Jaime Galván’s memory in Chicago

Chicago is another city that figures prominently in some of my current work as the site of perhaps the first cop memorial in the United States – the Haymarket police monument, now located inside the police station after several attacks on its structure.

Jaime Galván died ten years ago in police custody inside the infamous Homan Square illicit detention facility run by the Chicago police for interrogations and torture, as uncovered in the Guardian. In a follow-up story about Homan that focuses on Galván’s suspicious death in custody, the spatiality of grief and grieving play a prominent role in the writing:

They come every year to Mt Olive Cemetery on the 10th of February, the anniversary of Galvan’s death and the birthday of his youngest daughter, Victoria, wiping the snow off the granite slab engraved with Jaime’s face. Celebration of Victoria’s birthday has been muted since police told the family Galvan died by drug overdose at the west side warehouse, which the Guardian has exposed as a site for incommunicado detentions and interrogations without access to legal counsel.

Sites of burial and grief are intensified by the unknowns in the case; the incapacity to find elusive justice or explanations from the official sites of politics—city hall, the courts, the district attorney’s offices, etc—re-situate vocalization of demands and the sounds of accountability on the location of memory.

Regarding police killings and grief in San Francisco

On the human remains of Luis Gongora:

But Grant is determined to tracked Gongora’s family members so that his body can be released from the morgue.

The rituals we use to mark the end of a life seemed far out of reach for Gongora’s friends. The people who knew him best have no legal right to claim his body. Even if they could, they have no money to pay for his burial.

A priest from the neighborhood has offered to set up a fundraiser, and Grant said she hopes that will make the difference.

“People won’t give money to us because they’ll think we’ll just steal it,” she said. “We’re not like that. It would mean a lot to me if he had a proper memorial. – The Guardian (emphasis added)

Worth repeating again that the San Francisco police have their own —publicly financed— place to memorialize their own who are “killed in the line of duty” (while Gongora’s friends struggle to find some way to record his life).

a community memorial for Gongora; photo by Dan Tuffs, The Guardian
a community memorial for Gongora; photo by Dan Tuffs, The Guardian

The circumstance of  being unhoused—and dead—brings about another series of consequences that remain rather unimaginable for anyone who hasn’t experienced homelessness— namely the spatial question about how death itself can be recorded and remembered when someone is homeless; how social exclusion extends into the afterspaces of death and grief, and what such effects produce in terms of social reproduction. The absence of a space of mourning is not merely an incidental, tragic outcome of poverty. It instead seems to be related with how police violence is forgettable.

That is to say, when San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee, alleges to be handling two simultaneous crises – (1) the use of police force that systematically just so happens to lead to these kinds of tragic outcomes, and (2) the proliferation of homeless camps in the booming city – it is precisely in the elusive spaces of grief where these two issues clearly come to be tied together. But the mayor and others would prefer them to have them remain apart by evicting grief itself: “I will be ordering the Shotwell camp to be taken down and for it not to come back,” said Lee.