Action Alert:

Legal and Vigilante Repression of the Antiracism Movement

MAPA Newsletter October 2020

Far-right groups, including militias and white supremacists, rally Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Stone Mountain, Georgia, while a broad coalition of leftist anti-racist groups organized a counter-demonstration. (Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS) Far-right groups, including militias and white supremacists, rally Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Stone Mountain, Georgia, while a broad coalition of leftist anti-racist groups organized a counter-demonstration. (Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

by Rosemary Kean

Last week several organizers in Colorado who have been organizing nearly daily protests over the summer demanding justice for Elijah McClain, murdered by police last year, were arrested and charged with felony kidnapping among other felony charges. The kidnapping charge was apparently related to protests that occurred the first week of July when protesters surrounded a police station. It is asserted that protesters blocked roads and doorways. It seems that the felony charges are meant to intimidate protesters and incarcerate organizers.

Since August, right-wing activists, many carrying firearms, have begun showing up at antiracism protests. (NYTimes 9/5/20) Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, notes “The far right is now anointing themselves the only force standing between order and chaos, a dangerous step toward normalizing the political violence that they already hold a monopoly on.” Prior to this, protests were primarily peaceful; violence, when it occurred, was precipitated by police in riot gear advancing on protesters. Some protesters have also decided to carry guns.

This volatile situation is only exacerbated by the legal system’s lack of response to demands that officers involved in shooting deaths of civilians be prosecuted. After the announcement of the Kentucky Attorney General (who is McConnell’s former lawyer, as Rev. Dr. Barber has pointed out) on September 23 that the grand jury investigation brought no indictment relating to the murder of Breonna Taylor, grief and outrage erupted in Louisville and in other cities around the country. The Movement for Black Lives press release of Sept. 23 notes that Grand Juries indict 99% of the time. When they don’t indict, it suggests “a lack of will on the part of the state.”

MAPA’s Racial Justice and Decolonization Working Group read Prof. Ibram Kendi’s book How To Be An Antiracist last year. His comment on the lack of a Grand Jury indictment in the death of Breonna Taylor is: “We must step out of the whirlwind and see what’s going on. There are people challenging racism and there are people trying to discredit and destroy those of us who are challenging racism, from Trump on down. But they’ll never stop our calls for justice.”

—Rosemary Kean is co-chair of Mass. Peace Action’s Racial Justice and Decolonization Working Group and co-chair of the Board of Directors.