On Aug. 14, a federal court in Chicago sentenced Aaron Patterson to 30 years in prison. In 2004, he was framed on drug and gun charges by the Chicago Police Department. He was convicted in 2005.
In 1986, when Patterson was 23, he was arrested by the Chicago police and tortured into confessing to the double
Patterson was later convicted of the murders and sentenced to death in 1989, based on the phony confession. After spending over a decade on death row, he was freed in 2003 when he was pardoned by Illinois’ governor.
Jon Burge, the detective who orchestrated Patterson’s torture, is now known to have tortured over 100 Black men in Chicago from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Other acts of torture included beatings with bats and sticks, burning with cigarettes and radiators, electric shocks to the genitals with cattle prods and Russian roulette.
At least 26 Black men in Chicago remain in prison due to coerced confessions obtained by torture.
Patterson had become an outspoken critic of Chicago’s repressive cops and the Illinois prison system. He led community members to the streets in protest.
Many prominent members of the Black community testified on Patterson’s behalf at his sentencing hearing, including hip-hop artists Mos Def and Talib Kweli. But this testimony did not dissuade a federal judge from enhancing Patterson’s sentence to 30 years.
The state targets activists from oppressed communities that agitate for change. While Patterson was in prison, prosecutors offered him freedom in exchange for a promise that he would not pursue charges of torture against the cops. Patterson refused.
The prison system operates as a mechanism for the wholesale isolation and exploitation of oppressed communities in the United States. African Americans are the hardest hit.
Approximately 44 percent of all U.S. prisoners are African American, while Black people only account for approximately 12 percent of the population. (Human Rights Watch, 2002)
Prisons also hold numerous political prisoners, like Patterson and Mumia Abu-Jamal, who work to empower their communities.
Patterson is a victim of the racist capitalist system. He should not be behind bars. People in Chicago and everywhere should organize to demand his immediate and unconditional freedom. Fighting against police brutality is not a crime.
Free Aaron Patterson now!