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Devine no "Honest Abe," say protesters at award ceremony picket

11 June 2001, CHICAGO, IL—For the third time in six weeks, Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine and the Chicago Police Department found themselves the targets of public outrage and ridicule for their failure to prosecute brutal cops.
A group of roughly 50 boisterous protesters from a number of anti-brutality groups picketed the Union League Club of Chicago Wednesday afternoon, where Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine was scheduled to receive the Abraham Lincoln Award from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence for his work promoting gun control.

The protesters charge that the praise is both unjustified and dead wrong. First, they argue that Devines refusal to prosecute police officers who brutalize, torture, and murder civilians creates a hypocritical double standard of justice in Cook County -- one for police officers and another for civilians. They also point out that handgun violence committed by police has not decreased since Devine took office in 1996.

"This Dick aint no Divine," said Ifti Nasim, a founder of the Asian gay rights group Sangat, one of the sponsors of today's action. Nasim, who came attired in flowing white garb and a spectacular floral hat, was punning on the memory of the revered drag queen Divine. His sentiments were echoed by others -- many of whom wore stovepipe hats and fake black beards to satire Devine's award in honor of "Honest" Abe Lincoln, a man to whom they say Devine bears no moral resemblance. Protesters chanted "Hey Hey, Dick Devine! When Will You Start Doing Time?" and "No Justice! No Peace! Prosecute the police!" Many also held signs with photos, dates, and names that bore witness to people who have been framed, beaten, or killed by Chicago police, including mothers, sisters and other relatives of the wrongfully accused who've organized the anti-corruption group Comite Exigemos Justicia.

Speakers also repeatedly named names. Those names included LaTonya Haggerty, who was shot and killed by a Chicago cop two years ago for 'brandishing' a cell phone; police beating victim Jeremiah Mearday, who -- while ultimately cleared a series of false criminal charges -- lost a legal case alleging wrongdoing by officers; and Freddie Mason, an African-American gay man who was sodomized with a billy club by a police officer. Devine's office has failed to bring criminal charges against any of the officers involved in these atrocities.

Others whose loved ones have found no justice at the hands of Devine and Chicago police also attended. They included Vera Love, mother of Northwestern University football player Robert Russ, who witnesses say was shot by police two years ago as he held his hands raised in the air, and friends of Gwen Hogan, whose husband Kelsey was shot sixteen times by an off-duty correctional officer. Devine and Chicago police have refused to bring criminal charges against Kelsey's killer, and Russ' case has essentially been buried by Devine and the cops. Sponsoring groups also pointed to Devines ongoing efforts to block new trials for the Death Row Ten, who assert that that they were tortured into 'confessing' by Chicago cops.

While the racially mixed crowd chanted, members of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, which led the effort to organize the protest, talked to passersby -- including one sympathetic young white man named Jimmy Lane who says he was recently beaten and slapped with false charges by the Chicago police department. "[Police] beat the hell out of me just three months ago," said Lane. "[They] threw me in jail on false charges...Im currently in a legal battle with the city of Chicago." Lane explained that he was accused of possession of ecstasy -- but the pills he was carrying were prescription medication. When he verbally refuted the officers charges, police struck him with a retractable nightstick, breaking three ribs.

Wednesday's protest is part of an ongoing effort to tar Devine for his record and for his ostensible collusion with brutal cops and complicit police department management. At the beginning of June, protesters marched to Devine's Rogers Park home, an action planned to coincide with anti-police brutality marches in Cincinnati, which was the scene of days of protests earlier this summer in the wake of yet another police murder of a Black man. Later in June, when Devine made an appearance at the annual Gay Pride Parade, a delegation of protesters jumped into the parade ahead of him; that 'stealth' protest and persistent booing from the large crowd forced Devine to flee the parade early.

The sponsors of these protests say that there will be repeated demonstrations until a special prosecutor is named to oversee corruption cases and new trials are granted to imprisoned brutality victims -- or until Devine resigns.

"Devine has not prosecuted a single Chicago police officer for brutality against a civilian -- this in a city where the per capita rate of police killings of civilians matches that of Cincinnati almost exactly," said Andy Thayer of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network. "We are sick and tired of the lies, the cover-ups, and the gross injustice of Devine and his band of criminals. Just as his office dogs the innocent and protects guilty cops, we will dog him until he takes action -- or gets out of public office."



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