Many people would be shocked to learn that political activists, detained immigrants and community leaders are tortured in the United States. Several Food Not Bombs volunteers were tortured in San Francisco during the 1990's. As is true in most cases of torture the survivors were never questioned.
Plain clothes San Francisco Police Special Operations officers picked up Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry as he transported food across town on three occasions taking him to their office at police headquarters at 850 Bryant Street. The officers ripped off most of Keith's clothes as they pushed him face down on the floor. Six or more officers lifted Keith by his arms and legs until his ligaments and tendons ripped. After about half an hour of kicking, punching and tearing Keith's limbs the officers stuffed McHenry into a stress position cage suspended from the ceiling. The officers called the cage K cell. Keith sat freezing in the cage for three days unable to stretch out his legs. He was freed in his underwear at about 3:00 AM and walked to Saint Mary's Hospital for help. The third time Mr. McHenry was tortured he spent four days in the cage. Hospital officials called the San Francisco Police to report that an assault victim had been admitted as was required by law. Keith was also joined his attorney Randy Baker who sat in during the police questioning.
Mr. McHenry considered this "Police Brutality" until an expert who treated survivors of torture Holbrook Teeter join Keith at a peace march and remarked on the obvious pain he was in. Mr. Teeter told Keith that the actions he had survived had been used against many of his clients.
One officer that appears to have been involved in the torture was Tom Gerard. Dan Evans of The San Francisco Examiner wrote an article printed on April 1, 2002 on "on the hidden workings of the Anti-Defamation League and how three Bay Area activists were able to uncover a spy operation that reached into the San Francisco Police Department." Mr. Evens goes on to say that "The files included Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, addresses, phone numbers and group memberships. Some of the information was sold to foreign governments, including Israeli and South African intelligence groups." The list of files included two entries about Food Not Bombs under the heading "Pinko." San Francisco Police officer Tom Gerard worked in the department"s intelligence division and provided information to Roy Bullock of the ADL. During the investigation into allegations of this spy operation the police entered Tom Gerard's locker at his office and discovered photos and documents showing that Gerard had worked for the CIA in El Salvador. Some of the photos show Tom Gerard standing next to a line of men sitting on chairs with black bags over their heads. I received over 700 pages of this investigation, which included these pictures and documents. Evans goes on, "By his own admission, Bullock had been working off the books as a fact-finder for the ADL since the mid-1960's. He would infiltrate not only openly anti-Semitic groups, but also pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid organizations, usually under false pretenses. Bullock, who is not Jewish, would then pass that information along to the ADL."
The article goes on, "He received information about his targets from former San Francisco Police Inspector Tom Gerard, who fled to the Philippines after being indicted in 1994 for illegal use of a police computer. Gerard's current whereabouts are unknown." Evans' story continues, "On April 8, 1993, armed with this information, police in San Francisco and Los Angeles searched the ADL offices in those two cities. In San Francisco, roughly 10 banker's boxes of information, 75 percent of which officers said was illegally obtained were seized."
"A majority of data in those boxes confirmed police suspicions that it had come from Bullock's computer. On that computer was information on 9,876 people, including 1,394 driver's licenses. The files were divided into five categories: "Pinko," "Right," " Arabs," "Skins," and "ANC," the last standing for African National Congress."
Keith's lawyers suggested he not tell anyone about the torture because no one would believe it and the allegations would give the impression that Mr. McHenry was insane. Keith mostly kept the details of these events to himself until the media reported on the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's Chief of Staff, Michael Yaki was one of the few people Keith spoke to about the three incidents. The Congresswoman provided no assistance. A year after the photos of Abu Ghraib were made public Keith watched a documentary about the Hopi Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. The foundation provides counseling to torture survivors. The film include interviews with Central Americans who were troubled by the news of Abu Ghraib and returned to the Hopi Foundation for treatment. Keith told the small audience about his experience and confirmed the statements made by the Central American survivors. The film maker suggested Keith seek support at the Hopi Foundation Clinic. Mr. McHenry went to the clinic, filled out the intake form and participated in the initial interview. When the intake staff learned Keith had been tortured in the United States by American officials they told him that they were not allowed to help as Federal funding guidelines made it clear that they would loose their financial support if caught treating some one tortured in the United States by officials of the United States.
There are a number of other documented cases of torture in the United States. Several other Food Not Bombs volunteers were tortured in San Francisco. California State Police applied liquid pepper spray in the eyes of Food Not Bombs volunteer Terry Compost and several other Earth First! activists as they sat in the lobby of Congressman Frank Riggs office protesting the clear cutting of the ancient Redwood ecosystem. The State Police filmed themselves torturing these brave activists.
Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry is organizing a movement to support all survivors of people tortured in the United States by the United States. If you are a survivor and would like to organize to end torture by the United States in the United Sates please call him at 575-770-3377.
The photos on the page were taken the evening in May 1993 as Keith was waiting to see a doctor at Saint Mary's
Photo taken of Keith's thigh in May 1993.
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