Cabrini Green, Chicago: Justice for Jappa D!

Revolutionary Worker #1176, November 24, 2002, posted at

There are eight 16-story, two 10-story and nine 7-story buildings in Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project--along with several hundred row houses. On Wednesday, November 13 residents of Cabrini, along with supporters from around Chicago, marched to every building and snaked through the row houses demanding: "Justice for Jappa D--Stop Police Brutality."

Michael Walker, known to his friends as Jappa D, was beaten with a pistol and then shot in the face by a Chicago cop on October 27. The November 13 march was the third one held in Cabrini demanding justice for Jappa D.

Before every march police were deployed all over the community. They put squads of cops shoulder- to-shoulder in the entrances of every building. Dozens of cops worked to corral in anyone who managed to get out to the marches.

The cops faced off against 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds in the march and stared daggers at the teenagers and adults. After the first march they chased people into the building where Jappa was killed; they caught and beat one youth and threatened to "put a bullet in [his] ass." After the November 13 march the cops attacked a 12-year-old in the march, grabbing him in the crotch and throwing him in a police car.

The cop who killed Jappa D served one week paid suspension and is now back out in Cabrini. Since he's been back he's already beaten two teenagers with his walkie talkie.

Jappa D was known as a peacemaker among the people and everyone agreed he had a million dollar smile. He could go into the territory of any gang without fear. For many teenagers Jappa, 21 years old, was a mentor and there was a saying, when there was a problem to work out, "Go ask Jappa." When conflicts arose among the people Jappa would say, "Do what you got to do--but don't fight," and "Respect each other like I respect you."

But to the police Jappa was just another "gangbanger from the projects"--if anything, to the cops, he was worse because he insisted on respect. After he was shot he was left lying in a spreading pool of blood, handcuffed--while the police escaped the scene in the ambulance. It was two and a half hours before another ambulance showed up--too late to do anything but take away Jappa's body.

Among the people there is much debate over what it will take to get justice--and why it is so important. It is clear to many that if the police can get away with murder then they will get away with the daily beatings, frame-ups and harassment which is the regular relationship between the police and the people in public housing. It is common to hear folks on the marches saying, "We should march every night until we get justice." And in the dim hallways and rooms of the highrises people discuss what it will take to really get rid of police brutality and the oppressive system the police serve and protect.

The slogan "Jail the Killer Cop" is very popular--but many people also feel that "jail is too good" for the cop who killed Jappa. Faith in the criminal justice system is low because pretty much every family in Cabrini knows how criminal the justice system really is when a person is poor and Black. Police have already threatened the witnesses. But the community is determined to bring out the truth--and one of the most popular chants at the recent march was "hands off the witnesses."

Cabrini Green has several sources of strength in this struggle for justice. One strength is the family of Michael Walker. The housing project is a half-mile wide and almost a mile long--and Jappa D has sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, and aunts in every part of it. They have been out in the struggle in strength and show no sign of slowing down.

The fearlessness of the youth is also an important element. Teenage women, carrying pictures of Jappa, walk right up to the police blocking the doorways. They wave signs in the cops' faces chanting, "no justice, no peace, no fucking police." The youth have given the marches great strength and energy.

Another strength is that people in Cabrini don't feel so all alone these days. Last week the city of Chicago put 1,200+ cops, decked out in riot gear, in the street to face off against anti-globalization youth and others protesting the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue. Several squads of those cops were mobilized out of the 18th District station, right in the heart of Cabrini Green. And the night before the TABD, cops occupied at least one building in Cabrini.

Anarchist youth from Chicago and the suburbs have joined the marches in Cabrini. Also out in the marches have been Green Party members, people from the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, Palestinians, two different Black Panther groups and Fred Hampton Jr. The Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade is on the ground in Cabrini every day, working with the family and residents of the community to build the struggle.

People in Cabrini are increasingly conscious that their struggle is taking place in the midst of a swirl of world events. Teenagers talk about the unjust UN resolution against Iraq in the same conversation where they strategize about the struggle for justice in Cabrini. People laugh at the idea of "the U.S. war on terrorism" and describe how they live under terrorism every day. And some talk about the "war at home." There is anger, determination to get justice and hope for the future. Marching along beside a college student, one Cabrini youth explained, "You know, there won't always be prisons. There won't always be police."

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