Is this America, or is this Guantanamo? This is the question one must ask after learning of the news from Chicago, and a secretive CIA-style facility known as Homan Square. The Guardian has learned that the police “disappeared” 7,185 people at the off-the-grid, black site-style warehouse, nearly double the amount previously believed. Nearly 6,000 of the detainees held at the facility were Black, and only 68 were provided access to their attorneys and public notice of their location.
It sounds more like a story out of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany or Guantanamo, where the U.S. still detains and interrogates terror suspects away from U.S. democracy, transparency and the rule of law. Based on an investigation and lawsuit, the Guardian learned that narcotics, vice and anti-gang units of the Chicago Police Department operate from Homan Square, taking people there from all over the city. Moreover, 53 percent of the “disappeared” live over 2.5 miles from the secret facility. Some people were reportedly kept for hours and even days, forced to become informants, and denied phone calls to family or lawyers. Homan Square does not create any booking records, and no one knows where the disappeared are located.
Among the other facts disclosed during the Guardian’s investigation of Homan Square are that 82.2 percent of those detained were African-American, though they only represent 32.9 percent of the Chicago population. Latinos, who are 28.9 percent of the city’s population, were 11.8 percent of the detainees in the facility. Only 5.5 percent of the detainees were white, even though they make up 31.7 percent of the population of Chicago.
In addition, despite the impression that such secrecy would be reserved for violent criminal suspects, 5,386 of the arrests, or 74.9 percent, involved drug possession, with heroin accounting for 35.4 percent, and marijuana at 22.3 percent. Moreover, nearly 65 percent of arrests since August 2004 took place since former Obama official Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago.
“Not much shakes me in this business – baby murder, sex assault, I’ve done it all,” said David Gaeger, an attorney whose client was arrested in 2011 for marijuana and taken to Homan Square, according to the Guardian. “That place was and is scary. It’s a scary place. There’s nothing about it that resembles a police station. It comes from a Bond movie or something.”
News of Homan Square first came in February 2015 when the Guardian reported on the detention facility that mirrors the detention abuses of the U.S. government’s war on terror. Suspects as young as 15 were detained, and one 44-year old Black man, John Hubbard, was found unresponsive in the center and later pronounced dead. Protesters rallied in front of the site earlier this year in an effort to close it down.
A report issued in March 2015 by the ACLU found that the stop and frisk policies employed by the Chicago police are even worse than that of the NYPD. Chicago police targeted Black people on illegal stops more than any other group, and Chicago cops stopped city residents at four times the rate that police stopped people in New York. That month, three men filed a federal lawsuit claiming they were abducted by masked officers dressed in black, detained for eight or nine hours, then released after they promised they would not go to a lawyer about the incident, according to the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit was filed against hundreds of guards in the Illinois prison system, alleging sexual and psychological abuse against mostly Black men.
Black Chicagoans have a long history of being terrorized by police, with the 1969 assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton as a most prominent example. Further, police commander John Burge, one of the dirtiest cops in Chicago history, oversaw the torture of more than 100 Black men, using their forced confessions to send them to prison and even death row. Burge served a mere 3 ½ years in prison and is collecting a $3,000-a-month pension for all the suffering he caused.