April 2, 2010

U of C graduate student and alum claim police beat them unconscious

Two U of C affiliates claim they were beaten unconscious by Chicago police officers last month outside a Bucktown restaurant, prompting an investigation by a city review committee.

Matthew Clark (A.B. ’06) and sixth-year history graduate student [see note] filed a lawsuit against the city last week, claiming they were “brutally” beaten by police, who left them in the restaurant’s parking lot “without providing medical attention despite their obvious need of it.”

Clark and [see note] left Arturo’s Tacos, on Western Avenue, at around 3 a.m., February 7, when they bumped into two men and a woman who glared at them, [see note] said in an interview.

The three plainclothes officers were waiting for Clark and [see note] outside, and began cursing them, [see note] said.

“They seemed very aggressive,” [see note] said. “I just began to plead with them to forget about it and to make peace.”

One of the men then punched Clark in the face and began beating him on the ground while the other man held him down. [see note] said he tried to pull the men off Clark, and was warned by the woman to stop resisting. “These guys are cops,” she said, according to [see note]. “They’re going to beat your ass.”

Part of the beating was captured on a security camera, and footage was released by [see note] and Clark's lawyers last week.

During the beating at least three uniformed officers arrived at the parking lot, ignored [see note] and Clark's pleas for help, and helped beat the pair, the suit alleges.

When all of their attackers began to leave, [see note] said he pleaded with the uniformed officers to help them file a complaint. “We wanted to press charges, wanted medical attention,” [see note] said. “They said to us, ‘It’s just a fight. Go home and forget it ever happened.’”

Clark and [see note] went to a hospital the next day and were treated for concussions, broken noses, and other scrapes and bruises.

The Independent Police Review Authority said it was investigating alleged misconduct after complaints were filed by Clark after the attack. The city’s law department did not respond to requests for comment.

A police spokesman declined to comment, but Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weiss spoke with ABC Chicago last week. “It’s easy to take a small video out of context and try to figure what really happened so we have to wait for everybody to do their jobs and hopefully that will be in the near future,” he said.

[See note] and Clark's lawyer said the case is “very compelling” because the attack was unprovoked and on camera, but also because the pair have a U of C education. “Many of the firm’s clients are not U of C students with Ph. Ds,” attorney Heather Donell said. “It doesn’t change the wrongness of the action of the police but the fact that this case involves highly educated, Caucasian, individuals with no criminal background has attracted attention."

[See note], who also teaches a section of Self, Culture, and Society, said lecturing pulled him through his emotional trauma. “My students were unbelievable,” said [see note], who noted he was teaching Foucault’s Discipine and Punish the week he was attacked. “I felt my students have a right to their education and I knew there was no way I was going to turn them over to another lecturer.”

Note: Some identifying information was removed from this article after publication.