Are Black Youth (Again) Being Railroaded To Life In Prison—This Time Just Outside Chicago?



Last week five youths from Chicago’s South Side were charged by suburban police with murder and held on $1 million bail.

Why? Because someone in the suburb of Old Mill Creek thought that five young men and a young woman who were in his driveway were trying to steal his car. The car owner shouted at them to leave and when one did not immediately do so, according to the man, he took a gun and fired several shots, killing the boy.

Now the five youths who were not shot are being charged by DA for their friend’s murder!

Early in the week, the story from the prosecutor was that the man heard something outside at 1 am, came out of his house, saw these youths and “thought they were trying to steal his Audi” (Chicago Tribune, “5 teens charged with murder as sixth killed in alleged car theft,” August 15). Police claimed that they recovered a knife from the man’s driveway. The prosecutor for Lake County (the area directly north of Chicago) immediately released names of all the suspects, including four juveniles, and alleged, without citing any proof at all, that “most” of the teens had “significant criminal histories.” The prosecutor also made all sorts of claims as to what the defendants have admitted to, dominating the front pages in Chicago for four straight days, with no reply from advocates for the youth.

What received barely any notice at all was that these youths who allegedly “committed murder” took their badly wounded “victim” (that is, their 14-year-old friend) with them, and stopped to ask police for help. One of these young people then stayed with his mortally wounded friend while the cop administered first aid. This young man was then arrested.

Does that sound like a bunch of cold-blooded murderers to you?

The great-uncle of the youth who was killed—Jaquan Swopes—was quoted by the Tribune as saying, “He (Jaquan) wasn’t given a chance. He was taken out like a damn dog. He was shot. Over a fucking car.

By Friday, the prosecutors embellished their story, now claiming that the man who killed Jaquan Swopes saw someone “advancing with something in his hand” (though he also said that the other five teens had retreated to their car) and believed “he was in danger of death” when he fired at the 14-year-old. They now added that the man had only intended to scare them and not hit them with his gun. Over the past several days, some defense lawyers in Chicago have been pointing out that Illinois law requires fear for one’s life to justify self-defense, and not merely protection of property. Other advocates also weighed in, saying that the law even on its own terms was being misused. They said that it should not be applied to teenagers who are often acting impulsively and without forethought. (Let us also note here that there could have been other reasons that the youths were walking up the man’s driveway.)

Already, this case evokes the painfully searing memories of hundreds of years of courtroom railroads of Black people and lynch-style justice. These youth are being tried in the press and could be sent away for life. Meanwhile, the man who actually killed the young man is being exonerated in advance by the prosecutor while the youth are being demonized. As for their so-called confessions, we refer you to Ava Duvernay’s Netflix TV show When They See Us, and other films and books about the Central Park 5—now the Exonerated 5—and what it reveals about the process used by the police to extract “confessions” from juveniles. Juveniles who despite their “convincing confessions” were later proven to have been innocent, with their so-called confessions the products of coercion and deception by the police.

Some Sharp—and Crucial—Questions

This case raises sharp questions about this whole system and its “way of life.”

What kind of a system sets things up so there are millions of Jaquans, here and all over the world, who—in the words of his great-uncle—was “a child who wasn’t given a chance to have any direction”?

What kind of a system rushes to demonize and incarcerate, for life, such youth, without any semblance of a fair hearing, when they are accused of a crime while it goes to great lengths to exonerate those who attack and even kill these youth?

The sadness of Jaquan’s great-uncle also brings to mind another sharp question posed by Bob Avakian in his speech Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, in the context of murders by police but just as applicable to this situation: “How many more times does this have to happen? How many more times do the tears and the cries of anguish and anger have to pour forth from the wounded hearts of people?!”

A Clear Answer

In that same speech, Bob Avakian also drew this critical conclusion:

White supremacy and capitalism—they have been completely interwoven and tightly “stitched together” through the whole development of this country, down to today; to attempt to really put an end to white supremacy while maintaining the system of capitalism would tear the entire fabric of the country apartWhite supremacy and capitalism—it is not possible to overcome and finally abolish the one without overthrowing and finally abolishing the other.

The National Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour is crossing the country to organize those who want to make that overthrow and final abolition a reality, at the soonest possible time. The very same week that all this has been going down, the Tour, along with the Revolution Club, Chicago, has come under attack by a group of “ex”-cops and other fascists for tearing up the flag of that system at the Bud Billiken Day parade, whose stated mission is to support the youth in striving for education. This attack has been taken up by sections of the media. The revolutionaries have been answering back that there is no more important education for the youth than to know the true history of this country and the true nature of this system, and to act on that understanding by getting with the revolution. (Hear Carl Dix talking about this on WVON radio.)

With the railroad now going on in Lake County, the main slogan of the Tour and Club at Billiken Day rings out all the louder:



Jaquan Swopes

Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution

A speech by Bob Avakian
In two parts:


Watch it, spread it, fund it

Check out clips and audio of the film and Q&As

Find out more about this speech—and get organized to spread it »



Get a free email subscription to

Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.