Law clinic wins settlement protecting free speech rights of human rights worker

On October 25, 2002, the City of Chicago reached a settlement with Kenya Richmond, a human rights worker who brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and six Chicago police officers last spring. Richmond is represented by the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The lawsuit alleged that 6 white male officers of the Special Operations Section of the Chicago Police Department falsely arrested and abused Mr. Richmond as a result of his human rights work for the Stateway Civil Rights Project. The Civil Rights Project, created in 2000, supports efforts by members of the south side Stateway Gardens Housing Development community to monitor and report on police practices. Richmond charged that, on March 19 of last year, the police officers named in the suit struck an African-American teenager with their police car outside a building where Mr. Richmond was working. The teenager was apparently fleeing the police. Mr. Richmond wrote down details of the incident on a pad. After observing the officers handcuff the teenager and place him in the back of their car, Mr. Richmond requested that the officers take the young man to the hospital for medical treatment.

Richmond's lawsuit charged that the officers then seized, handcuffed, and arrested him. They also took his belongings and destroyed the notes he had taken regarding the incident. They did not arrest anyone else from the crowd that had gathered. On the way to the police station, the officers directed racial epithets at Mr. Richmond and mocked his efforts to exercise his basic rights to free speech. According to the lawsuit, the officers asked Mr.Richmond, "Who the f uck do you think you are?" The officers then told Mr. Richmond what they thought of him, calling him a "fucking monkey" and a "fucking nigger" who had no business documenting or reporting on the activities of the police. One of the defendants laughed, "You need to call your man, Jesse [Jackson]."

After being taken to the Second District police station, where he was searched, fingerprinted, and photographed, and where he spent several hours in an interrogation room and a jail cell, Mr. Richmond was finally released from police custody, after missing his daughter's eighth birthday.

"Mr. Richmond is a true hero," said his attorney, Craig B. Futterman. "He took this action not for himself, but to demonstrate that everyone in the Stateway community has the same free speech and anti-discrimination rights as every other person in America. He provides hope for many disadvantaged people that justice can prevail, particularly when people in the community stand up together for what's right and fair." Law student Tara Thompson feels fortunate to have been involved in representing Mr. Richmond. "I think it's important for us as law students and for the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic as part of the south side community to support people in this community who are exercising their Constitutional rights." Mr. Futterman said that Mr. Richmond plans to continue doing human rights work in his community.