Politically diverse protest calls for increased transparency from Chicago PD

Homan Square ProtestLast Saturday, at Homan Square, a diverse group of around one hundred concerned citizens protested outside of what has been described by the London Guardian as an alleged Chicago Police Department ‘Black Site’, where suspected criminals are believed to be illegally detained.

According to the series of articles mentioned above, suspects who are taken to the facility are not entered into the police data system, leaving their whereabouts after arrest unknown. Allegations include police beatings and unorthodox interrogation tactics. Attorneys who try to reach their clients are often turned away.

The Homan Square building is an imposing multi-purpose law enforcement facility and the Chicago Police Department runs a variety of police operations there.

Street parking near the facility was temporarily cordoned off and patrolled by police to reserve space for media vehicles. The quarter mile stretch had about five vehicles on each side of the street, leaving space where dozens of protesters could park, however they were eventually forced away by police.

This may have been an oversight in logistics for a quickly developing protest. However, it appears to be an easy way to deter protesters arriving by car.

Police were in force at the entrance to the facility, remaining mostly quiet to the slogans shouted and questions posed by protesters. The police did not wear tactical or riot gear and did not hold guns, however a few had chosen to cover their faces with balaclavas.

The protest proper lasted about an hour in front of the facility. Protesters demanded the facility be reviewed by the public. Additionally, others called for its prompt closure.

At around 4pm, the group split, most moving to march down Roosevelt street, with about thirty or forty remaining behind at the complex before dispersing. This protest also attracted individuals from across the political spectrum.

Everyone from Oath Keepers to Anonymous to liberal progressives were in attendance. Political commentator (and notable exaggerator) Alex Jones, notably hyped his organization’s coverage of the protest as well. The alleged brutal and unconstitutional behavior of the Chicago PD on the upper levels of complex supplying more fuel to the new world order conspiracy theory.

Response from the Chicago police department in press releases following the Guardian article, as well as the occasional comments of officers at the protest, denied any illegal activates.

Photograph by Cole Davidson
The Homan Square Chicago Police facility

I am hesitant to make a stand at this point as to the true nature of what occurs on the upper levels of the Homan Square facility. The Alex Jones crowd seems very willing to run wild with speculation as to the possible atrocities committed there,  although the Guardian’s article source lacks any concrete proof at this point in the investigation.

On the other hand, one can hardly put it past a modern American law enforcement agency to violate the rights of its citizens, infringe on privacy and attempt to use mega-data systems for dubious purposes under the righteous guise of defeating terrorism.

Police departments across the country are facing public outcry from instances of excessive use of force, increased militarization, and the continuation of racist policing tactics. Clearly, it is too early to say definitively what goes on in the secret parts of Homan Square.

​What can be observed at Homan Square is what occurs outside of the secretive walls of the complex, specifically, the reaction to the scandal by the protesters. Walking amongst the crowd, talking to participants and bystanders alike, the concerns were more about police distrust, with calls of transparency about the complex.

At its core, the protest demonstrates solidarity between several diverse political denominations and their collective anxiety toward illegal police actions. The ideological vectors motivating the protesters were also as diverse as one could possibly expect from a group comprised of civil libertarians, Oath Keepers, ‘Hands up Don’t Shoot’ sign holders, conspiracy theorists, Guy Fawkes mask wearers and kazoo playing musicians shouting slogans of peace.

Yet their voice uniformly called for transparency about the complex.

Whether or not the allegations which the Guardian outlines are true, the turnout to the protests demonstrates the anxiety of a very heterogeneous group of concerned citizens. People are concerned about the handling of criminals because they realize the implications for the rest of the law-abiding population when the rights of suspected criminals are infringed upon. It was reliving to see such a diverse group care about the rights of a group which understandably garners such little public sympathy.

The last decade has experienced a proliferation of high tech intelligence and military hardware to police agencies across the nation. Indeed, the police possess a tremendous amount of power over the American citizenry.

Many feel this level of power is excessive. Fortunately, this public recoil is shared between lots of alternative political paradigms and not simply one group. It is encouraging to see such a diverse group exercise its right to protest and jump into the broader discussion about balancing safety and liberty, and bending towards liberty.

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