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Victims Of Chicago Police Torture Paid Reparations Decades Later


Let's turn now to Chicago, where a group of African-American men have begun receiving checks for a hundred thousand dollars each. That money is compensation for the 57 men who survived torture at the hands of a Chicago police commander and his officers. But activists say that's not the final chapter in this story about race and police brutality. From member station WBEZ in Chicago, Natalie Moore reports.

NATALIE MOORE, BYLINE: In 1983, police shoved a shotgun in Darrell Cannon's mouth. He was tortured into confessing a crime he didn't commit. Cannon received life in prison but was exonerated in 2004. Since his release, he's advocated for reparations.

DARRELL CANNON: No black man has ever received reparations for having been tortured at the hands of white police officers.

MOORE: In May, the Chicago City Council approved a reparations package, and today the city says reparations are important to bring closure to families. Men like Darrell Cannon suffered because of Jon Burge, a police commander who directed his detectives to nearly suffocate, shock and otherwise abuse hundreds of black suspects arrested from 1972 until 1991. He was fired in the 1990s and in 2011 served four and a half years in prison - not for the torture, but for lying under oath about the torture. He was released last year. Cannon claims there are still men behind bars who Burge tortured.

CANNON: There's many steps yet to be taken in this matter before any of us can be happy.

MOORE: Activists have fought for justice for decades and even took their cause to the United Nations. Today, the legacy of torture survivors reverberates in Chicago as a new crop of young activists take on police violence with the same passion. As one of the lawyers who fought for reparations, Joey Mogul sees a connection between past and present.

JOEY MOGUL: Meanwhile in this moment, after the Laquan McDonald video has come out and we've seen both the video and the cover-up, people are traumatized in this city.

MOORE: The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating charges of abuse by Chicago police. The reparations package also calls for a public torture memorial in Chicago. Alice Kim is an organizer.

ALICE KIM: We need to make sure that this history is recorded and documented, that people know that it happened. People need to know about the struggle of the survivors.

MOORE: And as for Darrell Cannon, he received a check which he says is not enough for what he suffered. He says he'll celebrate though by riding his new motorcycle around City Hall in a victory lap. For NPR News, I'm Natalie Moore in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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