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Ackerman writes: "A Chicago man says he was confined for three days - shackled, interrogated and fed only twice, his whereabouts unknown - inside the police 'black site' at the epicentre of public outcry over allegations of abuse said to focus on minority citizens."

Homan Square, a police warehouse that has led to calls for local and federal inquiry - and now multiple protests. (photo: Philipp Batta/Guardian UK)
Homan Square, a police warehouse that has led to calls for local and federal inquiry - and now multiple protests. (photo: Philipp Batta/Guardian UK)

Chicagoans Detail Abusive Confinement Inside Police 'Black Site'

By Spencer Ackerman, Guardian UK

28 February 15


Chicago man says he was confined for three days – shackled, interrogated and fed only twice, his whereabouts unknown – inside the police “black site” at the epicentre of public outcry over allegations of abuse said to focus on minority citizens.

Four black Chicagoans have now come forward to the Guardian detailing off-the-books ordeals at the facility, including another who describes being detained in “a big cage” with his wrists cuffed to a bench so he couldn’t move.

The Guardian has now interviewed six people about their detention at the Homan Square police warehouse. With striking consistency, all have described extensive detentions without benefit of legal counsel or public notice of where they were.

The first-hand accounts of two white protesters who “disappeared” at the police warehouse in 2012 set off political and civil-rights outrage this week, and multiple protests have now been scheduled by organizers including the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brock Terry, 31, says police took him to Homan Square in 2011, after finding him with five and a half pounds of marijuana, and describes being held for three entire days without public notice, booking or a lawyer.

“I sat in that place for three days, man – with no talking, no calls to nobody,” Terry told the Guardian on Friday. His friends and family could not find him: “They call police stations, I’m not there, I’m not there.”

“I was kept there. I didn’t speak to a lawyer or anything,” he continued. “I didn’t interact with nobody for three days. And then when I do see the light of day, I go straight to another police station, go straight there to county and be processed.”

Terry detailed being handcuffed in one room at Homan Square by one wrist to a “little circular thing behind the bench”, echoing the accounts of the two Nato protesters interviewed by the Guardian, though Terry said he did not have his ankles cuffed together.

Three other men, Kory Wright, Deandre Hutcherson and David Smith, have also told the Guardian they were held in 2006 inside Homan Square, where they say they were handcuffed by both wrists with their arms spread. Hutcherson says he was punched in the face while in this position, before an officer stepped on his groin “like he was putting a cigarette out”.

Another lawyer has told the Guardian that in early 2014, police told him that his client – another young black man – was not at Homan Square, even though he was.

“What they did that night, by denying my 19-year-old client access to his attorney was unconstitutional, clearly,” said Cliff Nellis, an attorney with the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, located near Homan Square on Chicago’s west side.

The Chicago police did not respond to questions for this story. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently facing a heated runoff for re-election, said on Thursday night it was “not true” that the police maintain a facility lawyers have compared to a CIA “black site”.

Activists are planning a “Shut Down Homan Square” protest on Saturday and a demonstration for reparations for longstanding victims of Chicago police torture on Monday. Representatives from Black Lives Matter Chicago said they were helping to organize and promote the Monday action. Several Chicago local and national politicians are calling for investigations, including from the US justice department, into allegations of police misconduct at the warehouse.

While Terry said that he did not see anyone else while confined at Homan in 2011, he said he heard people yelling “no, no, no” and “stop”. He remembered seeing chain-link “cages”, of the sort previously described to the Guardian by attorneys and former police superintendent Richard Brzeczek. They reminded him of dog kennels, he said.

“They got kennels – like, for people,” Terry told the Guardian. “I didn’t really want to believe that, but it is the truth.”

He continued: “I never saw anyone, but I know something else is going on. You don’t want to be in that kind of situation, so you gotta be quiet about it, so you don’t go down that route.”

While shackled and interrogated over the next three days, police fed Terry only twice, he said, with baloney sandwiches and juice. He got to use the bathroom “hardly ever, but I did use it.”

“Every day they came to ask some questions. Am I in a gang? Who am I with? Who run this? Who run that? Give them a gun and they’ll let me go,” Terry said. “That was pretty much the main thing: give them a gun and they’ll let me go. But I didn’t produce a gun.”

Had Terry found them a gun, he said, his ordeal with police might never end: “The thing about it is, when they say give them a gun, they let you go, but it’s like long invisible string tied to your ass. They definitely gonna come back to interrogate you to get another gun, or ask you about this crime, give them some information about this crime.”

‘It’s gonna get a little hot up in here’: three friends, from video games to handcuffs

Wright, Hutcherson and Smith were also taken to Homan Square. Their ordeal, first reported by Juan Thompson of the Intercept, took place five years earlier. Wright recalled agreeing to break a $50 bill for a woman in North Lawndale who said she wanted to buy drugs but turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Police, wearing plain clothes, then burst inside Smith’s home and apprehended him and Hutcherson, 19, who had been playing video games in the basement. Smith, the oldest and Wright’s cousin, was 29. It was Wright’s 21st birthday. Both men told the Guardian they were neither booked, read their rights nor permitted a phone call.

Taken to separate rooms, each independently described being shackled to a bar. While the anti-Nato demonstrators and Terry were cuffed by one wrist to a bar behind a bench, Hutcherson and Wright say they were cuffed, with their arms spread out, to the bar by both wrists.

“They had me handcuffed – both hands stretched-out,” Wright told the Guardian. “I was stretched out like I’m being crucified.”

The position left Hutcherson defenseless when an officer he said grew frustrated with interrogating him and punched him two or three times in the face.

“He takes his foot and steps on my groin, like he was putting out a cigarette or something, with his toe,” Hutcherson told the Guardian. Before leaving, the officer said, “it’s gonna get a little hot up in here,’” Hutcherson remembered. The officer closed the door and soon Hutcherson began sweltering from the heat in the stifling room.

Wright said he didn’t think to ask for a lawyer: “My head was spinning, it was just like a bad dream.” Hutcherson said that after police denied him a phone call, he didn’t see the point in asking.

Wright added that he was not physically harmed, and made up stories to be set free when asked about random “murders and robberies.” Instead, he was taken to a nearby police station and booked on a drug charge. Wright would later be acquitted in a bench trial.

Smith, whose story has not previously been reported, said the police saw him as uncooperative. They moved him to what he called “a big cage”.

“They had my wrists taken together to a steel post on a bench,” Smith told the Guardian on Friday.

“So I couldn’t move, I couldn’t lift up. I had to lie sideways like that just to try to get some sleep, like that, for hours.”

Smith estimates he was at Homan Square without a lawyer or booking for “six, seven hours”. He said he was later taken to a nearby police station and booked on a drug-delivery charge, on which he was ultimately acquitted.

‘It’s used to interrogate poor brown and black young men’: more pressure, from Homan to the top

‘That’s not true,’ Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday night when pressed on allegations of police abuse at Homan Square on Chicago’s west side. ‘We follow all the rules.’ (photo: Philipp Batta/Guardian)
‘That’s not true,’ Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday night when pressed on allegations
of police abuse at Homan Square on Chicago’s west side. ‘We follow all the rules.’
(photo: Philipp Batta/Guardian)

More recently, around February 2014, Nellis said he got a tip that his client – 19 years old, black and from the west side of Chicago – had been taken to Homan Square in connection with a drug investigation. When he got to the warehouse on Homan and Fillmore, he asked a woman “wearing a police uniform” what the unfamiliar building was.

“What I recall her saying is, ‘Oh, I don’t know what this is,” and walked off,” Nellis said. Another attempt at flagging down officers in the Homan Square docking bay, during which he identified himself as a lawyer seeking to see his client, resulted in them telling Nellis: “This isn’t a police station, we don’t hold people here.”

Nellis dialed a contact he declined to identify and complained, saying he knew his client was inside Homan Square. About ten minutes later, an officer emerged to let him in. Nellis’ client – whom he declined to name, citing ongoing legal issues – was in handcuffs and had been interrogated. Nellis believes the youth had been in custody for a “few hours”.

“I know many other attorneys through First Defense Legal Aid who have tried to get in there and been denied numerous times,” Nellis said.

In a statement issued to the Guardian and other news outlets on Tuesday, Chicago police denied the Guardian’s reporting, without giving specifics, and insisted that Homan Square is no different than any other police facility, albeit somewhat more sensitive given the presence of undercover units. The department, which has not denied interrogating suspects at Homan Square, did not respond to questions from the Guardian sent on Thursday about Terry, Wright and Hutcherson.

“This isn’t just a facility that’s used to detain people for political protests,” said Chicago attorney Anthony Hill. “It’s used to interrogate poor brown and black young men. That’s that the majority of abuse at the Homan Square facility on a daily basis.”

Flint Taylor, a Chicago attorney who has pursued legal reprisals against police abuse for decades, said he held out little hope that federal inquiries would actually proceed.

“Over the last 25 years, we have repeatedly brought the justice department and the US attorney powerful evidence of systemic police torture, repeater cops running wild without discipline or supervision, and a myriad of other patterns of outrageous police misconduct,” Taylor said.

“When Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator, he assiduously avoided any acknowledgement of, or involvement in, the fight against police torture, as did then Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who later became Obama’s chief of staff. Hence both Chicago and national politics, past and present, make me very skeptical that the justice department will investigate Mayor Emanuel’s cops now.”

The justice department has declined comment on Homan Square. Emanuel’s office has refused multiple requests for comment from the Guardian this week, referring a reporter to the police department statement.

When police finally released Hutcherson in 2006 – after about three or four hours, he said, that saw him punched in the face, stomped in the groin and kept in a baking room – he said he sprinted out of the warehouse in fear.

“I take off running, you know, because I want to get out of the situation. I’m 19, I never been arrested, no record, nothing,” he said.

“I’ll never forget: the officer that let me out, he’s like, ‘Stop running, asshole, before you pass out.’ And I just paid him no mind, just kept running straight down Homan.” your social media marketing partner


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+7 # John S. Browne 2015-02-28 10:59

What a country we now live in, eh? Before 9-11 you would have hardly ever heard about stuff like this; now we're hearing about it more and more. I'm presently being terrorized by an attorney for my government regulated, financed and subsidized apartment complex right now, with my management falsely claiming that I "threatened" them (just completely made up, and something I truly never did); and, knowing from personal experience how totally corrupt the "(in)justice" system is, and even though I certainly don't want to let these evil people succeed in getting me to do so, and I resist letting them get me to live in fear, I can't help but be scared to death of being thrown out on the street. I'm a totally physically disabled person with no place to go, and no one to take me in, so I've got more than legitimate reason(s) to be afraid. I can't handle stress; and, if I end up living on the street, I just won't be able to handle it at all.

-3 # kgrad 2015-02-28 11:23
The UK articles says "continued", but there is no following text. What's up with that?
+2 # John S. Browne 2015-02-28 11:38

Give somebody time to post it, will you! And what do you mean by "U.K."? (Oh, because it's a Guardian article from the U.K.; now I get at least that much of what you're saying and why.)

0 # John S. Browne 2015-02-28 11:33

The only thing(s) I've been doing at this apartment project is nothing but standing up for what's right, and against the habitual illegal activities of the management (even if I told you, you wouldn't even believe the crap that's been going on, especially against me). This completely evil, corrupt lawyer is telling me that they won't recognize my disabilities, all already long ago proven to Social Security, unless I get a doctor's letter and obtain a special "reasonable accommodation". This is all totally illegal discrimination, but no one will help me.

+1 # John S. Browne 2015-02-28 11:33

For the first time in my life, and on the occasion of my third seeking of such assistance in nineteen years, and for the first time in seventeen of those nineteen years, the legal aid office for the state I now reside in has turned me down, twice, for help. It's become obvious that they're completely biased and prejudiced in favor of landlords, like all of the other so-called "tenant's rights" agencies in this state, all of which have also turned me down because they've been bought off and turned into controlled "opposition" and gatekeepers to prevent most people from getting help, through their agencies' receiving federal grant money, aka corporate welfare, from totally corrupt U.S. government agencies purposely turning them into what they've become. They can afford to run multiple, no doubt, expensive offices all over the state, and pay the salaries of quite a significant number of employees, but they admitted to me that they spend ninety-nine percent of their time (and that's A LOT of expended time!) interviewing people just to turn them down for assistance; thus justifying paychecks for almost zero help of the public, which the government loves, and is glad to pay out all of those gobs of taxpayer money for.

+1 # John S. Browne 2015-02-28 11:34

I'm living in an elderly-disable d government-subs idized complex; which, since I'm 58 and not elderly (yet anyway), I wouldn't be allowed to live in if I wasn't disabled. All I have to do to prove that I'm disabled, with their not being legally allowed under federal law to ask what my specific disabilities are, is proof of my Social Security. Now all of sudden they're illegally claiming that I supposedly have to "prove" my disabilities TO THEM! It's insane! They're usurping the authority of the federal government concerning something that they have ABSOLUTELY NO JURISDICTION OVER! And they believe that they can just put me through constant hell and get away with it with impunity. That's what the U.S. has come to. Insane people who are increasingly being taken over by evil, believing they can abuse, terrorize and torture (at least mentally if nothing else) defenseless people, with no accountability.

+1 # John S. Browne 2015-03-02 09:17

I am not AT ALL required by law to prove my disabilities to them, or to even report to them what my specific disabilities are (in order to try and prevent the very discrimination that I'm now being subjected to); but that won't stop a completely corrupt, evil attorney from threatening me with a false restraining order; which, considering the level of corruption of the courts, he would likely obtain without any proof, with complete complicity of the judge in the case, in order to create the "legal" pretext to evict me even though I've been an excellent tenant. I've always paid my rent on time, paid all of my utility bills in a timely fashion, been quiet, taken good care of the premises, not destroyed property, lived cleanly, never harassed or bothered the other tenants (in 39 other apartment units), and never threatened or harmed anyone in the entire twelve years that I've lived there. Now, because I've acted as a tenant rights advocate for that entire time, I'm supposedly "public enemy number one". It's madness! But it's a definite sign, along with evidence of police torture and murder facilities like this Homan place, of what the U.S. is quickly coming to, an increasingly fascist madhouse on steroids that is getting worse and worse every day!

+7 # Citizen Mike 2015-02-28 11:28
The Chicago PD showed itself to be brutal back in 1968 during the Democratic convention when the police rioted and beat up demonstrators, journalists and passers-by indiscriminatel y. So why should I be surprised at this? The brute sons of brute fathers carry on the same old thing and the city keeps its tradition.
+5 # reiverpacific 2015-02-28 13:17
This country is more and more beginning to resemble the many death-squad enforced, Oligarchy-run Banana Republics and dictatorships the "Land of the Free" has supported, armed and often established around the globe.
No wonder Al Capone and the other "Thugs" did so well in Chi'. They were indeed hoods but mostly only warred between each other and had a lot of cops in their pockets. The cops have out-done themselves by comparison, especially if you are black, brown -or poor white.
+3 # cordleycoit 2015-03-01 09:19
Hey folks don't worry be happy every regional capitol has it's fusion center. waiting for customers. These will be the writers, artists and religious folk who believe in non violence. Don't worry our republic is an equal opportunity oppressor. Thug cops are everywhere fomenting race war, banker immunity, sex trafficking and the joys of torture.

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