“Condemning Silence, Not People”: Police Torture and the Added Value of Human Rights

By Michaela Purdue
Director of Community Programs, Human Rights Coordinator, JCUA

The conviction of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was a bittersweet affair for many Chicago activists.

The solace Burge’s torture victims, and their many supporters and allies, felt when the former police commander was convicted in June 2010, was lessened by Burge’s conviction not being for acts of torture, but for perjury and obstruction of justice he committed when he was deposed on the issue in 2003, and by the fact that the Illinois statute of limitations on torture, which lasts three years, expired before Burge was convicted.

Grassroots and advocacy groups like Black People against Police Torture and the Illinois Coalition Against Torture are committed to working with legislators to address extending the duration of the statute, and to putting to an end human rights violations in Chicago, in the state and elsewhere.

On Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, from 6-9 p.m. at Grace Place on 637 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, in honor of International Human Rights Day, activists from those groups and from across Chicago will come together to speak out about police torture and the impact human rights principles can have in ensuring the respect and dignity of every Chicago resident.

The event, “Condemning Silence, Not People,” will be a night of spoken word featuring locally and nationally renowned artists C.C. Carter, Kevin Coval and Roger Bonair-Agard.

Both police torture and the added value of human rights are silent affairs in Chicago.

The purpose of this event is to bring together activists from every part of the city, from a diverse array of races, classes and cultures, to significantly erode that silence.

We chose spoken word because it is a medium that has the profound effect of amplifying experience, message and emotion. I can’t think of an issue more deserving of that level of amplification than police torture.

Along with spoken word performances, the event will include a welcoming message by Mark Clements, a survivor of torture committed by Jon Burge, an abbreviated viewing of the movie “At the End of the Nightstick,” as well as an opportunity for attending artists to deliver their own inspiring messages condemning police torture.

Co-sponsors of the event are the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Black People Against Police Torture, the Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois, the Illinois Coalition Against Torture, and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights.

To find out more about the event contact Michaela Purdue at michaela@jcua.org.

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