By Richard Muhammad
Contributing Editor

Atty. Stan Willis, with microphone, introduces Darrell Cannon who said he was tortured by Chicago police officers and served 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Photos: Kenneth Muhammad

CHICAGO ( – The nightmare experiences of Blacks poured out during a three-hour May 24 session with a United Nations investigator who came to Chicago for hearings about domestic racism and its impact. The hearing at the South Shore Cultural Center concluded a two-day visit.

Doudou Diène, the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, was scheduled to visit 9 places to observe and hear on-the-ground accounts of racial oppression in the self-proclaimed world’s greatest democracy. He started in New York, May 21, and his scheduled stops include travel to Omaha, Neb., and Los Angeles, May 25-29; New Orleans, May 30-31; Miami, June 1-2; San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 3-4; Washington, D.C., June 5-6.

In early 2009, he will present a report of his findings to the United Nations General Assembly.


Mr. Diène listened intently and furiously scribbled notes as a translator repeated the accounts of witnesses to help make sure their words were interpreted correctly.

“Chicago is the most racist city in the United States make no mistake about it,” said Darrell Cannon, a tall, thin, dark-skinned man, who was one of over 200 Black males tortured by Chicago police to extract false confessions. Mr. Cannon spent 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

From the militarization of police patrolling neighborhoods to police torture, harassment and jailing of youth, housing segregation, wrongful incarceration and mistreatment of prisoners, Blacks are targeted and suffering because of their race, witnesses said.

Heart wrenching stories came from police torture victims, young organizers, mothers fighting for sons locked behind bars, longtime opponents of discrimination and activists fed up with what they called the “Irish gangster” leadership of Mayor Richard M. Daley and collaboration of Black minions and leaders that facilitated the destruction of public housing and continue to lock Blacks out of the city’s economic life.

Mr. Cannon choked back words and tears in recounting how White officers burst into his home in 1983, dragged him out and tortured him–thrusting a cattle prod into his groin and his mouth, forcing a shotgun into his mouth that chipped teeth, while beating, threatening and degrading him.

“By the time they finished torturing me that afternoon, when they finished torturing me, I was willing to say ‘my mother did it’ just to stop the torture,” he said. While Mr. Cannon was in prison, his mother, father, grandmother and son died. He spent 9 years in the infamous Tamms Supermax prison, where inmates are bolted to the floor at times and sleep on thin mattresses over concrete slabs. No apologies were ever given, Mayor Daley was the states attorney during the time of his torture and did nothing, Mr. Cannon said. After a long battle charges against him were dropped and he was released from prison last year. Mr. Cannon is suing the city.

“Torture is alive and well in the city of Chicago,” he said.

The PEOPLE Programme (Public Elected Officials and others for Policy Leadership and Exchange), a Chicago-based non-profit, and other activist groups organized the hearing and lobbied for Mr. Diène to attend. The PEOPLE Programme’s focus is finding ways residents in inner city neighborhoods can build relationships with people from other nations “to advance mutually beneficial programs and policies.”

Stan Willis, a civil rights attorney and chair of Black People Against Torture, sees the hearing and international venues as tools to expose and embarrass the United States government. In February, he spoke in Geneva, Switzerland, before the UN Committee to Eliminate Racism and Discrimination where he presented information about police torture in Chicago and other cities.

“The United States is an imperial power and part of their authority is that they carry this mantle of legitimacy. When you attack that by saying, ‘wait a minute what’s happening to the torture of Black men in the United States?’ It kind of takes the sheet off the United States and going around to Iraq and telling the Iraqi people ‘we’re taking democracy,’ when they don’t have democracy here. I can assure you there are massive human rights violations in the United States,” he said.