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Protesters Denounce Detainment and Abuse at Alleged Chicago Police 'Black Site'

Activists responded to a report that Chicago police beat detainees, denied access to counsel, and kept arrestees out of the booking system at a warehouse called Homan Square.

by Meredith Hoffman
Mar 1 2015, 6:15pm

Photo via Flickr

An investigation alleging that Chicago police used abusive interrogation techniques at a "black site" warehouse in the city sparked heated protests this weekend by residents demanding the facility be closed.

Using the slogan "Gitmo2Chicago," activists denounced the alleged detainment and abuse of arrestees in Chicago's Homan Square. The Guardian reported last week that police use tactics at the facility akin to those at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Police at Homan Square have reportedly beat detainees, held them shackled for hours, kept minors in the facility without access to counsel, and kept arrestees out of the booking system. At least one man died there after he was found unresponsive, though police have said he was killed by an accidental heroin overdose.

"Homan Square is definitely an unusual place," Brian Jacob Church, an activist allegedly detained and restrained in Homan Square for hours in 2012 with no legal access, told the Guardian. "It brings to mind the facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It's a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what will happen to you."

The exposé provoked outrage by local activists in Chicago, who pushed for an independent investigation.

"We're trying to make policy demands as well as just rally," protester Billy Joe Mills, a Chicago attorney, told the Chicago Tribune. "I don't want this happening in my backyard."

Mills and other protesters said they wanted to do their own inspection of Homan Square, a request police have rebuffed. The activists are also seeking a town hall meeting where police would address questions about Homan Square, as well as implementation of a rule that would require police facilities to post information about people's rights, including how to contact a pro bono lawyer.

Activists also noted a newly released report that found the Chicago Police Department paid more than $50 million in settlements related to officer misconduct last year.

The Chicago Police Department denied all accusations of abuse to the Guardian.

"CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other facility," police said in a statement. "If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, they are allowed to visit and talk to them."

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman

Photo via Flickr