Last night at an anti-Trump rally in the Ohio Union, one of our leading organizers, Tim Adams, was giving a speech to the crowd when he was tackled from behind and knocked down several stairs by a man who had been watching and yelling from the floor above. The crowd acted quickly to restrain the man and protect Tim from further harm, before OSU police moved in and arrested him.
Because there were several individual Trump supporters heckling the crowd throughout the night, because of the nature of the statements the man yelled as he tackled Tim, and, given the reports and experiences of violence and threats of violence from right-wing individuals across the country and at OSU, most witnesses reasonably assumed the assailant was a Trump supporter. Initially, with the information available, Tim felt it was important that white nationalists not be further emboldened by this action and decided to pursue criminal charges in the hopes that it might play some role in protecting movement activists from similar or potentially worse harm in the future.
Since last night, however, we have learned that the man, an OSU student, is not a right-wing activist and was himself upset by the Trump election. We have received further information we will not disclose to protect the man’s privacy, but which has made us confident he should not face charges for the action.
Tim and other ISO members are in the process of reaching out to police, prosecutors, and this student’s family and friends to have charges dropped immediately and to ensure his quick release from jail.
We are relieved to learn that what happened last night was not a further marker of an escalating and emboldened Far Right at Ohio State. From the racist, white-pride propaganda on our own campus last week to the 67% spike in hate crimes against Muslims, including two attacks on Muslim women at nearby University of Michigan, and a scourge of white supremacist vandalism around the country, this political moment is rife with heightened violence against minorities and against anti-racist activists. We are immensely distressed that OSU police officers who have been protecting pro-Trump individuals and groups at several rallies in the last week were unable to stop this attack from taking place, and then that they failed to ask any questions of the attacker that would have influenced the initial decision to press charges.
At this time of such violence and fear, the only real recourse we have is in the coalition of people we can bring together. Determined not to let violence deter him after being attacked last night, Tim returned to the steps a few moments afterward and finished his speech. We are proud to have organizers like Tim alongside us at this difficult political moment. We are happy to say that a medical evaluation last night confirmed that he had suffered no major injuries, though he is obviously sore and shaken. He is currently resting and recovering.
Our only strengths as individuals fighting oppression and exploitation are in our numbers, in our level of organization, and in our commitment to watching out for each other and taking action to protect one another. We appreciate the outpouring of support and solidarity Tim received since last night. We recognize the crushing brutality of this entire political economic system against people of color, the LGBTQ community, the working class and poor, and the disabled. Please continue to join us as we fight for a better world!
For news coverage of the event:
Assaulted as he spoke out against Trump by Nicole Colson on SocialistWorker.org
Corporate media glosses over politics in assault of anti-Trump protester by Steve Palm-Houser on ColumbusFreePress.com
Readers Tim Adams and Charles Peterson give their views on Leon Trotsky's essay "Learning to Think" that was republished by SW with comments on its meaning today.
Read the full article here.
While U.S. imperialism is far from the only cause of the ongoing crisis in Syria, the focus of revolutionaries in the U.S. who stand in solidarity with Syrians must be to force an end to U.S. involvement in Syria and the Middle East as a whole and demand an end to restrictions on the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
Columbus organizers Emily Shaw and Matthew Strauss write about voting Green in the face of the perceived threat of a Trump presidency. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we still have to organize.
Read the full article here.
IF TRUMP does represent a fascist threat, as many liberals and some leftists believe, then his defeat in an election would not spell the end of that movement by his supporters. Organization in the streets is necessary to defeat fascism--and defeat the ideas that Trump represents, for that matter.
Connie Gadell-Newton is the Green candidate running for State Representative for Ohio House District 18 against the Democrat Kristin Boggs. ISO Columbus has endorsed Gadell-Newton's campaign for office because of her involvement in our community, her stance on Black Lives Matter, and her decision to run for office outside of the corrupt Democratic Party.
Read an interview with Connie Gadell-Newton on ColumbusUnderground.
Will Myers and Haley Swenson write from Ohio's capital city on a surge of protests against police violence--and the questions about strategy now facing the movement.
Read the full article here.
The demand for justice for Tyre King and Henry Green, two of the most recent victims of the Columbus Police Department, was at the heart of two simultaneous direct actions that upset business as usual in Ohio's capital city on September 26.
The Columbus branch of the International Socialist Organization has voted to endorse Green Party candidate Bob Fitrakis for Franklin County Prosecutor.
Fitrakis is a long-time Columbus activist whose roots in the community and commitment to his principles make him the only acceptable candidate for this post in a community that is overrun with injustice, discrimination, and corruption.
“Black Lives Matter” has been the slogan of Fitrakis’ campaign, but it is also so much more than a slogan for Fitrakis. Unlike either Republican Ron O’Brien or Democrat Zach Klein, Fitrakis has promised to appoint independent prosecutors to investigate and consider charges against police accused of misconduct or other brutality. This is an essential step toward justice for victims of police brutality in a place with the second highest rate of police shootings-per-capita in the country.
Fitrakis has vowed to stop incarcerating those convicted of drug-related crimes and to turn instead to treatment options. He has promised to advocate for the de-criminalization of marijuana, to set up a whistleblowers’ hotline, to prosecute government officials engaging in voter suppression, and has vowed to fight illegal government surveillance.
After the murders of Ty’re King in September and Henry Green in June, the need for a drastic overhaul of the Franklin County justice system is clear, and a prosecutor with a real commitment to reform would be just one initial but necessary step in that direction. Fitrakis is the only candidate in the race for County Prosecutor who has not only vowed to make the changes activists have demanded, but who has a record as a fighter for the oppressed and disenfranchised that we can trust.
Pranav Jani investigates the long history of police violence in Columbus, Ohio, in the wake of the killing of Tyre King. This article is based on a speech Jani, a member of the International Socialist Organization and the Ohio State University Coalition for Black Liberation, gave at a teach-in at the university this past summer.
Read the full article here.
We need to drastically change the racist perception of Black people and people of color as threats in this city. We need to change the way that police shootings and misconduct are investigated internally and--as the People's Justice Project states--we need a "reinvestment of public resources from overly aggressive police tactics to proactive strategies–like restorative justice and trauma recovery–proven to work in partnership with our communities to make them safer for all."
Last night, a cop with the Columbus Police Department shot and killed 13-year-old Tyre King, in yet another case of racist police murder in the Near East Side. Tyre was at least the third Black person to be murdered by Columbus police this summer alone, after the murders of Kawme Patrick, age 25, on June 30, and Henry Green V, age 23, on June 6.
Tyre was one of the youngest children to be murdered by police in the country since the murder of Tamir Rice in Cleveland nearly two years ago. Now, the Columbus Police Department is returning to the same racist tactics of victim-blaming used against Tamir and his family to justify the murder of this child.
They blame Tyre for his own death, on account of his having a toy gun, conveniently ignoring the fact that police across the country have regularly arrested white aggressors armed with real guns without resorting to deadly violence. We must recognize that the blame in this case falls squarely on the shoulders of the racist Columbus Police Department, which as the Columbus Free Press reported last year, has the second-highest per-capita rate of police shootings in the country, behind only Las Vegas.
In a press conference this morning, mayor Andrew Ginther stated his “thoughts and prayers” are with the King family, but the Ginther administration and city council share responsibility for Tyre’s death. Their policies of gentrifying the Near East Side, over-policing Black residents, and giving CPD ever-greater funding while cutting desperately needed services, created the context for this murder to happen.
Though they give lip-service to supporting better “community-police relations,” Ginther and city council have consistently blocked even modest efforts to address police violence, such as the creation of a Civilian Review Board. The fact that they have dedicated one-third of the city budget to police, while nearly 18% of Columbus residents live below the poverty line, makes their actual priorities clear.
We must reject the false promises of politicians and the racist lies of the media. Columbus Police Chief Jacobs today has called for “calm” pending an “investigation,” but we know that justice will not wait. Real justice can come only through the organized struggle of ordinary, working class people. We express our full solidarity with the King family, and we will continue to work alongside many others to build a movement that can end police terrorism in Columbus -- once and for all.
Jail killer cops! Justice for Tyre King!
Over the last few years, both nationally and internationally, there has been growing awareness about sexual assault within the Left and the determination of survivors and their supporters to speak. The International Socialist Organization, as a national organization, has considered this to be a pressing question for our movement. Recent events in Columbus and sharp debates among activists about the way forward has prompted us in ISO-Columbus to write this statement about our approach to combating the problem. While we stand firmly behind the statement and the principles behind it, we invite dialogue in the Columbus Left and beyond so we can all do better to eradicate sexual assault and rape culture from within social justice movements.
After learning of allegations of sexual violence and abuse of power by one of the main organizers of the Bend the Bars Convergence, ISO members and other activists initiated dialogue with the organizers involved in the Convergence to learn more about the situation, and to support the accuser’s request to us and to others that the accused activist step down from their position of leadership until a process of accountability had been completed.
We know through individual conversations with the organizers of the Convergence that they took these accusations seriously and conducted their own investigations when they were brought to light. However, we also believe it was a mistake not to take the additional step of asking the organizer accused of such serious misconduct to step aside from their position in the conference, pending a more formal accountability process, which is still yet to take place.
We believe a policy of “temporary suspension without assumption of guilt,” whenever there are accusations of sexual assault in the activist community, is a necessary step toward protecting the accuser and other potential victims from further harm and potential marginalization in our movements. It is also necessary because it provides a public demonstration of the seriousness with which activists handle such accusations, and therefore protects the integrity of our organizing and educational spaces.
While there will always be some chance that we are temporarily suspending an activist who is innocent, we do not believe any specific event or coalition is so important that the suspension of one individual from it should be of greater worry than the very real chance that the accused represents an ongoing threat to our community. Likewise, failing to take accusations of sexual assault seriously will create the perception that our movements regard sexual assault as a secondary matter only to be addressed when organizing is complete. Such a stance is incompatible with any conception of social justice worthy of the name.
Temporary suspension from organizing without assumption of guilt is not a punishment, nor is it a violation of the basic principle of due process. Instead, it is a necessary safeguard to ensure that a thorough accountability process will occur within the community affected, and that survivors can safely continue to participate in organizing if they desire to do so in the meantime. To not take this step of temporarily suspending the accused could in effect suspend survivors from participating.
Given that police infiltrators have both used accusations of sexual assault and, more frequently, actually committed sexual assault to weaken movements in the past, due process following a suspension may give us an opportunity to uncover these political machinations. Given also that racism has historically factored into who gets accused and who does not, we must take due process seriously to guard against biased claims. And yet, we know from research that in the vast majority of cases such accusations are not made lightly. Indeed, it also has been documented that an effect of rape culture is that victims are much, much more likely to remain silent out of fear of others not believing them or blaming them, and that false accusations are exceptionally rare.
We cannot simply wait to deal with these issues or to take action until the relevant activists or organizations have created and agreed upon full models for accountability and restorative justice. While we are supportive of efforts to create a process of accountability where those accused can receive some form of due process and perhaps even of rehabilitative programming (when possible and desired by the survivor), deciding what this process will consist of should follow the immediate action of suspending the accused from their organizing roles.
We have to be very sober about where we are as a community. It would be incredible if the entire activist community could come together and design a common set of principles and procedures--binding for all activists--for addressing accusations of sexual assault within our ranks. But we believe we are very far from such a situation in Columbus. In our present circumstance, it goes against every principle of social justice organizing to let an accused or self-admitted perpetrator of sexual violence continue on as if nothing happened -- while the survivor and others are told to wait for an alternative to emerge.
We hope that this practice of temporary suspension without assumption of guilt will become the norm on the Left in general, because we believe it is necessary to protect survivors, and it will create more urgency around hearing and resolving accusations of misconduct when they arise. Too often these accusations are met with silence and inaction, and we must do better.
The Columbus branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) expresses its support for the efforts of local activists in Represent Columbus and the Issue 1 campaign to reform representation in the Columbus city council, which will be decided in a special election on August 2nd.
If passed, Issue 1 would amend the city charter to establish a ward system for city council, in which council members would be elected by and represent specific neighborhoods, and increase the number of council members. In the current system, seven “at-large” council members are elected by the whole city.
We support Issue 1 because Columbus neighborhoods deserve a formal mechanism to elect their representatives directly and hold them accountable. This a basic democratic right, and the fact that it does not exist for working people in Columbus illustrates the limits of “democracy” under capitalism.
Over the last weeks, the Democratic Party and many of the city’s largest corporations have waged a widespread misinformation campaign, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat Issue 1. The bitter opposition of the city’s political and corporate elite to any measure that could potentially threaten their one-party stranglehold clearly demonstrates why we cannot afford to tie ourselves and our movements to the anti-democratic Democratic Party. Instead, we should dedicate our efforts to building and bringing together independent struggles against all forms of oppression and exploitation.
We have worked alongside many members of Represent Columbus to this end in the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles over the last years, and we look forward to continuing our grassroots work together in the years to come. Without such movements, the corporate elite will continue to dominate politics in our city even with a ward system, as examples from cities such as Chicago, New York City, and Boston, among many others, have shown.
The struggle for democracy has always been at the heart of the revolutionary socialist tradition. As socialists, we support all efforts to expand democratic rights within the system as it exists, such as Issue 1. But we also envision and fight for a world where genuine democracy is possible, in which the immense majority of people, not an elite few, collectively determine how to run society in the interests of all working people.