Revolutionary Worker #1197, May 4, 2003, posted at rwor.org
We received this correspondence from Chicago.
Chicago, April 17--It was around 10:30 in the evening in the Cabrini Green housing projects. People were hanging out in the parking lot while a "repast"--a post-funeral gathering-- went on in the second floor of one of the highrises. The long, cold Chicago winter was slowly easing up, and it was still a new thing that people were able to relax together in the open air.
Suddenly a police car came squealing down the sidewalk. Cops jumped out and started grabbing people. Men, women, teenagers, and shorties stepped quickly to get out of the way.
Nightfall and three of his friends had gotten into their van moments before the police attack began -- on a mission to pick up some more beer for the repast. The funeral early in the day had been for Nightfall's grandmother. As the young men in the van tried to leave the parking lot, another police car pulled across the only exit. The cops approached the van, and Nightfall rolled down his window. Then a cop slugged him.
That was it--Nightfall and his friends rolled up the windows, locked the doors, and refused to "step out of the vehicle" as the police ordered. In a short time the van was surrounded by police with guns drawn.
The last police murder in Cabrini was just this past October, when an undercover cop shot 21-year- old Michael Walker (known among friends as Jappa D) in the face. The police kept him in the hallway for two hours--as he bled to death from the gunshot wound.
That murder was still fresh in people's minds--as well as the thousands of daily outrages at the hands of the brutal police. So when the cops looked like they were going to do serious harm to Nightfall and his friends, the people made clear they weren't having it. Residents began pouring out of the buildings, shouting at the police, trying to save the lives of the youths in the van.
As some police tried to push back the crowd, other cops broke all the windows in the van and threw in a tear gas grenade! Nightfall and friends came tumbling out of the van, hands up, struggling to breathe. The cops maced, handcuffed, and beat them. Witnesses describe how one of the youths was handcuffed on the ground as police with drawn guns threatened to kill him.
People continued to pour out of the two buildings which flank the parking lot. The confrontation between the police and the people intensified. People were standing in the way of another murder.
Meanwhile, more police reinforcements arrived, coming up behind the growing crowd of angry people. Five cops beat a 50-year-old woman. Someone yelled, "This isn't Afghanistan, you can't do that here!" The cops jumped on him and arrested him. Altogether nine people were arrested.
Then the police retreated, jumping back into their cars and paddy wagons. They wove through the parking lot and out over the sidewalk.
But the people weren't through - they had no intention of letting the cops get away with the attack. A group 75 to 100 residents, including members of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, immediately marched on the 18th District police station, two blocks away.
In the time it took for people to march the two blocks, the police had fortified the front of the station with barricades and lines of cops. They even brought out their dogs. The TV news reported that "people threw all sorts of things at the police station" and showed video footage of young people letting things fly toward the station. It looked like a scene from Palestine!
The police attack and the resistance by the people of Cabrini became a major focus of controversy in Chicago. The night after the incident Reverend Paul Jakes, well-known in Chicago for his public activities against police brutality, brought Nightfall and his friends to a press conference where videotapes of the cops' attack on the van were played. The press conference and video footage were shown on all the local stations.
For two days after the police assault, youth from the antiwar and anti-globalization movements came to Cabrini Green to stand with the residents in case the police returned to mess with the people again.
A few days after the incident, the state representative for the area called an emergency meeting in the neighborhood. He brought with him some high-ranking oppressors: deputy commissioner of the Chicago police, head of the 18th District, head of the Public Housing Detail for the Chicago Police Department, head of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS--the part of the police department that is supposed to investigate wrongdoing by the cops), head of the "community policing" program, and assorted elected officials.
The cops and their buddies tried to play dumb and act like they were just as "shocked and outraged" as the people. But Cabrini residents laid some truth out about what it's really like day-to- day in occupied Cabrini. One sister told about how a cop did a two-hour search of her home for no reason. Coming out of the apartment, the cop looked at her 15-year-old daughter and said, "I'm gonna fuck her to death."
People laughed at the suggestion by the officials that OPS would fix everything and deal with the cops who attacked on Thursday night. Over and over, folks told about making a complaint to OPS--only to have cops come and harass them and members of their family. People testified about how cops break into their apartments all the time, destroying things as they search through the place. One woman said cops came to her place several times threatening they'd plant weed on her if she wouldn't give them two apartments where they could find heroin or cocaine.
The state representative asked the officials what people could do if a cop mistreated them. The head of the 18th District said, "You should call the 911 to get a superior officer." That raised another outcry from the audience.
People called out, "Calling 911's a big-ass joke!" Young men shouted out stories about getting beaten up and having drugs planted on them by cops. People spoke out in righteous outrage:
"And the sergeant's right there while they kickin' your ass!"
"The police can't police the police `cuz y'all still against us! It's not right what you do, it's not right."
"911 don't mean nothin'. That just sends more cops to help the ones that already there. The end result is you go to jail. That's the end result. We tryin' to stick together, 'cuz y'all stick together."
One of the young men who was in the van that was attacked at Cabrini had this to say: "I was surprised and glad the community stuck together. It was a good thing, a beautiful thing. We were in that van thinking we were all gonna die. We could've been killed."
Throughout this country the government and its armed enforcers are trying to put a clampdown on the people so the U.S. can wage war on whoever they want, whenever they want, to expand their empire. They're forcing Middle Eastern people to "register," doing mass arrests of antiwar protesters, and slashing away at the very freedoms they claim to be defending. They're arrogant and puffed up.
But they're also very afraid to see the people on the bottom putting up the kind of resistance that was seen on the night of April 17 at Cabrini Green. They're afraid of sparks like this catching on fire and spreading, among people with nothing to lose but their chains.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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