Chicago's Olympic Dreams Undeserved

By Muwakkil, Salim | In These Times, August 2008 | Go to article overview

Chicago's Olympic Dreams Undeserved


Muwakkil, Salim, In These Times


CHICAGO MAYOR RICHARD M. Daley has set his sights on winning the gold for his city.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently chose the Windy City as one of four international finalists in the race to host the coveted 2016 summer games.

But a group of local activists argues that a history of racist police torture has made Chicago inappropriate as an Olympic site and is mobilizing to convince the IOC to reject the city's bid.

"How can a city that has been condemned by the United Nations for allowing its police to engage in systematic torture of black men be worthy of hosting the Olympic games?" asks Patricia Hill, a primary organizer of Black People Against Police Torture, the group at the forefront of opposition to the Chicago Olympics.

Hill, who is also executive director of the city's African American Police League, says that several allied groups have joined in opposition to Chicago's Olympic bid-including the local chapter of Amnesty International USA.

For nearly 20 years, a former Chicago police commander named Jon Burge and detectives under his command routinely tortured more than 100 black males, claiming they were criminal suspects. Several independent investigations and court decisions confirmed these systematic crimes, which occurred from 1972 to 1991.

The latest evidence was a 292-page report issued two years ago by court-appointed special prosecutor Edward Egan that concluded Burge and his men used many torture techniques, including electro-shocking genitals, suffocating people with plastic bags and burning skin on a hot radiator. But the statute of limitations prevented prosecution. Thus, none of the cops involved has yet to pay any legal cost.

Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned these crimes, which violate domestic laws, the victims' constitutional rights, as well as international treaties banning torture. In May 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture sharply rebuked the United States for failing to hold the offending police officers accountable.

Despite widespread awareness of torture provoked by American excesses in the so-called war on terror, relatively little has been said about this heinous history of homegrown torture. Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan raised the profile of the case in 2003 when he granted pardons to four death row inmates after concluding their confessions were tortured from them. …

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