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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, April 13

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The Mechanics

Illinois Thu Dec 03 2015

NRA-Backed IL Congressmen Offer "Thoughts & Prayers" to San Bernardino ...Or Not

In the hours after the mass shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday, dozens of elected officials took to Twitter to offer "thoughts and prayers" to the victims of the attack and their families. Many people responded by challenging congressmen and senators to actually do something, not just think and pray. Igor Volsky, contributing editor at Think Progress, took it a step further, calling out several legislators who offered condolences but had taken campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.

The only Illinois congressman called out by Volsky was Rep. Peter Roskam (R, 6th), who received $2,000 from the NRA in 2014, $3,000 in 2012, $2,000 in 2010 and more going further back.

But according to, several other congressmen and women from Illinois have benefited from NRA contributions -- six of whom are still serving in Washington. Here's a look at how they reacted to the San Bernardino shooting.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Justice Wed Nov 19 2014

National Week of Action to Free Ramsea Odeh Holds Protest at Federal Plaza

#FreeRasmeaNow Protestors Gather at Federal Plaza on Wednesday Photo credit: Rasmea Odeh Defense Committee

Rasmea Yousef Odeh, 67, was convicted last Monday of immigration fraud by a jury in federal court in Detroit. Odeh, a resident of Evergreen Park and the Associate Director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago was previously convicted of involvement in fatal terrorist bombings and sentenced to life in prison in Israel in 1970. Reports later surfaced that her confession was forced after torture by the Israeli military while Odeh was in captivity.

Odeh spent 10 years in prison before being released with 78 others in prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In 1995, Odeh came to the US through Jordan in 1995, where she (according to her later federal indictment) denied that she had ever been convicted of a crime.

The results of Odeh's trial (an arrest in which she'll be detained until her sentencing, facing up to ten years in prison, deportation, and loss of her U.S. citizenship on March 15, 2015) sparked nationwide support in a number of ways, including the National Week of Action to #FreeRasmeaNow.

The Committee is taking action by writing letters to the judge and planning protests--one of which included chaining themselves to the U.S. Federal Court building in Oakland. Last Wednesday in Chicago, hundreds of supporters rallied at the Federal Plaza for the first protest in Odeh's home city since her arrest.

Hatem Abudayyeh, spokesperson for the National Rasmea Defense Committee, which includes over 50 organizations across the U.S., said, "The government's case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext."

"Rasmea's story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere," Abudayyeh continued, "Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people's movements across the world."

Becky Schultz

Justice Mon Apr 07 2014

Why the Dialogue Around the Sex Industry is Difficult

The term "sex worker" is a very broad one as it refers to anyone who works in some sort of industry related to sex. This includes prostitutes, escorts, professional dominatrixes, porn performers, burlesque performers, phone sex operators, strippers and go-go dancers. This is a catch-all term for the people who work in this industry.

It is important, before proceeding, to understand just how broad the term sex worker is to cover all of the people who work in that industry. It's also worth understanding that it's not just women who are sex workers; there are also men and people who identify as trans* who are sex workers, even though the dialogue about the industry seems to usually focus on just women.

Continue reading this entry »

Monica Reida

Op-Ed Mon Feb 17 2014

Undocumented in Illinois Overwhelmingly Live in Families

imgres.jpgImagine that you were born in the Chicago area. You were raised here, went to school here, and you see Chicago as your home. This is true for me, and I am guessing many readers. Then imagine that, through no fault of your own, one or both of your parents is undocumented. You are forced to live with a constant fear that one of your parents could be taken away from you at any time and your family could be wrenched apart. Then one day, your mother or father is gone with no warning--deported to a place you may have never even visited.

This might also be true for some readers; and it is precisely this everyday reality that is revealed as all too common through a report recently released by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. [Editor's note: The author of this piece is currently interning with the ICIRR.] The report, Illinois' Undocumented Immigrant Population: A Summary of Recent Research by Rob Paral and Associates, reveals the extent to which undocumented immigrants in Illinois are deeply integrated into families and communities, and thus the extent of our population that immigration reform would truly impact.

Continue reading this entry »

Rachel Anspach / Comments (6)

Op-Ed Wed Oct 02 2013

Chicago's Forgotten End Up at Cook County Jail

Cook County Jail has drawn attention to itself lately for collecting large amounts of Chicago's mentally ill, so much so that it has become the largest mental health facility in Illinois.

The story is particularly inflammatory given Gov. Pat Quinn's corresponding funding cuts to Illinois mental health facilities, and the closing of six Chicago mental health clinics last year.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been vocal in condemning the incarceration of Chicago's mentally ill, who he says are regularly falling through the cracks of an at-capacity (and underfunded) prison system despite his best efforts to provide therapy and medication to those in need.

"This is a population that people don't care about and so as a result of that there are not the resources out there to care for them," Dart said in an interview on CBS 60 Minutes Sunday night.

In saying this, Dart touches on an even larger issue with the U.S. criminal justice system -- it has become a place for unwanted members of society to collect. Of course, those suffering from mental illnesses are but one group who, as we regretfully phrase it, "fall through the cracks." One could easily add to this list the poor, those with drug or alcohol addictions and a heartily disproportionate number of African-Americans and Hispanics.

Continue reading this entry »

Taylor Long

National Politics Mon Sep 30 2013

Midwest Action Against Drones Protests Boeing Chicago Headquarters


This past Saturday, September 28, activists from communities across the region gathered at Chicago's Millennium Park for the Midwest Action Against Drones to protest drone warfare and surveillance.

After a number of demonstrators sounded off against U.S. drone warfare programs, the group marched through Chicago's Loop towards Boeing's headquarters to rally against the company's role in drone proliferation.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

Crime Tue Sep 17 2013

Funding Interrupted for Violence Prevention in Chicago

Violence. It plagues our television during the 5 o'clock news. It deters suburbanites from ever adventuring to the Windy City. Headlines have tried to cling to the "shock factor" and compare Chicago to Afghanistan and Iraq, with Chicago ranking worse than both war-stricken countries when it comes to murders. It is no secret that Chicago is facing an epidemic of gun violence, gangs, and homicides.

So often we turn to law enforcement for answers. Rarely do we consider non-governmental agencies partners in fighting crime to the extent it needs to be fought in Chicago neighborhoods confronted with homicide. CeaseFire, more recently known as Cure Violence, has been a partner in ending violence since 1995 (1990 in Chicago) under the foundation of Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who believes that violence should be treated as an epidemic using the same strategies and methods as disease control. The organization's website reads that "detection and interruption, identifying individuals involved in transmission, and changing social norms of the communities where it occurs" are critical in preventing and reducing violent crime. A key component of the strategy involves recruiting members of the community in which violence is occurring and even sometimes individuals who were once gang members. They identify potentially lethal situations, identify conflict, and utilize mediation techniques to prevent violence.

Research [PDF] has show that CeaseFire works to reduce gang involvement and gang-related homicides. But critiques of this research highlights the lack of other factors potentially contributing to a reduction in violence. These can include policing tactics such as new initiatives in communities with heavy gang activity, presence of POD cameras, and Hot Spot policing. Additionally, the increased number of incarcerated individuals and the overall reduction inc crime across the nation have been used to explain reductions in violent crime in Chicago neighborhoods. Since the national trend of decreased violent crime starting in the 1990s, every criminal justice agency in Chicago has attempted to take credit for the why and the how.

Continue reading this entry »

Darci Jenkins

Police Tue Aug 13 2013

Why Did Chicago Police Attack ALEC Protesters?

Photo by Justin Carlson, via The Anti-Media

Thousands of activists, union and faith group members, and concerned citizens rallied outside the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago this past Thursday to protest the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose 40th anniversary conference was being held inside the hotel.

Demonstrators picketed around the block for about an hour, then gathered at a soundstage to hear speakers including Rev. Jesse Jackson address the crowd. Closing remarks from a Chicago Federation of Labor representative thanked the Fraternal Order of Police for protecting the crowd and asked everyone to leave. A majority of union members, many from out-of-town, did leave at the CFL's request. However, a smaller group of anti-ALEC activists and citizens stayed put to continue on with the protest.

Continue reading this entry »

Emily Brosious

Federal Government Wed May 01 2013

What Were Once Vices

The summer of 1974 is memorable not only for the release of a Doobie Brothers' LP that with its hit "Black Water" would form a soundtrack for much of the coming year, but also for the resignation of Richard Nixon. As Mechanics' attorney-in-residence, and possibly the only writer here who remembers dancing to either of the aforesaid, and as a nod to Law Day, I agreed to cover the forum last night at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics in Hyde Park featuring current and past U.S. Attorneys General Eric Holder and John Ashcroft. Moderated by former Chicago law school dean Geoffrey Stone, the event highlighted the publication of Restoring Justice: The Speeches of Attorney General Edward Levi, by Jack Fuller. Fuller, former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher, interrupted his long journalism career to serve as an assistant to Edward H. Levi during Levi's stint as the country's top lawyer during the Ford Administration.

That 1975 appointment, of course, plucking Levi from the presidency of the University of Chicago, was a direct response to a national crisis in confidence in the Justice Department specifically, and in government generally. Watergate and related scandals saw lawyer-President Nixon impeached and resign, two of Levi's predecessors as Attorney General convicted of perjury, and the White House counsel plead guilty to obstruction of justice. Fuller's book debuts amidst the 40th anniversary of the scandals, cover-ups, shocking revelations, and legal-political drama that overshadowed much else in the nation in 1972-74. Since some of the same themes that then gripped the U.S. reverberate today -- electronic surveillance of Americans, bombings abroad ordered by the executive branch, and the power of the Presidency itself -- the forum held promise of potential fireworks and relevancy. The Institute did a pro job at logistics and presentation, and, let's be clear, is not required to offer all points of view. Unfortunately, what could have been more provocative ended up, by virtue of lack of balance, as a soft promo for continued perpetual war and expanded executive branch power, with only nods of concern to clampdown on civil liberties and ever-eroding privacy. I have to wonder if that's what Edward Levi would have wanted.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Op-Ed Thu Aug 23 2012

Op-Ed: Protect Free Speech from the National Defense Authorization Act

By Jason Neill

A tactic employed by TV attorneys, maybe even real ones, entails burying their opposition in paperwork when they want to conceal the important facts. I think a lot of us can understand how effective such a tactic would be, with the proliferation of constant news feeds and information of all varieties available at all times, it's hard to consume information responsibly. This is especially true when the loudest voices — mainstream media — are sucking up all the bandwidth with easily digested and polarizing drivel.

On the last day of 2011 President Obama, whom I voted for and may again, signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) [PDF]. Who isn't for national defense?... that's being authorized for sure. The problem lies with section 1021 of this law described by the ACLU:

"The NDAA's dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield."

The wording of this law is so vague as to who may be detained and why, such that prolific author Noam Chomsky, former NYT foreign correspondent and Pulitzer recipient Chris Hedges and several other professors and journalists filed a lawsuit against the US government back in January 2012. The suit sought to clarify that by doing their jobs they wouldn't be considered to be "associates of terrorists" or "substantially supporting" terror, as the NDAA allows for indefinite incarceration without trial in these cases. An article dissenting against the government might be interpreted as substantially supportive based on sources or the stories themselves simply because the terms "supporting" and "associated" are never defined. The attorneys representing the government could make no such assurances. In fact they argued that section 1021 is of no consequence because prior law had already stripped the protections the journalists were seeking to assure.

In May, Federal District Judge Katherine Forrest of the Eastern District of the US Circuit Court stood up and ruled section 1021 unconstitutional, reasoning:

"Section 1021 lacks what are standard definitional aspects of similar legislation that define scope with specificity. It also lacks the critical component of requiring that one found to be in violation of its provisions must have acted with some amount of scienter — i.e., that an alleged violator's conduct must have been, in some fashion, "knowing." Section 1021 tries to do too much with too little — it lacks the minimal requirements of definition and scienter that could easily have been added, or could be added, to allow it to pass Constitutional muster."

This ruling effectively prevents the law from being enforced as it is currently written, although two weeks ago, without any noticeable media attention, the US government began an appeal hearing to overturn Judge Forrest's decision.

Why is no major media covering what is possibly the single greatest removal of a citizen's right to free speech? Why is no major media reporting on a citizen's freedom to present their own dissenting viewpoint? Whatever the reason may be, it leaves independent media and people like me and you to shout loudly.


Jason Neill is the co-founder of a small software company involved in futures industry in Chicago, who has two dogs and one lovely woman in his life.

Mechanics / Comments (2)

Health Care Wed Jul 18 2012

Wheaton College Sues Over "Preventative Services" Mandate

Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, is filing a lawsuit alongside the Catholic University of America in opposition to a birth-control-related mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services. The mandate requires most employers to provide health care that includes birth control coverage.

Continue reading this entry »

Tyler Davis

Wage Theft Tue Jun 26 2012

Another Year Passes for Congress Hotel Strikers

Originally posted to my site - The Political is Personal

One Day Longer. That's what they say on the picket line when you ask when a strike will end. The dedication to the cause continues on until a just contract can finally settle a dispute between employer and workers. For nine years now, workers from Congress Hotel in Chicago have walked the picket line in a struggle for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.

By now most of the workers have moved onto others jobs but remain invested in the fight. They spend an hour or two before and/or after work on the picket line and come home to their families. You may ask a common question, why?

"I hope it helps them," said Imelda Martinez, a former Congress Hotel housekeeper. "We fight for our benefits, for fair pay, and justice."

Martinez has struggled to balance family life, work at another hotel, and the strike. Her son served in the Army and did a tour in Iraq. She hopes the strike will end one day on a positive note.

Workers in other Chicagoland hotels know a fight is also coming their way. Just weeks after Unite HERE Local 1 and Congress Hotel celebrate a tenth anniversary, the union will be embroiled in contract negotiations with the other hotel chains. Mark your calendars now. August 31, 2013.

The fight pushes on not for a few dozen service workers at one hotel but for a city full of service workers. Workers that ensure a clean place to stay for the entire tourism industry that Chicago needs. A unionized workforce provides rules to keep employees safe as much as it provides guidelines on keeping rooms clean. Nonunion places overwork their employees and push housekeepers to clean a room in 15 minutes or less. Disgusting if you ask me.

Chicago housekeepers were making just $8.83 an hour when the strike began but now earn $15.70 an hour, according to Unite HERE.

"The sacrifice the strikers have made to go out on the line daily speaks to not only their dedication, but to the intense belief these individuals have for what they're doing," said Henry Tamarin, Unite HERE Local 1 President, in a statement. "The strikers know third dedication to the boycott will help working families now and in the future."

In 2003, the Congress Hotel tried to freeze employee wages, eliminate healthcare benefits, and demanded the ability to outsource the work done by union employees. It was a power grab that the workers refused to allow as they walked out on June 15, 2003.

"[The hotel owner] doesn't want to pay anything. We have to keep fighting. Every time it is the same thing but we want to get a contract. We've been fighting for eight years. We are not going to give up and say alright we lost," declared Guadalupe Perez in an interview last fall.

Chicago-based rapper, Young General, performed his song dedicated to the efforts of the strikers. He teamed up with Columbia College students to produce the music video below:

Continue reading this entry »

Aaron Krager

Labor & Worker Rights Mon Mar 05 2012

Remembering Chicago's Riotous Past

Despite the recent announcement that the G8 summit will be held at Camp David, not Chicago, the city can still expect protesters to descend for the NATO summit being held May 20-21.

Since history tends to be instructive, its lessons bear repeating.

"We often forget the connection to history," said Tracy Baim, who knows very well how the city of Chicago handled protests over 100 years ago. "We're still fighting a lot of the same battles."

Baim is the daughter of Joy Darrow — related through marriage to Clarence Darrow, the crusading "attorney for the damned" in such controversial cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Leopold and Loeb murder case. In 1902, Darrow eulogized former Illinois governor John P. Altgeld as "a soldier in the everlasting struggle of the human race for liberty and justice on earth."

Altgeld, since hailed as one of Illinois' most progressive governors, was once reviled as John "Pardon" Altgeld for pardoning, in 1893, the three surviving prisoners sentenced to death for Chicago's Haymarket bombing. Altgeld was widely vilified and his decision effectively ended his political career, a choice that perhaps represents a moment of integrity triumphing over political expedience.

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Megan E. Doherty

Social Issues Mon Jan 09 2012

Nina — Prostitution, Recovery and the WINGS Court

By Sarah Ostman

"Nina" smoked crack and sold sex on Chicago's South Side for 33 years, racking up dozens of arrests, spending years in prison and losing custody of her seven children. One morning in November 2010, she tried to sell sex to an undercover police officer and wound up in jail again. She thought she was heading back to prison, but instead, she was offered a spot in an experimental new courts program aimed at rehabilitating prostitutes.

There are an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 prostitutes in the Chicago area, and their stories are remarkably similar. Most were sexually abused as children, started using drugs early and ran away from home. Most started selling sex between the ages of 12 and 14, oftentimes after being recruited by pimps. And most get arrested repeatedly -- dozens, even hundreds of times -- before they get off the streets, if they manage to get off the streets at all.

In January 2011, Cook County started handling these cases in a new way. Instead of prison time, women convicted of felony prostitution are now offered drug treatment, job training and other services in the community. The program -- called WINGS (Women in Need of Gender Specific Services) -- is based on a growing belief that women in the sex trade should be treated not as criminals, but as victims.

This is Nina's story.


Sarah Ostman is a freelance reporter and audio producer. She lives in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. This piece was supported with a Local Reporting Award from the Chicago Community Trust.

Read more about sex trafficking in Chicago on Gapers Block.


Chicago Sun Dec 04 2011

Occupy Chicago Joins Motel Occupation

Visitors to Pastor Corey B. Brooks Head onto the Roof

At 7p.m. tonight, Occupy Chicago will hold its first overnight occupation on the South Side following a general assembly on property owned by New Beginnings Church. The church is hosting the event in conjunction with its own occupation of the derelict Super Motel at 6625 S. Martin Luther King Blvd, which is across the street from its main sanctuary. Its pastor, Corey B. Brooks, has been camping on the roof of the motel for a dozen days and fasting on water alone. He plans on camping on the site until the church raises $450,000 to raze the former motel and build a community center with mixed-use, mixed-income development on site.

Pastor Brooks said that he was "excited" when contacted by Occupy Chicago. "I think that anybody who -- especially when they're not from this area -- wants to come lend support, we've got to be open to that." Ultimately, the pastor hopes that he can play a role mediating between the group and Mayor Emanuel. "I want to have good relations with everybody. We are the church. We're not supposed to be at war with anybody ... We bring about peace."

Follow developments in the motel case on the Project H.O.O.D. website and through Pastor Brooks' Twitter account, CoreyBBrooks. Occupy Chicago is online at

Additional photographs follow.

Continue reading this entry »

David Schalliol / Comments (1)

Technology and Politics Tue Nov 22 2011

The New Chicago Way: The Wholly Surveilled City

surveillance.jpgA friend sent me a note asking if the recent Automated Speed Enforcement system (ASES) approved by the General Assembly at the behest of Chicago's Mayor and Police Superintendent would make Lake Shore Drive fully subject to electronic monitoring, since almost the entire lakefront is a public park, and the bill was pitched as enforcing speed limits near parks and schools, "for the children." The good news is the answer is no, because Lake Shore Drive is exempted from the enacting legislation, known informally as SB956. The bad news is that Lake Shore Drive may be the only unmonitored bit of the city.

The ASES would not apply to Lake Shore Drive, but it would apply to almost the entire city. Some interesting things about the bill:

First, the way it defines an "automated speed enforcement system." That is as "a photographic device, radar device, laser device, or other electrical or mechanical device or devices installed or utilized in a safety zone and designed to record the speed of a vehicle and obtain a clear photograph or other recorded image of the vehicle and the vehicle's registration plate."

Which brings us pretty seamlessly to "secondly." Secondly, the bill defines a safety zone as any "area" that is within 1/8th of a mile (or a city block) from the property line of any public or private school or school-owned facility except central administrative buildings, and any park district owned property, except, again, for central administrative buildings. As you can imagine (see schools map below) that makes up a huge amount of the city -- because the cut-off isn't just a block. The bill also provides, "However, if any portion of a roadway is within either one-eighth mile radius, the safety zone also shall include the roadway extended to the furthest portion of the next furthest intersection." In other words, if a road falls within the a block of the property line of a school district or park district property, then the "safety zone" is extended to the next intersection, and through it.

Take a look at this map:

Chicago Elementary School Map

These are just the elementary schools.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Event Wed Nov 02 2011

Journalist Peter Eichstaedt on Congo's Conflict Minerals

Peter Eichstaedt can't help it. He has to write about what everyone else ignores.

Over the next couple days, he'll be promoting two of his recent books through discussions at the University of Chicago (details below). Both touch upon "humanitarian disasters" that, despite their toll on human life, go largely unnoticed by the media. One of these books, Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place, ultimately began with his time working for the Uganda Radio network and the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

"The daily news media focus only on the event of the day, and rarely any context. Why is something happening? As if things happen in a vacuum. It's not that difficult, truly, to put a couple of paragraphs or sentences about background in some of these stories but most news reporters don't."

When confronted by the fighting he found in Uganda, he realized he was on his own in finding out what was going on. What he learned was that, although a relatively low percentage of the world's supply of some minerals necessary for our most necessary and addictive technology (cell phones, laptops, etc.) comes from eastern Congo, this region has suffered a staggering human cost: the greatest loss of life since World War II.

Consuming the Congo painstakingly details the ins and outs of the tribal conflicts in the region, the flight over minerals, and the complicity of not only the corrupt Congolese government, but of all those who have allowed this tragedy to continue.


Consuming the Congo — discussion, book-signing, Q & A
Friday, 4 November, noon-1:30pm.
Pick Hall Lounge
University of Chicago
5828 S. University Avenue

Pirate State: Inside Somalia's Terrorism at Sea
— discussion, book-signing, Q & A
Thursday, 3 November, 6-7:30pm
International House
University of Chicago
1414 E. 59th Street

For additional information click here, or email

Megan E. Doherty

Law Wed Nov 02 2011

Today In Coincidences

Two stories today, guys. First, this:

Solís introduced an ordinance to the City Council to issue tickets for pot possession of 10 grams or less instead of sending offenders to jail. The move would free up already bogged-down officers, he said, and put more cops on the streets.

"We are now starting the debate on what specifically marijuana usage is and what kind of system we have in terms of processing people from the beginning," Solis said, "from arrest through it being thrown out in court."

Under the proposed ordinance, offenders would face a $200 fine and 10 hours of community service instead of jail time. Solís and supporters presented statistics showing minorities currently are disproportionately arrested for small amounts of pots.

Meanwhile, over at the Sun-Times, this:

In recent years, Chicago and Atlanta have become key transportation hubs for the cartels, Riley said. Most of their pot comes to Chicago in trains and semi trucks.

A lot of that marijuana is being shipped here by the Sinaloa Cartel and protected with unthinkable violence, Riley said.

"Chapo Guzman, now that Osama is dead, is in my opinion the most dangerous criminal in the world and probably the most wealthy criminal in the world," he said. "Guzman was in the Forbes Top 100 most wealthy people in the world. His ability to produce revenue off marijuana, we've never seen it before. We've never seen a criminal organization so well-focused and with such business sense, and so vicious and violent."


"The guy sitting on the patio in Hinsdale -- smoking a joint with his friend and having a drink -- better think twice," Riley said. "Because he's part of the problem."

So no pressure or anything, but smoking a joint on your porch means you love the new Osama Bin Laden.

Ramsin Canon

Race Thu Oct 27 2011

"You Even See White People on 43rd Street Now": Income and Segregation in Chicago

by Daniel Hertz

On a recent sunny afternoon, "John," 25, was hanging out at the Lake Meadows shopping center at 35th and King Drive in Bronzeville. He is a new resident of the city's oldest black neighborhood, formed in the first quarter of the 20th century by southern migrants searching for better jobs and living conditions in the North. John is also a migrant: he moved to Bronzeville from southwestern China earlier this year. And, in doing so, he became part of the slow breakdown in the racial order of Chicago that has been taking place for the last few decades.

It is not news that this city, like most northern industrial metropolises, is an especially egregious case of American racial segregation. Separation was never explicitly enforced by law, but restrictive housing covenants, social pressure, and violence, both random and coordinated, managed to create very real boundaries outside of which few blacks dared to live. Successive waves of migrants following World War II expanded the black ghetto to encompass much of the south and west sides of the city, while the severity of segregation worsened.

But it is less often noted that since peaking around 1970, black segregation in Chicago has been on a slow, but notable, decline. Now, new data from the 2010 Census gives an in-depth portrait of a still-divided city's tentative steps away from the kind of apartheid that earned it the nickname "Beirut on the Lake" in the 1980s. In neighborhoods like Bronzeville and Woodlawn on the South Side and Garfield Park on the West Side, white, Latino and Asian Chicagoans have cracked open the door to integration. Likewise, black families have started to move into pockets of the northwest and southwest sides where African Americans often made up less than one percent of residents just ten years ago. In some of these places, African American populations have grown by factors of two, three, or even ten since 2000.

Continue reading this entry »

Mechanics / Comments (1)

Event Fri Oct 07 2011

Q & A with Political Writer Tariq Ali

Political thinker, novelist and filmmaker (and, co-author of the recent On History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone in Conversation) Tariq Ali will be giving a free talk at the Biograph Theater (2433 N. Lincoln) on Thursday, 27 October. The discussion, "Revolution in the Air: The Arab Spring and a World in Motion" will have a look at the revolts in the Middle East as well as the Occupy Wall Street/Chicago movements across the globe. His talk on this "new resistance to the status quo, its challenge to empire and the dictates of capital, and radical notions of democracy and liberation born anew" will be followed by a Q & A, as well as book signing.

Doors open at 7pm, the event starts at 7:30pm.

For more information:

Megan E. Doherty

Education Fri Sep 09 2011

Teachers Allege Board of Education is Bribing and Intimidating Teachers

The Chicago Teachers Union has filed suit before the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board requesting injunctive relief to stop the Board of Education from conducting school-by-school "elections" to lengthen school days.

Specifically, the suit alleges that the Board, which is teachers' employer, is committing unfair labor practices in egregiously violating their contract with the districts 30,000 teachers.

Specifically, working conditions and wages and pay are supposed to be negotiated by the teachers' collectively and their employer. Since both sides are subject to the contract, it would be inappropriate for either side to try to negotiate such a condition on an individual basis.

Continue reading this entry »

Ramsin Canon

Justice Fri Aug 19 2011

Chicago Says No to Erroneously Named "Secure Communities" Program

Updated with comment from Governor Quinn's office

by Shelly Ruzicka

Yesterday undocumented youth in Chicago led hundreds of families, allies, and religious supporters in a large demonstration protesting the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program, or S-Comm. Hearings have recently been held across the country after ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director John Morton stated that the program would be mandatory.


Not long ago, Illinois joined other states to opt-out of the voluntary program which required local police to fingerprint anyone they stopped and send that information to ICE. Shortly after Governor Quinn signed the bill opting out of S-Comm into law, Morton stated that the program would no longer be voluntary but mandatory, thereby negating the will of states to abandon the program which many say lead to racial profiling and distrust of police. Communities and county sheriffs have stated that "Secure Communities" has led to a greater disconnect between police and immigrant communities. People who witness crimes are afraid to go to police out of fear they may be questioned, fingerprinted, and deported. Women don't report domestic violence for the same reason. Workers are afraid to drive to their jobs or to pick up their children from school out of fear of being pulled over for a busted tail light or a cop who has been compelled to target "foreign" looking drivers.

Continue reading this entry »


Social Issues Tue Jul 19 2011

Persons, Inc.

contributed by Brian Reilly

"OK, so these are the things converging with us," Annabel Park says over the phone from suburban Washington, DC. "One is the corruption, the level of corruption in Washington that really is impeding progress on just about every single issue that concerns the American people. So I think from climate change to campaign finance to Wall Street reform, all these issues that progress is desperately needed, is impeded by the influence of money in our government."

Park is a documentary film maker who in 2010 turned a primal scream of a Facebook post about incivility at Congressional town hall meetings into a national organization called the Coffee Party movement. In less than two years the Coffee Party movement claims to have an e-mail list of 75,000 people and 378,158 Facebook participants.

The Coffee Party has taken up the cause of bringing individuals back into the political process through what they consider to be a more civil and reasoned approach to discussing and advocating for issues. As Park sits down to talk, the Coffee Party has taken on the issue of getting banking watchdog Elizabeth Warren nominated to head the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Continue reading this entry »


Immigration Thu Jun 16 2011

Exodus: Immigration, Law and Activism

by Brian Reilly

"Look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase..." Exodus 1:9-10

Rosanna Pulido is stabbing at me with her finger. After talking about illegal immigration for almost an hour now, she is both more comfortable and more agitated. Pulido says everything with some kind of emphasis.

What is it about illegal immigration that makes someone, a latina no less, an activist? Pulido answers by singing, not just quoting, America, the Beautiful. "You know the song, America? America, America God shed His grace on thee...o.k., there is a line in that liberty in law. That's how you and I have so much freedom and liberty and prosperity."

Freedom, liberty, and prosperity are pretty much universal aspirations. They have moved people to action since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt up until the protests in Tahrir Square. America has, throughout its history, been a place where people have fled in order to live their aspirations. That history is filled with the brutal struggle over who belongs and who decides.

"You put laws down and if you don't obey them, you know what? You're going to pay for it," Pulido says. But who decides crime and punishment?

American immigration law has always been tied closely to race and ethnicity. The nation's first immigration law, the Naturalization Act of 1790, was passed only a year after the constitution and allowed for the immigration and naturalization of "free white persons" of "good moral character."

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (7)

Immigration Wed May 18 2011

Opening the Door to America

by Brian Reilly

America, since even before its birth as a nation, has been defined as a place for seekers; a home where a variety of peoples, values, and aspirations can belong. Defining citizenship is part of defining America. Rather than melting into the national identity, each group of seekers has struggled their way past gatekeepers vigilantly guarding their own vision, interests and identity.

Carving out a place and claiming the rights that come with it is a political fight between those who stand on either side of the doorway to America. Who belongs? Who gets in? Who stays out? Who decides?

"Profanely." In a word, that is how Joshua Hoyt intends to address an announcement from Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's office that services to immigrants will be cut by up to 74 percent in the proposed budget. Hoyt, as Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has a meeting with Quinn's senior staff and he intends to be direct.

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Environment/Sustainability Fri Feb 11 2011

The (Clean) Power of the People Don't Stop

This piece was submitted by Martin Macias, Jr.


In the wake of political inaction, Chicago environmental coalition will hold a People's Hearing

The Chicago Clean Power Coalition comprised of over 50 health, community, environmental and business groups, shared something in common recently with the "Anybody but Rahm" contingent of the Chicago electorate...briefly succumbing to the joy of witnessing the fruition of poetic justice, only to be struck down by the daisy cutters barring bad news. On January 27th it was discovered that an official Health Committee hearing, which was slated to take place on the 14th, was delayed indefinitely by Daley Administration allies in the City Council. However, the coalition announced that they will move forward with a "People's Hearing" in City Council chambers on February 14th.

Alderman James Balcer (11th) is the new chair of the Health Committee and would've presided over the first council hearing that examined the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Aldermen Joe Moore (49th) and sponsored by 16 other Aldermen. A majority vote of the joint committee is needed for the legislation to advance to a vote by the full City Council.

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Justice Tue Jan 11 2011

State Senate Votes to Abolish the Death Penalty

The death penalty is almost history in Illinois. From Progress Illinois:

The State Senate followed the lead of the House and approved the bill (SB 3539) by a 32-25 margin this afternoon. The legislation, if signed, would end the practice and redirect money the state pays in death row prosecution and defense fees ($100 million in the past seven years alone) to support law enforcement training and programs for the families of murder victims. It now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, where it faces an uncertain future.

Since 1977, 13 Illinois men since have been exonerated for murders they did no commit; several investigations found that dubious evidence, racial discrimination, and prosecutorial misconduct tainted many of those cases. The use of the death penalty is declining nationwide. Fifteen other states do not sentence criminals to death.

There has been a de facto ban on the death penalty for the past for a decade after it was found that a number of innocent prisoners had been executed. According to the Trib's Clout Street blog, "[s]ponsoring Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, urged his colleagues to 'join the civilized world' and end the death penalty in Illinois" during the debate.

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Micah Uetricht

Labor & Worker Rights Wed Nov 17 2010

"Social Justice Isn't Just For Rock Stars -- It's For Workers, Too."

As part of an effort to re-brand itself, Loyola University Chicago launched a clever ad campaign in 2006 called "Loyola Values," consisting of bold, simple ads that usually contained no more than one sentence. "It's Always Cooler By the Lake," reads one that can be seen on the sides of CTA buses, referencing the main campus's lakefront location; "Learn to Use Your Ethics As Much As Your Blackberry," implores another posted around campus.

Another can be recited by heart by almost any student activist on campus: "Social Justice Isn't Just for Rock Stars." The implication, of course, is that students should join celebrities in concern with the "least of these," to use a biblical aphorism. Indeed, there is a social justice component in the school's core curriculum, required for every student, and the school has one of the few masters programs in social justice in the country.

Which seems to make it all the more strange to some students that a vital part of the school community, the cafeteria workers, have recently come forward with tales of low wages, prohibitively expensive health insurance, dangerous working conditions, and an atmosphere of intimidation. A recent headline in the school newspaper quoting a cafeteria worker read, "You're talked to as if you're an animal."

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (1)

International Chicago Mon Nov 15 2010

Who Will Save Pakistan?

This article was contributed by Maham Khan

"Musharraf! Musharraf," a crowd of over 500 Chicagoans cheered to answer the question, as the former president made his entrance.

mushy5[1].JPGIt's been two years since Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of Pakistan under impeachment pressure in 2008. After a seven-year-long reign as president, his 2007 imposition of "emergency" martial law and a battle against the country's judiciary ultimately forced the leader to escape the country.

Even today, there are "fatwas" or edicts in Pakistan that claim his life.

But after a two-year hiatus in London, Musharraf has launched a campaign tour to announce that he will reenter the game of politics.

"Now is the time," Musharraf said. "The void of leadership must be filled."

Musharraf--formerly affiliated with the Pakistan Muslims League--Quaid (PML-Q) will be running under a new party--The All Pakistani Muslim League (APML).

"This is the original party of Pakistan--it is Quaid-e-Azam's party," Musharraf said, referring to the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. "Our objective is to win in 2013 for the betterment of Pakistan."

Musharraf spoke casually in a mélange of Urdu and English to a banquet hall filled mostly with Pakistanis.

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Mechanics / Comments (14)

Crime Tue Aug 10 2010

The Politics of Watching: Cost/Benefit of the Cop-In-A-Box

[This piece was submitted by freelance journalist Shane Shifflett, photos by Andrew Huff]

Millions of federal dollars have been invested in miles of fiber optics in Chicago and more than 1,000 surveillance cameras to create one of America's most sophisticated crime-fighting networks. There is, however, a problem: No one knows how well it actually works.

Nancy La Vigne, the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, and her team of researchers want to rectify this.

Their conclusion, which has yet to be publicly released, seems unique among the small number of similar studies conducted in other U.S. cities.

"The use of cameras is cost beneficial," La Vigne said.

To reach their conclusion, researchers compared the number and types of crimes in Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park to other neighborhoods that were statistically similar but without cameras. They discovered that for every $1 spent on cameras, the city saves $2 by preventing crimes, she said. By reducing the burden on the legal system society saves money, La Vigne said.

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Mechanics / Comments (6)

Crime Thu Jul 01 2010

A Culture of Torture: Mark Clements, Jon Burge, and the Chicago Police Department

[This article was submitted by freelance journalist Michael Volpe.]

"Nigger boy, you gonna cooperate?" a 220lb. Chicago police officer screamed as he pounded on the chest of 16-year-old, 120lb. Mark Clements. As the beating continued, pain shot out from Clements' chest and exploded into the rest of his body. He gasped for air, struggling to breathe, in excruciating pain. Clements say the officer, whom he identifies as John McCann, had a way of getting his knuckles to the tenderest part of the bone.

Clements could barely read. He hadn't even finished seventh grade but he was smart enough to know what the cops wanted. They wanted Clements to confess to an arson that occurred at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier. The beating went on like this for nearly 30 minutes, but still Clements remained stubborn. He'd gotten into enough fights in the neighborhood to be able to withstand a beating.

Clements remained quiet and refused to give in even as welts grew in his chest from the officer's fists cracking his bones. Then, they stopped hitting Clements. Instead, Clements says, McCann grabbed his balls and squeezed. This was a pain he'd never experienced before. There was only one thing that would stop it.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll cooperate," Clements said, in unbearable pain. That's how Mark Clements remembers and recounted that night nearly 30 years after it occurred (neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Cook County State's Attorney's office would respond to requests for comment for this article). A few hours later, at about 2am on the morning of June 26th 1981, Mark Clements would sign a confession to an arson at 6600 S. Wentworth six days earlier that killed four people. A year and a half later he'd get four life sentences and become the youngest person in the history of the state of Illinois to receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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Mechanics / Comments (12)

Housing Wed May 12 2010

Eviction Trial Ends in Victory for Rogers Park Tenant

Carol Vialdores, the Rogers Park mother of five who was facing eviction from her subsidized apartment, has won her case and will stay in her apartment. Her trial ended after two days in court, and she was found not guilty of the four charges of lease violation brought against her by management at Northpoint, the Howard-area apartment complex where she lives.

Organizers from the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign (CAEC) mobilized the community in support of Vialdores and her family. Holly Krig, a volunteer organizer for the CAEC, said the victory is a huge step forward.

"It builds momentum for the larger campaign," she explained. "People can now see that they absolutely can fight back and win. There are 3,300 pending evictions in Chicago. The more we fight back, the better chance we have on winning a moratorium on all economic-related evictions."

Krig attributed the victory to Vialdores being a "fantastic organizer."

"I told [the court] the truth," Vialdores said. "They didn't have any evidence against me. I've been living there for 16 years, and all of a sudden [management is] saying this stuff about me? No way."

Northpoint management declined to comment.

Now assured she and her family won't be evicted, Carol plans to do some work on her home.

"We're gonna paint my apartment and get some new furniture," she said.

Micah Uetricht / Comments (4)

Police Wed Mar 31 2010

Marvin Reeves is Free

There are very few injustices worse than the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent person--and the loss of decades of their life in incarceration. Reading the brutal story of Marvin Reeves, tortured by Jon Burge and friends into a false confession and stuffed in prison for nearly 25 years, the moral certitude of the maxim that it is better to let a hundred guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man is plainly self-evident.

MARVIN TELLS me to pull into an alley, and we get out of the car. He points to a boarded-up window of another large brick apartment complex. "This was where the bedroom was," he says. "It was my sister Sonya's apartment, and I stayed there sometimes. I worked just around the block at a mechanic's shop, and I would come here and park my car right here, outside the bedroom window, so I could see the car."

He goes back in time to the day--August 26, 1988:

It was 4 o'clock in the morning when the cops knocked on the door, and my sister Sonya went to answer it. She unlocked the door, but before she could open it, they busted the door in and broke her toe.

She started screaming--that's what woke me up. The next thing I knew, there were two cops at my bedroom door, guns drawn and pointing at me, yelling, "Nigger, if you move, I'll blow your fucking brains out." I had no idea what was going on.

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Ramsin Canon

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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