Chicago Approves Historic Reparations Ordinance

More than 100 African American men were tortured at the hands of police between 1972 and 1991. Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge ordered the abuse, and for the first time last month, survivors had the chance to share their experiences with members of Chicago’s City Council.

Darrell Cannon, a Burge victim, was among those who testified.

“Up until November 2, 1983, I had a partial idea of how black people felt in the South when they were terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan,” he said according to WBEZ. “In my case, I was tortured by the new wave klan. The new wave klan wore badges instead of sheets,” Cannon explained.

Cannon spent more than 20 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit. According to his testimony, three detectives drove him out to an empty lot on the city’s far South Side. They then held a gun to his head and played Russian roulette until he confessed.

In 1988, the city offered Cannon $3,000 to settle his torture complaint. Just a handful of Burge’s survivors have received compensation from the city because the statute of limitations has expired in most cases.

But a dark chapter appears to be closing.

On Wednesday, Chicago City Council passed a reparations package. It calls for $5.5 million to be shared by living survivors of the abuse with credible claims. The People’s Law Office estimates that roughly 120 men would be eligible for reparations, with each individual award capped at $100,000. The package also calls for a public apology, a permanent public memorial and a counseling center for victims and families.

The “dark chapter” is to be taught in Chicago public schools. Students in 8th and 10th grades would learn about the Burge era in history class. The curriculum is set to begin in the 2015-2016 school year.

Students will analyze primary source documents, review current cases of police brutality and discuss ways to improve accountability and protections of civil rights.

In 2010, Burge was convicted of perjury for lying about police torture that he ordered and oversaw. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for that one charge alone.

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