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Chicago cops’ brutality has long tradition

Published Jun 3, 2012 9:22 PM

The Chicago cops’ brutal handling of this May’s anti-NATO demonstrators was right in line with their history of bloody atrocities against workers and oppressed people.

In 1886, Chicago police coldbloodedly killed strikers demanding an eight-hour day.

In 1930, police gunfire killed Lee Mason, an African-American Communist who was running for Congress from a Chicago district. In 1937, Chicago police fired on striking workers at Republic Steel, killing 10.

In 1968, Chicago cops severely beat demonstrators and news reporters during protests against the Democratic National Convention.

Fred Hampton, a 21-year-old, Chicago-based Black Panther Party leader, was executed in December 1969 during a predawn police raid on his apartment. The initial barrage of police gunfire killed Panther leader Mark Clark and gravely wounded Hampton. Panther Deborah Johnson, also present in the apartment, recounted how the police then murderously pumped more bullets into Hampton to ensure that he wouldn’t survive.

Starting in 1990, Chicago police officer Jon Burge spent two decades torturing people on Chicago’s South Side to extract confessions from them. He was finally brought down and jailed in 2010, after years of community organizing to expose his crimes.

So when thousands of people from across the U.S. gathered in Chicago to protest against NATO, Chicago police responded with their usual brutality. The National Lawyer’s Guild estimates that cops arrested more than 117 people during the events. In a news release, the NLG characterized the police activities during the summit as “harassment and violence, serious injuries, high-level charges, and exceptionally high bonds.”

The NLG noted that illegal searches were carried out, and that at least two dozen protesters required medical attention.

Five protesters face terrorism related charges. Sarah Gelsomino, who is representing three of the five, said, “Charging these people who are here to peacefully protest against NATO for terrorism when in reality the police have been terrorizing activists in Chicago is absolutely outrageous.” (Chicago Tribune, May 19)

Gelsomino has come under fire from Chicago police for heroically releasing photographs of two men believed to be police informants within the Occupy movement.

A victory was won when Danny Johnson, who had been arrested on May 15 during an immigration rally, had all charges against him dropped. He had spent over a week in jail on a $10,000 bond.

Many of those arrested still remain behind bars, some being held with bail set at more than a million dollars. Some are even being arbitrarily held in solitary confinement, according to reports.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with its prohibitions on “excessive bail,” “excessive fines” and “cruel and unusual punishment” was completely ignored in Chicago during the NATO summit. This anti-constitutional behavior points to key realities about capitalist society.

It shows that the ruling class is prepared to disregard law and human rights when faced with a real people’s challenge, whatever its rhetoric is about “human rights concerns” in other countries.