Video still from The Guardian

Think you need to be apprehended overseas by American authorities in order to be held in a “black site”? Think again.

A report filed by The Guardian on Tuesday reveals that the Chicago Police Department has taken over a complex of buildings referred to as Homan Square to serve as an off-radar interrogation compound.

Also read: The Post-Constitutional Era

That’s how one former detainee, Brian Jacob Church, described it to the news site in the Guardian’s video clip posted below, and some lawyers agree with the comparison to the CIA’s notorious black sites abroad. American citizens taken to Homan Square have reportedly been beaten, shackled for prolonged periods and denied access to attorneys. One man was pronounced dead after leaving Homan Square, and people as young as 15 have been held inside:

The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

Church wound up at Homan Square after being among a group of demonstrators arrested May 16, 2012, while protesting a NATO summit in Chicago. He and the other 11 suspects picked up that day weren’t booked according to the usual police protocol, and they had no access to lawyers. Church was held in restraints for 17 hours.

He and two other protesters, nicknamed “the NATO three,” were eventually found not guilty on terrorism-related charges, but they served time (Church was in prison for two and a half years) for possessing an incendiary device and engaging in mob action. According to this report from the Chicago Tribune, defense attorneys argued that the three men were goaded by newly trained undercover officers into claiming that they harbored more destructive intentions than they actually did.

Watch the Guardian’s video report about Homan Square, featuring Church’s claims, below:

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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