Showdown at Brigade House

Revolutionary Worker #999, March 21, 1999

"Sisters and Brothers, as we begin the new millennium we must cast away illusions and prepare to struggle. The Chicago Housing Authority/Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City of Chicago and their money-hungry, land-grabbing partners in real estate will stop at nothing to drive residents of public housing from their homes. They don't have the interests of the people of public housing at heart. They never have and never will."

from a leaflet by the
Revolutionary Communist Party
(Chicago Branch)

"This letter is a reminder that your clients' lease...expires March 31, 1999. On that date, the premises must be vacated... Please be further advised that the property is scheduled for demolition on April 1, 1999 and your clients should act accordingly."

Letter from the Chicago City authorities
to the residents of 1142 N. Orleans

The Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (who live at 1142 N. Orleans) and the RCYB 2 Defense Committee responded to this City Hall threat by calling on people to help "Draw the line against urban cleansing!"

People are organizing to "Rally around 1142 N. Orleans" at 3:30 p.m. on March 31.


1142 N. Orleans stands on the eastern edge of Cabrini Green. To the east of this Brigade House lies the Gold Coast, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the United States. To the west is Cabrini Green, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. 1142 stands smack in the way of the bulldozers that are supposed to remove most of Cabrini Green so that the Gold Coast can expand.

Many people from Cabrini, the RCYB, and supporters throughout Chicago have united over the last year to stop the demolition of the house, which has developed as a center of struggle against urban cleansing and police brutality. Official lies, threats and bribes have met with resistance. The authorities have been exposed as this struggle has gotten increased coverage in the local media. Long-time residents of Cabrini Green have stepped forward to explain that Medgar Evers--a major civil rights leader murdered by the White Citizen's Council in 1963--lived at 1142 N. Orleans while he was investigating the Mississippi lynching of Chicago youth Emmett Till. Community activists and educators are making plans to use parts of this historic site as a combination school and museum.

The routine brutalization and repeated murders of Black youth by the police are deliberately used by the authorities to drive the people off this coveted real estate. But the recent murder of Brennan King gave rise to large-scale protests by Cabrini residents--and the Brigade House has been deeply involved in that resistance.

On March 7, 60 people gathered at 1142 N. Orleans for International Women's Day. They heard a broad range of speakers link the struggle for liberation of women with some of the key battles going on in the projects.

Clearly there is a mood in Cabrini and among supporters of public housing to defend 1142 N. Orleans. One Cabrini youth said as he left his first International Women's Day celebration, "We all need and fight for the House--and see it all the way through, because we're all under fire."

The RCYB says "All out for the rally at 1142 N. Orleans--March 31, 3:30!"

Free the RCYB 2! It's Right to Rebel Against the Destruction of Public Housing!

On March 22, RCYB members AK Small and Shawn Wall go on trial for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. If convicted they could face a year in jail. These charges came from a dramatic February 22, 1997 protest. Three hundred people disrupted the unveiling of Chicago Mayor Daley's "redevelopment" scheme for destroying Cabrini Green. These "uninvited guests" included lots Cabrini youth and other residents, tenant leaders, Coalition to Protect Public Housing activists and the Maoist revolutionaries of the RCYB. The bold action disrupted more than just a meeting. It disrupted the plans by the authorities to press ahead with the rapid destruction of Cabrini Green.

Chicago is famous for its back-door politics of bribes and deals. The city authorities want to play their usual games of "Let's make a deal" and "Divide and conquer"--making promises to some residents in exchange for "public approval" for the destruction of public housing. Lots of promises have already been broken over and over again, while the authorities claim that they have "broad community support" for destroying the community!

The forceful action on February 22, 1997 was an example of the mass, militant, unified resistance that has a chance of defeating the system's plans. That protest made it much harder for City Hall to pretend they had "community support" and to deny that building demolitions mean intense hardships for the people.

That is why the city has been determined to punish AK and Shawn for their role in that protest--and that is why it is so important to defend the RCYB 2.

It has recently come out that the Chicago police have used their "anti-gang" database to maintain illegal political police records on Brigade activists. AK Small, for example, is listed in the police gang database with a "gang affiliation" of "communist"--the police computer immediately sends out an "officer safety alert" whenever street cops enter AK's name into the computer. Chicago's police conducted notorious political repression and surveillance in the past--including the assassination of Black Panther leaders. The political use of "gang contact cards" is an important sign that the police are actively targeting resistance forces among the people.

Leaders from the Cabrini Green community are set to testify at the RCYB 2 trial. The RCYB has called for a press conference and rally at the court building--1321 S. Michigan, 8:30 a.m., March 22. These two dedicated revolutionary organizers are needed on the streets of the community!

The Battle to Save Public Housing at a Crossroads

The battle for 1142 N. Orleans and to free the RCYB 2 comes at a crucial time. The authorities are determined to press ahead--to destroy 1142, to attack the RCYB activists, and to carry out their plans for the destruction of public housing.

This last bitter winter revealed the hard fact that the authorities have nowhere to send the people they intend to evict! During the year-end blizzard and cold snap, pipes throughout the housing projects froze and burst--creating frozen sculptures of waterfalls in staircases and covering walls and landings with thick sheets of ice. Thousands of families suffered without heat or water. Three-month-old Tyrese Walker died under these inhuman conditions.

The response of the authorities was to evict people and step up their plans for demolitions. 885 families were forced to evacuate. The city authorities announced that 10 more highrises will be shut down in the fall of 1999--saying that the high level of vacancy contributed to the breakdown of pipes and other facilities. Yet there are thousands of people on waiting lists for public housing, and those vacancies could be filled overnight.

It suddenly became clear that the authorities are determined to drive people out of public housing--and have no permanent low-income housing for the people to move to.

In this winter crisis, they had to put people up in hotels and motels. They asked churches to open up their facilities--and asked residents to find space with relatives. And yet these authorities want to move 42,000 more people out of public housing! According to the Coalition to Protect Public Housing there are two families looking for every unit of low income housing right now. For years, the Coalition has asked, "Where are all the people supposed to go?" It's clear the authorities don't have a clue.

Imagine the suffering the people will experience if militant resistance is not organized--right now--against the official demolition plans.

Help "Draw the Line" at 1142 N. Orleans.
The RCYB 2 must stay free, out on the street.


What can people do to stand with CHA residents and activists who are fighting to preserve public housing?

  • Join with and mobilize for the protest to Save 1142 N. Orleans, 3:30 p.m., March 31, 1999.
  • Send money to help pay the many legal expenses. For more information, call Revolution Books at (773) 528-5353.
  • Fax State's Attorney Dick Devine at (312) 603-3000 to demand that charges against the RCYB 2 be dropped. Fax copies to Revolution Books (773) 528-5353.

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