South Side Organizations Celebrate Juneteenth by Remembering Victims of Police Brutality

By Samantha Smylie, Hyde Park Herald

Sheila Bedi, a professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, expresses her disappointment at the current level of enforcement of Federal Consent Decree designed to prohibit civil and human rights abuses by members of the Chicago Police Department. (Photography by Owen M. Lawson)

Sheila Bedi, a professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, expresses her disappointment at the current level of enforcement of Federal Consent Decree designed to prohibit civil and human rights abuses by members of the Chicago Police Department. (Photography by Owen M. Lawson)

BlackLivesMatter Chicago and Chicago Alliance of Against Racist and Political Repression held a public hearing for survivors of police torture, families whose loved ones are currently incarcerated due to a wrongful conviction or died in a police-involved shooting as a celebration of Juneteenth.

On June 19, more than 30 people gathered at the KLEO Community Family Life Center, 119 E. Garfield Blvd., to learn about the history of police brutality in Chicago, the federal consent decree and to be part of a public hearing.

The night started by honoring the memory of 25-year-old Joshua Beal, an African American man who was shot and killed by off-duty police officers in Mount Greenwood in 2016. On June 18, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) cleared the officers of any wrong-doing in the shooting.

“After an extensive, exhaustive and thorough investigation … COPA has released its Summary Report of the investigation involving the death of Joshua Beal and concluded the actions taken by Chicago Police Officer Treacy and Sergeant Derouin were within policy,” according to a statement made by COPA.

Sheila Bedi, a professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and an attorney at the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, discussed the process to get the city and the police department to sign a consent decree and what it means for police accountability.

“One of the things that make the consent decree in Chicago historic and gives it the potential to be transformative is that we have the right to enforce that consent decree,” saidBedi. “We have the right to go into federal court and say that the city of Chicago has not stopped the systemic racism, has not stopped the police violence, has not stopped the corruption.”

Although local community organizations won the right to enforce the consent decree, Bedi said that there is a lot that is missing in the consent decree and she predicts that there will be a 10- to 20-year-long legal battle to get the city and the police department to implement the consent decree.

The event then switched its focus to the voices of those who have endured police brutality or witnessed a family member who has. Their stories illuminated the need for a consent decree and other legal measures to hold police officers accountable.

The mother of Gerald Reed, Armanda Shackleford, spoke about her son’s case. Reed was convicted of a double murder in 1990 and has spent 28 years in prison. He has maintained his innocence, and he has said that he was tortured by two detectives who worked for Jon Burge, a Chicago Police Commander who tortured more than 100 people between the 1970s and 1990s. Reed’s conviction was overturned in December 2018, but he is in court to remove a special prosecutor, Robert Milan who is trying to retry Reed for the double murders.

“Gerald Reed’s case has been in jail for seven years, as of this month … I’m not giving up,” Shackleford said. “Every time I get a chance, I’m going to say something about the things that they are doing. When we were at court last Friday, I said to them, ‘You are still torturing my son. But you are doing it in a different way. The way you are doing it now is money. Money is your object. As long as you got that money coming, Gerald Reed is going to stay in jail.’ But I’m not giving up because Gerald Reed is coming home.”

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Olivia McDowellComment