By the Editorial Board
Yesterday September 17, the reactionary state targeted leaders of the movement for Black lives in Denver, Colorado. Among those targeted for arrest were four leading activists with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). The charges include the typical array of riot-related offenses and the extreme charge of first-degree kidnapping for allegedly “trapping” police in their own precinct during a July protest with hundreds of participants.
Lillian House, Joel Northam, Eliza Lucero, Russell Ruch, Terrance Roberts, and Trey Quinn were all arrested and charged with felonies. While the allegations are extreme and obviously false, it is clear that the arrested are being retaliated against for leading protests which rocked Denver on several occasions. House, Northam, Lucero, and Ruch are all members of PSL, many of whom have been organizing for years, and Roberts is a co-founder of the Front Line Party for Revolutionary Action.
Tribune has voiced our disagreements with PSL in the past, and we now issue our solidarity to those arrested and condemn this vile act of state repression. We lend our voice to the uproar and call for all charges to be dropped against those arrested in Denver.
The protests in Colorado themselves were organized as part of the national movement in the name of George Floyd and to fight for 23-year-old Elijah McClain, a Black man killed by the Aurora Police Department in August 2019. Elijah was a massage therapist and a gifted, self-taught violinist who was walking home from the corner store wearing a full ski-mask to keep warm, dancing while listening to music. Aurora police approached him after receiving calls of a ‘suspicious person’ and proceeded to violently detain him and inject him with ketamine to subdue him. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died three days later.
Elijah’s heart-wrenching case has spurred consistent and strong protests in Denver, some of which were organized by the targeted activists. On July 3, about 600 demonstrators surrounded an Aurora police precinct for hours. The state uses this situation to claim that 18 officers insider were “kidnapped” due to the farcical idea that the protests kept them “trapped” inside, and the officers were being held hostage until “demands were met,” including calls for justice for Elijah and for victims of police brutality. This case shows that the state seeks to criminalize even the most moderate political positions. The state is making a mockery of its own laws in a desperate effort to attack the mass movement generally, and PSL specifically.
All people of conscience, especially those committed to defending Black lives from the racist murders and brutality carried out by police across the US, must show solidarity and rise to condemn such charges. The state is growing more desperate, fearful of the mass mobilizations and the uprisings which have shaken the country to its foundation since May. This is one of the more transparent and vulgar attempts to cow the movement by stringing up those the state considers radical socialists. As the elections approach, the state will become more desperate to place even more extreme charges against those who stand for a better world.
These arrests are an attack on the movement and the entire people. Bourgeois politicians will posture that they stand for “freedom of speech,” but have proven that they will censor it when it threatens them, claiming the most flimsy legal justifications. This repression comes on the heels of the leak that Attorney General William P. Barr has advocated for protesters to be charged with federal sedition charges, with the Justice Department stating that any forceful resistance to government authority can receive this charge.
PSL says one of the activists was arrested in the parking lot of a Home Depot, another was surrounded by police vehicles while driving, and others were arrested at their homes. The coordinated operation is intended to strike fear into the people and paralyze the movement, but for each individual they kidnap off the streets, more will rise to take their place.
Some of the activists arrested in Denver have gotten out on bond, while others are still in the clutches of the system. Please considering donating generously to the legal defense fund.
The PSL has called for a mass campaign to free their comrades, and we echo this call by calling on our supporters and readers to carry out solidarity actions for the six people arrested this week.
The targeting of activists, with a critical focus on questioning their involvement with socialist and communist organizations, has been documented in past articles and the Denver case resembles police actions in Austin, where the Targeted Three were abducted outside of protests and accused of being “antifa” and “burglars” for nothing more than attending a protest and carrying out basic documentary work.
Our strong political and ideological differences with PSL remain and our solidarity is on the basis of a shared struggle against the police and repressive state as a whole. There is an emergency mobilization for those arrested planned in Denver this Saturday at noon, organized by PSL. Tribune of the People will keep our readers up to date on this struggle.