The Homan Square facility, exposed as a CIA-style "black site" where police detainees would be brutalized without access to lawyers or relatives, is nothing new to those familiar with the violent legacy of police commander Jon Burge.
|Photo by Dennis Jarvis.|
Mark Clements was 16 years old when Chicago police officers took him to an interrogation room and beat him until he falsely confessed to setting a fire that killed four people. Though his past was checkered, Clements hadn’t set the fire and he told as much to the attorney who came to oversee his confession. After the lawyer left the room, the officers returned and beat Clements again. They grabbed his testicles and squeezed until Clements once again agreed to confess. This time around he signed his name to it.
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While it might sound like a story from Homan Square, Chicago’s police “black site” recently unearthed by The Guardian, Clement’s arrest took place over 30 years ago. On June 25, 1981, he joined the ranks of more than 100 black men and women who were tortured by police commander Jon Burge or his “midnight crew” of detectives on Chicago’s South Side from 1972-1991. Though the Homan Square reveal shocked the country, many local activists were unsurprised to hear that Chicago’s old police torture tactics had found a new home.
Based mostly on his coerced confession, Clements became the youngest person in the history of Illinois to get a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He spent nearly three decades in prison. Only a month before his arrest, Clements had become the father to a baby girl. The next time he greeted her in public, she was 28 years old. It was the day she picked him up from prison in 2009.
I first saw Clements on a rainy December morning at a protest in front of the Chicago Police Department Headquarters.
Now 50 years old, Clements is a civil rights activist who works to free those wrongfully convicted (he earned both his GED and his Bachelor’s Degree in prison). He’s congenial, with the air of a showman. When I arrived he was strolling up to strangers to introduce himself.
Called the “Holiday Action To Pass Reparations For Chicago Torture Survivors,” the protest began with a five-mile march from the Police HQ to the Mayor’s Office in City Hall, where we would deliver the signatures of 45,000 supporters.