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Victims that will allow the Burge torture survivors with us today to receive financial compensation for the torture they endured.

This historic agreement is the product of decades of organizing for justice in these cases, and represents the culmination of a concerted six-month campaign led by CTJM, Amnesty International – USA, Project NIA and We Charge Genocide, with the help of several other organizations including BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade and the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression.

Bill sponsor Alderman Moreno said, in support of the bill’s passage, “I call on my fellow aldermen to swiftly pass this reparations package that Mayor Emanuel has agreed to because we have a moral and ethical duty to help these victims and their families. We hope and trust that the healing and forgiving process can begin with the passage of this legislation.”

The reparations package, rooted in a restorative justice framework, acknowledges the torture of Black people under former police commander Jon Burge, and begins to make amends by providing financial compensation and services to the torture survivors and their families. Beyond the financial compensation, the legislation is an important acknowledgment by the city of its responsibility to make amends for the torture, and the decades of denials and cover-ups. It is a significant step towards justice and healing, although nothing can erase the unconscionable human rights violations committed by Burge and his fellow officers.

“The harm that was done by Burge and officers under his command to individuals, to their families, and to Black communities in Chicago cannot be undone,” said Mariame Kaba, founding Director of Project NIA. “It cannot be erased, and the lasting impact of this torture and trauma continues to this day. We keep this knowledge in our hearts and minds. And at the same time, it is important that the city acknowledge and speak to this harm. This ordinance is another step in the long march toward an end to police violence.  It is a modicum of redress.”

Scores of supporters of the legislation filled the City Council chambers to support the survivors of police torture. Several leaders in the movement for reparations gave testimony before the Council Finance Committee in support of the package, including torture survivors and CTJM members Anthony Holmes and Darrell Cannon, Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; Dorothy Burge, member of CTJM and Black People Against Police Torture; Joey Mogul, co-founder of CTJM and partner at the People’s Law Office and Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office.

When describing the ordinance, Darrell Cannon, a survivor of torture by detectives under Burge’s command, said “This is historic.  For those of us who have been fighting and struggling to set a landmark, this is that landmark. This is the moment. What we do here will not be undone. People across the country will talk about Chicago.  It would be the first bill in the US that would provide reparations for law enforcement conduct.”

The Reparations Ordinance was drafted to provide redress to approximately 120 African American men and women subjected to racially-motivated torture, including electric shock, mock executions, suffocation and beatings by now former Police Commander Jon Burge and his subordinates from 1972 through 1991.  Although Burge was convicted on federal charges for perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the torture cases in 2010, he continues to draw a taxpayer funded pension, while scores of Chicago Police Torture survivors continue to suffer from the effects of the torture they endured without any compensation, assistance, or legal redress.

April 14 City Council Hearing on Torture Reparations Ordinance

A City Council Hearing on the Chicago Police Torture Reparations Ordinance has been scheduled!

Reparations Ordinance

Alderman Ed Burke, Chair of the Finance Committee, has announced that the committee will hold a hearing on the Reparations Ordinance on Tuesday, April 14 at 10 am. In recent months, People’s Law Office has joined with Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Amnesty International, BYP100, Chicago Light Brigade, Project NIA, and We Charge Genocide to organize marches, demonstrations, rallies, sing-ins, exhibition-ins, teach-ins and more to demand a hearing and passage of the ordinance; and our efforts are paying off.

As torture survivor and People’s Law Office client Darrell Cannon told the Sun-Times: “People power has a way of getting the attention of the hardest of hearts of politicians.”