A Guantanamo for Citizens? How Many Police Black Sites?

The Guardian reports on Homan Square lead to the question of whether there are police black sites elsewhere.


After the kind of thing that has happened with the Rolling Stone rape story, we have to be careful. But it is certainly worth consideration that the Guardian is making claims about secret police procedures in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago. The headline:“The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

According to the article,

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.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

The Chicago Police Department’s initial response is a complete denial, so we will need to see what shakes out amid charges and counter-charges and, hopefully, some real investigative work.

The Atlantic posted an interview by reporter Tanya Basu with Chicago activist Tracy Siska. Again, I think we have to be careful when we hear from such sources, but we do have to inquire as to whether they are telling us some truth we need to hear.

Tanya Basu: Why was Homan Square unknown for so long?

Tracy Siska: I think it’s because under the law, people have a right to get counsel when arrested or when held but you’re not provided free counsel like a public defender. Mostly who they take to Homan Square are black and brown and poor kids who can’t afford to hire private counsel while they’re in custody. That’s a little nuance in the law that few know about.

Basu: Were there rumors of Homan Square?

Siska: There was knowledge in the police-accountability community. We knew exactly where it was, but we couldn’t get the press in Chicago to cover the story. We think it started during [former Chicago Police Department Superintendent] Phil Cline’s time around 2006 or 2007 until about 2011 when the city had roving special units [that worked out of Homan Square.]

Frankly, I think Siska might be overplaying the race angle (like many do). It really is about poverty. If you can’t afford a lawyer, I doubt a lighter skin tone will get you better treatment. Likewise, I doubt a black man who could afford a lawyer would have much of a problem.

But the following statement surprised me since it came from someone I am pretty sure would be described as “Leftist” in orientation, and would never be mistaken for a Tea Party member:

Basu: What about Homan Square-like locations around the country?

Siska: I don’t know, but I would say that the creation of the fusion centers on a federal level gives me pause about how widespread Homan Square places are around the country.

If the story is all false, I apologize in advance to the CPD. But we all know that our leaders are chomping at the bit to manufacture terrorism in order to justify police oppression. So let’s keep our eyes open.