A recent Chicago gathering provided an update on the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the referendum that produced a directly elected community commission for public safety and accountability. Photos: Haroon Rajaee

CHICAGO—Chicago has long been a city grappling with racial inequality and police violence. Amid ongoing struggles for justice, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression advocates for transformative change.

Recently, the Chicago Alliance hosted the People’s Hearing on Police Crimes and The Injustice System: Organize, Unite and Fight where they provided an update on the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), the referendum that produced a directly elected community commission for public safety and accountability.

The ordinance created an appointed commission that will decide Chicago Police Department policy, establish public safety goals, and play an unprecedented, central role in selecting police leadership. Additionally, it established elected district councils in each of Chicago’s 22 police districts, where residents will work to ensure public safety at the local level. They were elected alongside the current mayor during the last election cycle this year. The people’s hearing was held June 3.

“What we did here in Chicago on Feb 28 has never been done in the history of this country. We elected three people in each police district that will hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit, the things that they do and the things that they don’t do,” said Frank E. Chapman Jr., of The Chicago Alliance. Some of the district council members were present at the hearing held at Gorham Methodist Church located at 5600 S. Indiana Ave. on Chicago’s South Side.

From left, Nation of Islam Student National Prison Reform Minister Abdullah Muhammad, Fred Hampton Jr., son of the late martyred Black Panther Fred Hampton and Brother Calvin 6X, attended event hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression.

“We are asking the mayor, Brandon Johnson, in an open, public meeting to fund the district council members. They got some blood debts to pay. And we are here to collect. We want these cops indicted, prosecuted and sent to jail. These guys are murderers. There is no statute of limitations on murder,” said Mr. Chapman to the district council members present. “So, someone in your district was unjustly murdered by the police. Go after them. Bring them to justice. These are deep wounds and they won’t heal as long as these officers are on the force and going around as if nothing happened. They need to be punished.”

Funding, expected to come from the city of Chicago, is critical to help the commission to properly do its job. Specifically, district councils will bring police officers and Chicago residents together to plan, prioritize, and build mutual trust, strengthen the police accountability system, and should give Chicagoans a meaningful new role in oversight. Additionally, they will explore and advance alternative effective approaches to public safety.

Equally as important, the hearing also gathered with survivors of police crimes and torture, and family members to hear testimony. Many victims “were tortured and forced to confess to crimes that they did not commit. Jon Burge and a crew of officers who, many are still on the police force,” said Mr. Chapman, “they did the vilest things in terms of torturing our people.”

Speaking live from prison via video conference, Anthony Gay spoke about his lifelong ordeal. Mr. Gay was held in solitary confinement in Illinois prisons for 22 years and is currently an inmate at Livingston County Jail. He suffers from mental illness. He seeks a transfer to a federal prison and clemency from United States President Joe Biden.

Activists and community residents at the June 3 “People’s Hearing on Police Crimes and The Injustice System: Organize, Unite and Fight” hosted by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression urge Mayor Brandon to fund accountability council.

The late Jon Burge was a Chicago police commander who led a rogue group of Chicago police officers called “The Midnight Crew.” According to sworn testimonies and numerous reports, the Chicago cops used cattle prods to electric shock the genitals of suspects, handcuffed suspects to hot radiators, and beat suspects into false confessions and tainted information. Commander Burge and his crew’s reign of terror reportedly lasted from 1972 to 1991.

Mr. Burge was convicted in 2011 of perjury and obstruction of justice related to torture allegations. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison but still collected his police pension.

Released in 2018, Mr. Gay convinced a state’s attorney of an unjust consecutive sentence. He became a leading advocate for limiting solitary confinement in Illinois. However, in May 2019, he was arrested during a traffic stop, charged with illegal possession of a firearm, and accused of attempting to flee. Activists argue that these charges lack evidence, alleging police discrimination and setup.

Despite no physical evidence linking Mr. Gay to the gun, he faced trial twice, with the second resulting in conviction by an all-White jury on May 19. Prominent activist Angela Davis stands with those rallying behind Mr. Gay. They believe the motive was to send Mr. Gay back to prison, where he alleges, he was tortured in solitary confinement while living with untreated mental illness. This case both highlights the concern of racial bias within the justice system and has drawn attention to unjust incarceration and mistreatment of mentally ill individuals.

Attendees learned about Michael Minnifield who is serving a 54-year sentence for a murder his sister, Alicia Gill says he is innocent of. She’s been speaking out against the inhumane conditions and ill-treatment of her brother at Menard Correctional Center. “All we are asking for is a transfer to anywhere,” she said.

Brothers Sean Tyler and Reginald Henderson were tortured in their teens and convicted without any physical evidence or witnesses and spent 25 years and 26 years and nine months in prison. Their presiding judge raised funds for the late police commander and torturer Jon Burge, said Mr. Henderson.

The brothers spoke about their plight and urged people to support their fight to completely clear their name so they can move on with their lives. After serving nearly three decades in prison, they were finally exonerated, but prosecutors still refuse to clear their names and back a certificate of innocence.

In 2016, Pierre Loury, 16, was killed by Chicago Police in the North Lawndale neighborhood. His great aunt, said Arewa Karen Winters, and family started ​“The 411 Movement for Pierre Loury​” and joined the call for justice and police reform. “One of our first responses is fight or flight.

My nephew ran and was shot jumping over the fence. Police said he had a gun but forensics told us otherwise. CPD retaliates against families. We have to be clear about the power we have as district councilors,” said Arewa Karen Winter, a newly elected district councilor.

The family of Reginald Clay Jr. spoke out about his death at the hands of police. An officer shot 24-year-old Reginald Clay Jr. after a brief chase in April. CPD has not answered questions about why officers approached Clay or why an officer chased him despite a year-long city ordinance against foot chases. 

“My son had no record and he was targeted by the police. It’s a shame that you need to do all this just to get the police arrested. We are here to give Reginald justice,” said Reginald Clay Sr.

The Chicago Alliance urges Governor J.B. Pritzker to pardon more than 150 known Black and Latino survivors of Chicago police torture and to help bring to justice the 80 known police officers implicated in torture.