Chicago has a monument to the Haymarket Square Riot and a monument to the Republic Steel Massacre, to the Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Great Fire of 1871.
Now, a group of local artists, human rights activists and attorneys wants to build a monument to the most shameful episode of Mayor Daley’s political career: the police torture scandal. The Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project is seeking designs that:
will serve as a public reckoning with police torture in Chicago and honor those who fought to stop it. We hope to make visible the social and political conditions that made torture possible, as well as the acts of courage that ended -- or at least brought to light -- the culture of impunity that thwarted justice for so long in this instance. Every submission will be an act of solidarity with torture survivors.
Deadline for submissions is Dec. 10. The group already has a few suggestions for designers:
One submission might consist of the blueprint for a compensation committee for torture survivors, another might be an annual walking tour of Area 2 Police Headquarters (where the majority of torture cases occurred), while still another might be a large public sculpture set on a pedestal or in a public square.
The question is, where are they going to put it? The city’s not going to dedicate Daley Plaza to a statue of a beefy white cop bashing a young black man in the head with a telephone book. We don’t want the tourists to see that. The police would protest, too.
It usually takes generations for cities to acknowledge responsibility for ugly incidents. The Haymarket Affair, in which 12 people were killed in a bombing and shootout during a labor rally for an eight-hour day, took place in 1886. Three years later, the city erected a monument to the police who died that day. But a statue commemorating the labor leaders wasn’t dedicated until 2004.
The Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project’s Advisory Board includes G. Flint Taylor and Locke Bowman, two of the lawyers who’ve led the campaign to free prisoners who were tortured into confessing to crimes they never committed. But civil rights lawyers aren’t the kind of lawyers who can afford land for memorials.
The group says the monument can “take any form -- stone, concrete, bronze, paint, song, ritual performance, website -- so long as it is long-lasting.”
The police torture scandal should be remembered, but it won’t be remembered with a statue.
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