Preston Clive
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Welcome To Gestapo Headquarters In Chicago!

Another ominous day of business at Homan Square (IMAGE c 1943 United Artists)

Prague, during the war years in the late 30's and 40's, had Petschek Bank (now Petschek Palace) complete with basement cells where those brought in for "questioning" found themselves disappearing down a black hole of inventive torture and violence, psychological manipulation, disappearance from society with no guarantee of return .  .  .  the mere act of being thrown in a car by plainclothes officers flashing the round gestapo badge and rounding the corner at the conclusion of the drive to see the bank rearing up into view on Wenceslas Square, this would cause one's heart to sink while the guts exploded with nuclear levels of adrenaline, the body firing every glandular secretion to urge escape versus a terribly deadly scenario. How many innocent souls were tortured and killed down in those old bank vaults can never be known, as the process that a captive went through often--if it were notated at all--was recorded with all manner of lies and misleading dispositions. It was a black hole of hell--one among countless hells in a WWII Europe that was well... hellish.

This week the Guardian (US) published a couple of original articles on the unearthing of what sounds frighteningly like the Chicago local equivalent of Petschek Bank-- a "black site" called Homan Square.

Homan Square sits unassumingly on the west side of the legendary Windy City On the Lake; the buildings themselves are unmarked red brick structures complete with corrugated iron roll up doors a la commercial loading docks. The location is part of a former plot of plain low buildings that once were part of the Sears & Roebuck warehousing operation.

Nothing on the facade of the facility alerts a passerby via some form of signage that the building that they are meandering past is part of the Chicago Police Department. Surrounding the spot are normal, nondescript facilities one would expect to see on a common city street: a medical clinic, a school, movie house, some low budget restaurants .  .  .  unassuming, common commercial real estate put to standard use.

However, the use that this specific police location is put to is anything but common. It is beyond the bounds of merely uncommon, at least as far as the cognizance of the common American is concerned.

It is quite frankly sounding by the reports like a nearly exact equivalent of the Petschek Bank model: a grim, black hole into which citizens can fall, sitting unassumingly in the midst of an urban world, a common building right in the middle of the bustling metropolis. You are huddled into a vehicle by authorities, rushed into the facility, and you are off the matrix until it is decided that they would like to return you to civilization. 

According to the article, an investigation into larger allegations of abuse by the Chicago Police Dept beyond the bounds of Homan Square, found the following practices going down in this "black site:"

 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.

The article goes on,

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

What this all amounts to is this: local, municipal police in the United States--my guess is that Chicago is far from the only department of local law enforcement that maintains such a location-- are aping the methods of the CIA's process of "extraordinary rendition" except in this case these disappearances are being rendered on US citizens, not suspected terrorists overseas. US citizens who have an official right to due process and representation, protection from torture and the right to invoke habeas corpus via an attorney--these are exclusively the "guests" of Homan Square.

Wouldn't it be outrageously surprising--completely unexpected--if it turned out that those who were subject to the ChiPo's "loving treatment" turned out to overwhelmingly be those of black and brown skin color? Will we ever have a chance to get a breakdown of processing by race?

If you think that we do--with openness and full disclosure--and also think that this is just a single crossing of an ethical, constitutional- procedural line and that there are no other black sites around the country .  .  .  then I have some beautiful green rolling pastoral land up by Resolute Bay that I would like to sell you at a very reasonable price.  

Read more here, as well as here.

Preston Clive