Reflections on A Demonstration of July 8, 2002
By The Campaign to end the Death Penalty
As most people are aware from previous postings, Madison Hobley, a member of the Death Row Ten who has spent the past 15 years on death row, had his two petitions for a new trial denied by Judge Porter.
This is a terrible injustice. The case against Madison is as flimsy as they come. Prosecutors say Madison started a fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son. They claim to have recovered the gas can he used from the burned-out building, but the can has no fire damage, and it doesn't have Madison's fingerprints on it.
Madison was beaten and suffocated with a plastic typewriter cover at Area Two police headquarters in Chicago, as were other members of the Death Row Ten, by police trying to obtain a confession from him. The police claim that Madison confessed, but have no proof of this--because, they claim, their notes "got wet," and they threw them away.
Campaigners and Madison's supporters were hopeful that the overwhelming evidence put before Judge Porter and the public pressure around this case would win Madison the new trial he deserves.
Instead, a travesty occurred. And so, Madison remains in prison while his lawyers scramble to appeal the decision, a process that might take several more years.
To show our outrage over the decision and point the finger at Dick Devine--the Cook County State's Attorney who built his career defending Jon Burge and prosecuting members of the Death Row Ten--the Campaign called an emergency protest at Devine's office, which took place two days after the judge's decision. More than 50 people participated.
The following is an account of the protest by Wicker Park Chapter member Joe Moreno.
On Monday, July 18, 2002 a decision was handed down to Madison Hobley, one of the Death Row 10, on whether he would be "granted" a new trial. I attended that hearing in Judge Porter's courtroom as I had attended many of the hearings leading to this decision. Although genuine justice never comes easy in Chicago, I was optimistic that genuine justice would be served and Mr. Hobley would be granted a new trial. Judge Porter handed down what can only be called a rape of justice when he stated his decision denying Madison Hobley a new trial.
I cannot adequately describe in writing my anger, shock, disbelief, and contempt for the criminal "justice" system that day in court. I saw these same feelings reflected on the faces of all who sat on Madison's side that day. Campaigners looked at each other with blank stares. I could only imagine how Madison felt that day. My visions of Madison took away my feelings of disbelief and shock. I felt only anger and contempt.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty called an emergency demonstration to be held in two days at the deplorable Dick Devine's, State's Attorney, office. Our purpose was to enter Dick Devine's offices, with force if necessary, to demand his involvement in the injustice that had occurred to Madison the previous Monday. On Wednesday, my anger had not subsided and when I arrived on the scene I joined a contingent of Campaigners, activists, and just plain concerned citizens who were as angry as I and were ready to march to the door of Dick Devine's office, no matter the consequences. The media was present with their cameras and notepads. As we were trying to penetrate the Daley Center and later, the county building that housed Devine's office, a number of people walked on the fringes of the core of determined activists.
Dozens of Chicago Police awaited us at the county building as other police officers raced by our group to get to the building before we could arrive. The people on the fringes were new members to our movement. They, understandably, were a little hesitant.
Dozens of Chicago police guarded the doors to block our entry. It was the height of rush hour and as tour buses carrying tourists drove by and sidewalks filled with people leaving their jobs for the day, they witnessed activists literally going toe to toe with Chicago Police Officers to demand entry into the building. Joan Parkin was finally allowed in but was stopped at the elevators by a dozen officers with their hands locked together. Other officials" chaotically ran around inside the building.
After Joan was inside, the police quickly called for our dismissal. We sat in front of the exits and continued our chants for Madison and for the abolishment of the Death Penalty. Police towered above us. Our banners were hung so every person walking or driving by knew that something "just wasn't right." Looking through the windows at Joan pushing, screaming, and waving her fists at more than twenty people committed to stopping our demonstration only added fuel to the activists outside of the building. You would think that Chicago Police officers the size of professional football linebackers would simply ignore someone of Joan Parkin's size. Quite the opposite occurred. The twenty people inside the building feared Joan Parkin. They weren't seeing a delusional woman who didn't make sense. They saw an intelligent, angry, and loud woman who made COMPLETE sense. The fear in their eyes and the confusion in their actions gave me hope. It also provided the motivation to continue to push back at the police when we were pushed.
As I looked around the crowd and saw veterans of the movement, like David Bates and Jesse Sharkey, speak to the crowd to tell them to "not be afraid -- don't let them push you around" I noticed the newer members of the movement coming closer, joining our chants, and handing out literature to anyone who would take a flyer.
Ultimately, Joan was escorted out of the building and arrested. As we surrounded her and chanted, "let her go," I felt obligated to try and physically break her away from the hands of the officers. Not only was I enraged to see Joan in handcuffs; I was enraged to see a symbol of our movement being pushed into the police wagon. As I moved closer to her and pushed back and forth with the police, David Bates grabbed me and said, "Joe, it's not worth it." Looking back, I was glad he grabbed me. David was right. It was right for Joan to force her way past the police and ultimately get arrested. It showed not only the police and officials, but also the new members to our movement and the media our determination and commitment to our cause. For the same reasons, it was right for me to join the group and help lead our civil disobedience activities. After Joan was arrested, my arrest would have only caused more headaches for Campaigners after the demonstration ended.
Yelling and pushing back at police officers and ultimately getting arrested ALONE won't get Madison a new trial tomorrow. Demanding entrance into Dick Devine's office ALONE won't abolish the Death Penalty next week. Chanting, "No Justice, No Peace," with fifty plus activists, surrounded by a slew of onlookers, with the media pointing their cameras in your face, ALONE won't win justice for the Death Row 10 immediately. However, all of these actions are as, if not more, important to achieving justice and abolishing the Death Penalty as is educating the public at convenient meeting times and discussing amongst ourselves and convincing others about how wrong the death penalty system is in our country.
Last Wednesday's demonstration caused mass confusion in the office of the State's Attorney. Our actions landed the issue on that evening's CBS News. Politicians, judges, and state officials won't abolish the Death Penalty and seek justice for the Death Row 10 unless they must. When they fear a group of activists as they did last Wednesday, when their office is thrown into disarray, and when the issue just won't go away in the mainstream media, they will HAVE to act to save their precious careers. It's a selfish issue to most politicians. They couldn't care less about Madison Hobley or the fact that the Death Penalty is racist, ineffective, barbaric, and morally reprehensible. They care if their office runs smoothly on a daily basis. This past Wednesday, both inside and outside, their offices were severely "disturbed." They care about being reelected. On Wednesday night, millions of news viewers watched an angry, determined group of activists highlight the most recent injustice handed down to the growing number of people who support ending the Death Penalty.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is an ACTIVIST group. Our role is to educate the public AND to agitate the public's officials. This fight won't be won by only calm debate and passive resistance. As King taught us, "the ULTIMATE MEASURE of a person is NOT where they stand in moments of COMFORT and CONVENIENCE, but where they stand at times of CHALLENGE and CONTROVERSY." In the wake of the injustice handed to Madison Hobley, Joan Parkin led the Campaign and other activists to forcefully but effectively challenge our officials to let them know we will simply not stay on the sidelines while they try to keep Madison Hobley in a hole and keep the injustices of the Death Penalty hidden from the public. Our agitation must continue. Our anger has not subsided. As it did last Wednesday, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty must channel our anger into effective civil disobedience. Our group definitely measures itself at times of challenge and controversy. Last Wednesday's demonstration can not be our only action in the wake of Madison's unjust ruling denying him a new trial.