What? It could never happen here?
Only all the time.
Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage
By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Tuesday 24 February 2015 10.34 EST
From the outside, you have to concentrate to realize Homan Square is a police facility. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable red brick warehouse, one of a handful on Chicago’s west side that used to belong to Sears Roebuck, complete with roll-up aluminum doors. No prominent signage tells outsiders it belongs to the police. The complex sits amidst fixtures in a struggling neighborhood: a medical clinic, takeout places, a movie theater, a charter school.
Brian Jacob Church was taken to Homan Square after police picked him up in 2012 on terrorism charges he beat at trial. He said police first photographed him for a biometrics database, took him down a long cinderblock hallway on a second floor, and handcuffed him to a bench bolted to the floor. He spent the next 17 hours there – approximately, as it was a windowless room and the lights were kept on overhead – while police attempted an interrogation he described as a fishing expedition.
Homan Square struck Church as the police equivalent of a CIA black site. Inside, he saw “big, big vehicles” that looked to him like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected used by US soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When his lawyers were finally permitted access, Church spoke with them through a 12ft x 12ft metal cage.
Interrogations aren’t the only thing that happen in Homan Square. It’s a headquarters for a number of special police units, including the anti-gang, anti-vice and bomb and arson squad. Published reports describe a surveillance “wire room” inside.
The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’
By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Tuesday 24 February 2015 16.43 EST
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
- Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
- Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
- Shackling for prolonged periods.
- Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
- Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.
Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.
“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.
Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.
“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”
Homan Square is “analogous to the CIA’s black sites,” said Andrea Lyon, a former Chicago public defender and current dean of Valparaiso University Law School. When she practiced law in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, she said, “police used the term ‘shadow site'” to refer to the quasi-disappearances now in place at Homan Square.
Do you think this is the only one? This “democracy” is not the one our grandfathers died on the beaches of Normandy defending, it’s more like the one that got people lifetime sentences in Spandau.