Revolutionary Worker #1012, June 27, 1999
On June 17, a Chicago court convicted AK Small and Shawn Wall of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade--for the "crime" of organizing people to stand up against the destruction of public housing. AK was convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest and sentenced to 45 days in jail and one year probation. Shawn was convicted of misdemeanor obstructing arrest and received a year's probation and 20 days of SWAP (Sheriffs Work Alternative Program). AK was whisked away to Cook County Jail moments after the verdict was announced.
These verdicts and sentences are an outrage. This is a vicious act of revenge by a system which has been stung by the resistance to its plans to eliminate public housing and disperse communities of poor people.
The charges against AK and Shawn--known as the RCYB 2--stem from a protest on February 22, 1997 when 300 people disrupted the unveiling of Mayor Daley's "redevelopment" scheme for destroying the Cabrini Green housing project. Taking part in the protest were Cabrini Green youth and other residents, tenant leaders, activists from the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and the RCYB. The action was a powerful challenge to the plans by the authorities to press ahead with the rapid destruction of Cabrini Green and the attacks on the poor who live there.
AK, Shawn and the RCYB became even more hated by the authorities through the recent battle to defend the Brigade House at 1142 N. Orleans. The City targeted the Brigade House because it stood in the way of their moves against the Black community in and around Cabrini Green. The Brigaders called on the people to "draw the line" with them against urban cleansing, and they mobilized broad support in the housing projects and throughout the city.
The trial made clear that those in positions of authority were set on railroading AK and Shawn, getting them out of action and sending a message to all those who resist their plans. Every aspect of this court case--from pre-trial motions to jury selection to sentencing--was marked with the stamp of injustice.
During jury selection, two potential Black jurors were excluded because they said they had experience with police brutality. This is an example of how the courts systematically shut out the life experiences of the oppressed from their proceedings. When the prosecutors were challenged by the defense after striking another Black man from the jury, they incredibly claimed that they had no idea this person was Black! In contrast, two middle class white people--with ties to a major real estate company involved in the "redevelopment" of Cabrini Green--were allowed onto the jury. (One of those jurors was removed after the trial began when this issue became too much of an exposure.) This was not the only example of "conflict of interest"--the judge himself admitted that he is a friend of one of the politicians who ran the city's February 22, 1997 meeting.
The treatment of witness testimony in the trial was also revealing. One defense witness mentioned in a matter-of-fact way that there is a conspiracy to steal Cabrini Green land from Black people. The judge struck this statement from the court record and told the jury they must disregard it. But the judge did not have any objection when a prosecution witness--a city official who has been closely involved in the "redevelopment" of Cabrini Green--tried to put out a ludicrous "mad bomber" image of AK. This official said AK was running around the auditorium on February 22 with a "crazy piece of equipment strapped to his chest"--referring to a speaker for a sound system that AK was carrying. And a police lieutenant testified that city officials and cops feared for their safety during the meeting. This turned reality upside down--it was the cops who attacked the demonstrators, singling out AK and Shawn for arrest.
All this was on top of outrageous rulings earlier in this case. The judge ruled against a defense motion to dismiss the charges--based on the obvious political motivation behind the arrest and backed up by abundant evidence of political repression. And defense efforts to force the authorities to release additional information which could help their case were also denied.
At every moment during the trial, it was clear exactly whose courtroom this was. City officials, developers, police, judge and prosecutor--all connected and friendly, as they sit in judgment of the masses and their leaders. Revolutionaries understand this is not just a personal thing--it's a class thing.
At the sentencing, the prosecutors asked for one year in jail for AK and two years probation for Shawn. The prosecutor's blatantly political reasoning was that AK should get a long jail term because of the previous record of arrests. The prosecutor argued that 11 arrests without conviction, a felony case resulting in acquittal, and a single misdemeanor conviction nine years ago--all related to political activity--was evidence of a serious offender. What this record really shows is the political targeting of this revolutionary by the authorities. The judge commented that "where there is smoke, there is probably fire"--and then covered his tracks by saying he wouldn't really consider these arrests without conviction in deciding the sentence. He also attacked AK by characterizing his "resisting arrest" at the February 22 protest as "vigilantism."
The supporters of the RCYB 2 immediately took out news of the verdict and sentencing to the people. Everywhere they went--among Cabrini Green residents and public housing activists, in the protests against recent police murders--people were outraged. Why is AK in jail--while the cops who just shot two unarmed Black people in the streets of Chicago are walking around free!? The verdict has been a wake-up call for some in the public housing movement, underlining how seriously the power structure takes the resistance to the national plan to eliminate huge amounts of public housing.
In a statement in support of the RCYB 2, Beauty Turner--writer, minister of information for the New Black Panther Party and resident of Robert Taylor Homes--said: "Injustice can no longer be accepted nor tolerated! These young people that's on trial here today didn't do nothing wrong--except express their views, their concerns, and theirs and our rights as a people, and a great need for public housing! They express our basic need for shelter, food, clothes and water which is a must! We as a people can no longer tolerate the displacement of the poor!"
Plans are being made to further rally support for AK and Shawn. The Stop Urban Cleansing Defense Committee is calling for letters of protest to be sent to the judge. Efforts are underway to appeal the verdict and sentence and get AK out of jail. AK and Shawn are also part of the Stop Urban Cleansing 5, who were arrested during the eviction and demolition of 1142 N. Orleans. The next hearing in this case is on July 13.
The authorities have been trying for years to put AK behind bars because of his uncompromising stand in support of the people and his role as a leader of the masses. Revolutionary leaders like AK are precious, and they must be defended.
The persecution of the RCYB 2 shows what the powers are afraid of: mass, militant resistance that has the real potential to deliver defeats to their plans to destroy public housing. As Mao Tsetung said, when the enemy attacks the revolutionaries and the people, it is a sign that we are making progress in our struggle.
Contact the Stop Urban Cleansing Defense Committee for more information and to give much-needed contributions to the legal defense: 3449 N. Sheffield, Chicago, IL 60657. (773)528-5353.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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