by Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Members of Pax Christi Illinois are offering support and solidarity to the #LetUsBreathe Collective ongoing occupation protest across the street from the Homan Square police detention center in Chicago. Freedom Square has become a place of protest and a celebration of an alternative model of community based on the principles of a shared economy. The encampment (which has been going since July 21st) is in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. It includes an outdoor kitchen, tents to sleep in, a collection of books, an arts and crafts tent, a clothing tent and a fresh produce table – all of it free to anyone in need. Freedom Square is also a place for political education and organing that brings together people from the neighborhood and people from the all across the Chicago area and around the world.
In stark contrast the Homan Square Detention Center created by the Chicago Police Department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility include:
- 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. (At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.)
Pax Christi Illinois members have raised money for an on-site port-a-potty and have volunteered time, food and supplies to Freedom Square. More important than the resources provided to those who continue the occupation, Pax Christi members are beginning to build accountable relationships with communities of color who are leading this effort. In many ways it feels like the first day of school and we are eager to learn all we can.
You can learn more about Freedom Square and the Homan Square detention center at this link: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37132-at-freedom-square-the-revolution-lives-in-brave-relationships