The Police Killing of Brennan King

Revolutionary Worker #986, December 13, 1998

The police shot Brennan King to death, execution style, in a stairwell of Cabrini Green. This cold-blooded murder on November 28 was the third time this year the police have shot a young Black man to death--with bullets in the back--in these housing projects. And the people are not having it!

Brennan King was known and respected through this area--including on both sides of the border that divides rival street organizations. As one activist told the RW, people thought of him as someone who stood for something. Brennan had taken his stand behind the movement for change in Cabrini Green. He had marched for Mumia. He had dared to take the streets many times in marches against police brutality and in actions demanding jobs for the youth of Chicago's ghettos.

At the same time, Brennan had shouldered the responsibility of caring for the children of his family after his mother died--helping raise two younger brothers and two cousins in addition to his own children. He was planning to go off to college in a few months. Brennan was 21. And now the police have killed this proud son of the oppressed--this young fighter. Hearts are heavy among the people of Cabrini Green and within Chicago's revolutionary movement.


Early in the evening, November 28, Brennan had just left his aunt's apartment in Cabrini Green when the cops pulled up for the usual harassment.

Police beatings are a nightly thing at Cabrini Green. The cops brutalize the youth, plant drugs on them, insult and arrest them.

This night, Brennan apparently chose to run. He made it to the next building with the cops in pursuit. The first police bullet wounded him. Then the cops cornered him in the stairwell. Women nearby heard Brennan ask the cops not to kill him. And then came the six methodical gunshots that left a tight pattern on Brennan King's back.

Crowds gathered outside immediately, demanding to see Brennan's body. People stepped forward to denounce the murder. Over 300 crowded at the scene.

An ambulance soon arrived. But the cops would not allow Brennan to be taken to the hospital. Instead they used the ambulance to smuggle out the killer cop!

Brennan died on that staircase. And the police just let his body lie there, with his blood draining out. Residents say the cops zipped Brennan's body into a bodybag and dragged him down the stairs like a piece of garbage. "Thump, thump, thump"--the sound of Brennan's head hitting the stairs haunts the residents who heard it. It wasn't until the following day that Brennan's family was even allowed to see his body.

Typically, the police claimed that drugs were found near Brennan. Typically they claimed that the cop shot in "self defense." They claim Brennan slashed the cop with a box cutter. The Cabrini residents tell the RW that the police story is full of lies. People insist that the young men of Cabrini don't carry box cutters. And they insist that the cop cut himself after killing Brennan, so he would have a cover story.

The police immediately showed their fear and hatred of the people.

First came the show of force. Police were brought in from all over Chicago--30 squad cars, over 60 cops and many paddy wagons, according to residents--all used to keep the growing crowd away from seeing Brennan's body. Young men were grabbed by police. Their shirts were pulled over their heads--they were beaten, handcuffed, put on the floors of police cars, driven off to the West Side of the city--and then left in rival gang areas to inflame fighting among the people. One brother asked the cops why they would do this, and they answered cold, "Because you're a n*gger."

We Won't Let This Pass

The night Brennan was killed, it is widely reported, at least three police cars were hit by gunfire in the projects. The police department called a "10-1"--full alert--in that area. They were clearly shaken, and worried.

Both sides prepared.

Revolutionaries from the nearby Brigade House and people from the projects worked out a leaflet--to make sure that everyone knew what had happened, and to call out the oppressor. This leaflet signed by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade was rushed to the high-rises, and many hundreds were taken out by the people. "This is exactly what we need!" many said. In the building where Brennan was murdered, people went door to door with the leaflet to make sure everyone understood that the struggle was on.

Several people said that their feelings were captured well by the words of Chairman Bob Avakian at the top of this leaflet:

Don't talk to me about freedom and democracy until you have answered the most basic question: Freedom for whom to do what? Freedom for the exploited to rise up and get rid of exploitation--or--freedom of the exploiters to keep us down, dictate to us, suck our blood, and literally murder us? It is one way or the other."

On Sunday night, the cops came to retaliate. And the people were ready. The cops claimed they were raiding the buildings looking for weapons. They brought in firetrucks with ladders. They went floor to floor, abusing residents, kicking in doors to vacant apartments. Youth were grabbed and searched.

They swaggered like an occupying army--waving their guns at people. One woman told a cop to keep his gun out of her baby's face, and he barked "Shut up, b*tch" and sprayed her face with mace. The baby's grandmother yelled out, saying that her daughter had asthma, and the cops seized the grandmother, kicked her, and took her to jail. In one apartment, the cops were furious to find the revolutionary leaflet; they crumpled it up and threw it in the face of the residents.

As soon as the cops arrived, the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade joined people mobilizing in front at the raided buildings--to back up the residents and stand up to the police. And this time, the cops backed off.

All week, there were actions--press conferences and marches--denouncing the murder of Brennan and calling out the police for the murderers and oppressors they are. And again and again, the cops have tried to hit the community with raids and attacks--to intimidate people and assert their power.

At a Monday press conference, well-known local activist Dr. Nehemiah Russell told the crowd of 200 residents that Cabrini was in a "Watts situation"--referring to the famous rebellion of 1965.

Late Monday evening, plainclothes cops pulled up in front of the Brigade House and told a young woman on the front steps that if she continued her political activity she "could end up dead."

On Tuesday, December 1, people gathered for an angry march denouncing the murder. One brother rapped to the crowd in front of the building where Brennan was gunned down:

One of my best friends got shot in the back,
Trying to leave Cabrini Green shack...

The action was called by the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop Police Brutality and the Displacement of Public Housing Residents. The march included Dr. Nehemiah Russell; Margo Crawford, former principal of the DePaul University Alternative High School; the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade; Rev. Paul L. Jakes, Jr. of the Christian Council on Urban Affairs; and representatives of a number of politicians --State Senator Ricky Hendon, Congressman Danny Davis and Congressman Bobby Rush.

The protest began by marching though the community, growing to 300, mostly young men and women of the projects, Brennan's friends--who called Brennan "Six Pack". They denounced the cops in front of the nearby police station, took over the streets, stopped traffic, and headed for the 18th district police station.

Readers of the RW will remember that the cops would not even let the youth gather on the sidewalks of Cabrini on October 22--when they waited for the busses to take them to the downtown anti-police brutality action. But this day, a little more than a month later, the people took the streets.

Young men from Cabrini went from car to car in the blocked traffic, explaining to the occupants, "The police killed our friend for nothing!" And in many cases, they were answered with sympathy and support.

Friday, the people took the streets again--this time there were 500. Broad sections of the Cabrini community were out, and with them, there were supporters and allies from throughout Chicago. Shorties were out--coming across rival gang boundaries. The chant was raised "Six Pack! Six Pack!" And the signs ridiculed the police lies: "We don't play with knives!" one said. "Six Pack wouldn't have brung a knife to a gun fight!" said another. The Revolutionary Worker passed from hand to hand. People snatched up leaflets about defending the Brigade House, and about the upcoming trial of two members of Chicago's Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade.

Members of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality were there--to stand with the people. One student from the October 22nd Coalition spoke to the march, saying that many throughout the city were inspired by their resistance and courage. AK Small of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade spoke, describing how Brennan King had fought to save the life of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, and that the system had now shown their disregard for people's lives by taking Brennan's life. These killings by police, he said, were part of the deliberate attempts to force poor and Black people out of these areas--to carry out the system's "urban cleansing."

Once again the people took the streets, and marched to two police stations. Right up in the face of the police headquarters, everyone turned their backs to the cops and chanted, "Shoot us in the you did Six Pack!"

As we go to press, this struggle is far from over. Over 1,500 people attended Brennan's funeral on Saturday, December 5 on Chicago's West Side.

The authorities have said nothing about the police murder of Brennan King. There was no word from the medical examiner. And not even the usual "statement of concern" from the Mayor's office. No words of regret from the police department.

The system wanted to smother Brennan's death in silence--a silence that says in no uncertain terms what the ruling class thinks about the death of a young Black man...a silence that tells everyone `do not expect justice from on high.'

But this cold-blooded murder and the abuse of the people at Cabrini Green will not be covered over with silence. Brennan King was loved by those who knew him. He was a politically alive proletarian-- struggling to find a way out in a society where young men like him have no future. His brutal execution will not be forgotten or forgiven. And the people will not accept the disrespect, abuse and murder that the system expects them to live with.

It's Right to Rebel
Against Police Brutality!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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