Minneapolis: Tom Moseley, Activist for Black Lives, Faces Sentencing after Targeted Federal Repression

Photo: Activist Tom Moseley (center) standing with family members of victims of the police.

By Michael Nolan

Tom Moseley, an activist fighting racist police violence, faces sentencing on Wednesday, January 5, for federal charges related to his participation during protests in the May Uprisings which followed the police murder of George Floyd. These charges fit the pattern of the Biden administration which intensifies its repression of progressive and revolutionary activists by twisting federal law to expand their jurisdiction and bring heightened charges. Moseley is being targeted due to his years of work with families affected by police violence, drawing attention to their stories and naming the officers responsible.

Moseley with Donna Chisesi (left), and Veda Washington (right). Both women have family members who were killed by police.

Mosely told Tribune of the People he was first inspired to organize against police violence by Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback who drew negative media attention in 2016 for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racist police violence. In 2018, Moseley protested every NFL game day at various locations, sometimes by himself. Through this work he connected with Donna Chisesi, whose son, Jonathan Victor, was murdered by Alabama police. Together with Chisesi, Moseley helped connect a network of hundreds of other families impacted by police violence.

Families whose loved ones are killed by the police not only live with the immense pain of their loss, but Moseley says many are further harassed by the police as they persist in their fight for justice. “I know multiple families that have had to either move out of their home or from their city or state because they are being stalked so bad by the police.”

This harassment can extend to those who stand with the families. “When I still lived in Michigan, the police were driving by my house every single day.” Moseley said. “I think a huge part of that is because I’ve been able to shed light on so many of these cases [of racist police violence] and get the truth out there that they’ve tried to cover up. […]I’ve always made sure to use the officer’s name who were involved as well.”

Moseley told Tribune he wasn’t surprised that the State targeted him so heavily. He says that in Minneapolis, many of the police who have killed people specifically participate in policing protests and vigils against racist police violence, holding vendettas against activists. “Honestly” says Moseley, “they were just waiting for some way to arrest me and get charges to stick.”

The State of Minnesota claims to have identified Moseley spray painting the Minneapolis Police Department Fifth Precinct Headquarters in surveillance video from a protest of approximately 50 people. Using this claim as probable cause, he was identified and arrested at a protest where his possession of a firearm was illegal due to proximity to a court house.

In a subsequent raid of the apartment occupied by Moseley and his then wife, the police found illegal drugs, which was used to construct the charge of “Possessing firearms and ammunition while being an unlawful user of, and addicted to, controlled substances.” This raid directly led to them being evicted from their apartment.

For this charge, the State of Minnesota was offering a plea deal of no more than 90 days in jail. Because these are Moseley’s first criminal charges, this would typically not result in heavier federal prosecution. In January of 2021 however, the federal government intervened using the pretense that some of the guns Moseley legally possessed had been purchased in Michigan and thus allowed them to cite interstate commerce, giving jurisdiction to the federal government. In the crosshairs of the federal justice system, Moseley determined his best legal avenue was to plead guilty to the federal charges.

When it comes to the fight against racist police violence, Moseley is optimistic. “My entire life is going to be devoted to making the necessary changes in the world… its our responsibility and our duty to do everything we’re able to do to make that happen.” he told Tribune.

To everyone fighting for a more just world he says: “Keep the hope alive. Don’t let what they do to some of us stop any momentum. Fight for change. Be aware of how they can spin things and make them look a certain way to people who don’t believe in what we’re doing, especially the court system. […] I’m just one person in this, none of us are free until we’re all free.”

Moseley told Tribune he appreciates all the support he has received so far, such as donations, phone calls, and people filling the court room during his hearings. He also recognized the work of Drop the Charges, a coalition formed after the May Uprisings in 2020, which has fought for all charges against protesters from the mass rebellions to be dropped.

Drop the Charges created a petition calling for the judge in Moseley’s case to consider the positive impact he has had on the families of hundreds of victims of police violence. Tom and other activists for Black Lives are calling for people to attend his sentencing in Minneapolis in order to demonstrate Moseley’s deep ties to the community and people’s movements, and to stand with all protesters facing repression. The hearing, which is open to the public, is at 1:30PM on Wednesday, January 5, in court room 8E at the Federal Courthouse at 300 S. 4th St. in downtown Minneapolis.

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