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Justice Panelists Announce Mason Settlement, 'Systemic' Police Brutality

CHICAGO, Jul. 16 (IMC) - "Accountability, accountability, accountability," replied Ruth Pena of the Comite Exigimos Justicia to a reporter who asked what community residents will be demanding at Saturday's anti-police-brutality march.
Pena was one of seven panelists at a press conference hosted by Amnesty International to disclose news of a settlement from the City of Chicago to Frederick Mason, Jr.

Although Danielle Thomas, representing Mason's attorney Standish Willis, was not at liberty to provide a dollar amount for the settlement, Mason stated that he is satisfied with the amount.

Mason, a tall African-American man in his twenties, came to Chicago in 1989 from Mississippi and has been living out of state since the settlement. He had difficulties finding work while his case against the city was pending as four employers told him that he was "too high profile."

Bob Schwartz of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network kicked off the conference in front of camera crews and reporters from WGN, WBEZ, FOX, CBS, CAN-TV, Chicago Tribune, N'Digo and other media outlets.

"We recognize these problems of police brutality to be systemic and national," said Schwartz. Referring to the recent arrest of Los Angeles police brutality videographer Mitchell Crooks on an outstanding warrant, Schwartz posed a rhetorical question: "How many cases have occurred that have never been videotaped?"

He noted that several people are currently incarcerated, based on torture-induced confessions under Jon Burge's former command of the city's police force.

"Mr. Alejo jammed a police billy club up Mr. Mason's rectum," stated Andy Thayer, also of CABN. "He is still employed. We consider his actions a crime in its own right."

Noting that the police's own Office of Professional Standards had confirmed three instances of previous brutality against officers Alejo and Alfaro, Thayer called on Mayor Daley and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine to take strenuous action to pursue criminal prosecution against the offending officers.

Reverend Paul Jakes, Jr., President of the Christian Council on Urban Affairs, received Mason's phone call after he had suffered the attack.

"I am glad Mr. Mason did not die -- I thank God for that," he said. "But we are not satisfied while rogue officers get a slap on the wrist."

Calling police brutality a "systemic problem," Jakes mentioned the Abner Louima case from New York City where officers had forced a thick wooden stick up Louima's rectum.

"[The settlement] doesn't eliminate scars to his body," said Lydia Taylor of the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago. "To stop this, two major things must be done: the police must prosecute officers, and the courts must prosecute and jail these criminals. The Justice Coalition has presented a 12-step police reform accountability program which still has not been implemented. It has cost the city millions of dollars, but it is still not done."

Karen Hutt of the Church of the Open Door commended Mason's determination and courage, saying he built a powerful coalition as a result.

"No longer will minorities be seen as commodities for politicians to bargain over. We represent our interests only when we band together. Let us continue to fight the good fight."

Frederick Mason, Jr., thanked panelists by name and described his experience as being a "rough, really rough last two years."

During the question-and-answer period he provided an account of being handcuffed to the wall by his elbows while officers used epithets like "faggot," "sissy" and "queer." He says no one tried to stop the abuse.

Jakes responded to a reporter's question by saying that Police Superintendent Hillard is "responding too little, too late." He asserted that Daley and Devine can only be judged by their actions.

"Are you suggesting replacement of--"

"...Of Mayor Daley? Sure," broke in Jakes. "If there is a policy change, then Daley must change it in his heart or we must change him."



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