Stopping Rokita’s all-out assault on the people of Indiana and the world

by Derek Ford


Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita consistently initiates fights against the wishes of the people of Indiana. Constantly embroiled in controversy, the latest of which was uncovered on July 20 by IndyStar reporter Johnny Magdaleno, who found Rokita is forcing his employees to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that impose a fine of $25,000 if staff share any of Rokita’s “personal information.” When a public representative works to close ranks by this kind intimidation it does not bode well for the public’s trust and, as Magdaleno writes, this is a highly “unusual” policy unique to Rokita relative to the vast majority of AGs in the country.

“Personal information” is an arbitrary designation, and the public records Indy Star obtained make it clear that what constitutes such information is completely up to Todd’s discretion. For comparison, neither the Governor’s office, the state Supreme Court, Auditor, Treasurer, Finance Authority, Department of Labor, or Secretary of State force NDAs on employees. Yet, as Rokita tries to hide his crimes that continue accumulating, he seeks even more access to our private information, including the medical records of people who don’t fall under his jurisdiction.

There are two sets of laws in Indiana and the U.S.: one for the masses and one for the politicians and the elite they represent.

This is only the latest anti-democratic move Rokita’s made over the last few years. In addition to the most recent campaigns waged against workers and oppressed people worldwide–including his struggle to eliminate free speech in educational institutions, to use government intervention to criminalize medical procedures like abortions, and his belligerent attacks on TikTok and China–we have previously covered, among other things, his prior attacks on Black Lives Matter and on Black students and all teachers,

These are obvious attempts to redirect our attention away from him and his clique of ruling-class politicians by promoting divisions between the people. The masses of people in Indianapolis and the state oppose his reactionary politics that are often entirely contradictory (like his praise of the “free market” alongside his attempt to restrict a corporation’s right to sell particular merchandise). Yet it is important we know the particulars and place them within an overarching framework, because Rokita’s politics aren’t isolated individual viewpoints but part of a new U.S. ruling-class assault on the basic democratic rights domestically and on independent nations worldwide.

Rokita goes after Target for selling merchandise on the free market

Rokita has once again gained the state and national media attention he craves with his ultra reactionary stances. The most recent news focuses on a July 5 letter Rokita and six other Attorneys General sent to Target Chairman and CEO Brian C. Cornell stating their concern over “recent events involving the company’s “Pride” campaign.” They criticize Target’s distribution of funds to the 501(c)3 national organization GLSEN, which was previously known as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. GLSEN formed in 1990 after teachers organized to create better school settings for LGBTQ students and has since conducted a range of campaigns, including original research and policy recommendations, proposed legislation, and curricular and training initiatives.

Rokita says his statement was prompted by a June 15 letter from state Attorneys General commending Target’s “Pride” campaign. That letter relayed their “resolute and unequivocal support for the LGBTQIA+ community as well as our concern regarding recent events in Target stores involving intimidation and destruction of certain Pride-related merchandise and Target’s resulting decision to remove some Pride merchandise from its stores.” In comparison, Rokita’s effort is relatively insignificant, as the June 15 letter was signed by 15 Attorneys General, more than double those who signed Rokita’s.

Rokita’s anti-LGBTQ letter based on lies and hypocrisy

Moreover, an IndyStar investigation revealed Rokita’s letter was based on lies or deceptive “facts.” That investigation, published on July 7, found “the letter is partly based on false or misleading assertions that went viral. Several of the pieces of clothing cited in the letter have either not actually been sold at Target or weren’t marketed for children.

AG Rokita and his colleagues from the states of Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina allege Target’s campaign violates state “laws to protect children from harmful content meant to sexualize them and prohibit gender transitions of children.” While the sexualization of children is a serious social problem in the U.S., it has nothing at all to do with the LGBTQ movement or increased consciousness and acceptance of non-normative gender and sex identities. Instead, the sexualization of children is tied to cultural normative activities like child beauty pageants. 

Rokita is the AG for the state that hosts an annual “Indiana Regency International Pageant” open to young girls beginning at the age of four. “Tiny Miss” includes girls aged four to five, “Petite Miss” is for girls aged six to seven, and a few steps up is “Jr. Teen Miss,” which is open to girls aged 13 to 15. The 2022 holder of the title “Tiny Miss Regency” is six-year old Makynlee Kate Thomas whose profile describes her as ‘a sweet and sassy 6-year old.” Of course, Rokita has not condemned this sexualization of children, not even its “optional” swimsuit wear contest.

Fortunately, Rokita’s assault on LGBTQ people, including children, is not proceeding without a fight-back movement. On June 30, organizers held a protest outside the Indiana State Supreme Court to protest the “slate of hate.” As Noah Leininger, Co-Coordinator of ANSWER Indiana wrote, “the slate of hate is a comprehensive assault on LGBTQ people in Indiana that most severely attacks trans people, one that is as complex as it is comprehensive.”

Organizers moved the protest to the Supreme Court because June 30 the Court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban. This also evidences that Rokita does not speak for the people of his state, as 61 percent of Hoosiers believe abortion should be legal and accessible, with only 10 percent affirming it should be illegal in all cases. According to the December 2022 report from the Public Religion Research Institute, the “red state” of Indiana is populated by the same working and oppressed classes of all states in which an average of 65 percent of people support the legality of abortion.

Rokita’s war against women

After Indiana passed the country’s first post-Roe abortion ban, Rokita dedicated his office’s resources to prosecuting a medical doctor who performed a medical procedure—an abortion—on a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled to Indiana from Ohio for the procedure. In November 2022, Rokita announced his campaign against Dr. Caitlin Bernard who performed the procedure that included a threat of criminal prosecution. The real matter was that Bernard bravely spoke to the media about the case, drawing much-needed attention to the devastating effects of abortion bans.

After dropping the criminal complaint, Rokita’s campaign resulted in a state Medical Licensing Board hearing. The seven-member Board includes six medical doctors and a one attorney appointed by reactionary state governor Eric Holcomb. Several Board members financed Rokita’s political campaign. Despite this, after a 14-hour deliberation the Board rejected Rokita’s demand that they revoke Dr. Bernard’s license. Instead, she was fined $3,000 for supposedly violating patient privacy laws, which her employer denies. A far cry from justice, it was still a devastating defeat for Rokita.

Rokita leads New Cold War against China, deprives Hoosiers of free speech and inquiry

The AG of a Midwestern state has persistently been a leading proponent of the U.S.’s New Cold War against the People’s Republic of China. The Department of Defense officially pivoted away from the “war on terror” to a new military doctrine of preparing for “Great Power Rivalry,” a euphemism for their preparations for a war on China.

In late 2022, Rokita filed two lawsuits against TikTok, one of which claimed the popular social media platform was used to gather information for the Communist Party of China. “The Chinese Government and Communist Party have a demonstrated interest in the kind of data that TikTok collects on its users,” he stated without any evidence, “which they can use to spy on, blackmail, and coerce those users, or to further develop China’s artificial intelligence capabilities, or for any number of other purposes that serve China’s national security and economic interests, at the expense of Indiana consumers.”

A U.S. District Court ruled against Rokita, stating “more than 90% of the (lawsuit) was devoted to irrelevant posturing.” In response, Rokita amended the lawsuit in June 2023.

More dangerously, however, Rokita is attacking free speech and the freedom of access to information about Chinese culture and history. In August 2021, Rokita said he was launching a “civil investigation” into Indiana’s Valparaiso University, a small college in the Northwest region of the state, and the Confucius Institute it hosted. Rokita claims the Institute functions “to spread propaganda and circulate the mantra of the CCP at both the university and in several K-12 schools in Indiana.” 

The anti-China campaign was prompted by a February 2019 report issued by two U.S. senators, Rob Portman and Tom Carper, calling on U.S. educational institutions to end their relationship with the Confucius Institute. In a statement Carper issued shortly thereafter, he claimed, again without any basis in reality, that the Institutes were part of “a quiet effort by China to improve its image in Americans’ minds.”

As Johnny Magdaleno and Arika Herron wrote in the IndyStar, their “report did not find any evidence the institutes were actively violating U.S. law.”

Valparaiso continues to deny any wrongdoing. As a statement sent to the IndyStar immediately after Rokita’s offensive confirms, “Valparaiso University is, and always has been, transparent and compliant with the reporting of these funds,” Nonetheless, Valparaiso caved to Rokita just weeks after he launched his anti-free speech and freedom of information campaign.

On August 30, 2021, Valparaiso University President José D. Padilla wrote to students, workers, and alumni that “I have decided to close the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University (CIVU), effective March 1st, 2022. Until then, CIVU will continue its scheduled musical performances.” Importantly, however he explicitly stated that “we strongly dispute the allegations the Indiana Attorney General has made.” Instead, the primary factor was the possible loss of Department of Education funding.

Even if it was only rhetoric, the significance of a small university president denouncing Rokita’s attacks cannot be dismissed.

Both ruling-class parties are united on their anti-China policy. As Professor Ken Hammond of New Mexico State University who is also an organizer with Pivot to Peace reported, under Trump’s regime in 2020, Federal agents started arresting American and Chinese academics for ties to China and ordered the Chinese consulate general in Houston, TX, to shut down within 72 hours.

China, not Rokita, is our friend

In an August 2021 press release, Rokita stated “China is not our friend” before repeating racist and disproven claims about the country’s refusal to participate in “any transparent investigation into the origins of the China Virus.”

As is typical of ruling-class politicians, they present a completely inverted picture of reality. They allege China is an “aggressor” against the United States. How many Chinese warships are stationed in the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of the U.S.? How many Chinese military bases are there along the U.S. borders between Mexico and Canada? How many times has China invaded or bombed the U.S.? Zero.

The opposite is the case with the U.S. The U.S. miliary has more than 300 bases in East Asia alone. The U.S. continues building on the dozens of military compounds in south Korea it already has to maintain its occupation of the southern half of the Korean peninsula with around 28,000 U.S. troops. Escalating matters, Biden recently sent nuclear-armed submarines to south Korea.

In Japan, the U.S. has around 50,000 troops spread across 23 military bases, and it is increasing its military presence in Guam and Singapore.

As anti-war organizer Carlos Martinez, a co-editor of Friends of Socialist China notes, “the US has been steadily increasing its militarisation of the region for the last decade, stepping up its naval presence in the South China Sea; bolstering its Indo-Pacific Command; and rampaging up its war games, joint exercises, and its development and deployment of advanced weaponry.” In addition, NATO revealed that China is a “full-spectrum systemic rival.”

The U.S. has no right to be in the South China Sea, let alone conducting military exercises there. Can you imagine what the U.S. would do if the opposite was the case? What if North Korea conducted war exercises and stations nuclear-capable submarines along the coast of New York City? Or if China permanently stationed military ships along the coast of San Francisco? To ask these questions is to answer them.

What this indicates is that China is not our enemy nor an aggressor. The U.S. is the aggressor and China’s responses have been markedly measured despite the increasing provocations of the U.S.

The military confrontation is supplemented by the war in the U.S. waged by Rokita. They want to get us on board with the lie that China is somehow our enemy.

Why we must defend oppressed peoples and nations against Rokita and the U.S.

What accounts for Rokita’s absurd attacks and allegations against China and LGBTQ people? There is a rational explanation: he and other mainstream politicians have absolutely no program to end the suffering and exploitation that permeates throughout the U.S.

Instead, they want to turn us against each other so we don’t unite against our common enemy. They want us to think that trans kids, queer people, or Chinese people are our enemies so we don’t realize that, in reality, we are united in our oppression by the U.S. capitalist class.

That is why it is crucial for us in Indiana to actively combat the anti-China rhetoric and actions made by our state representatives. We have to make it clear: Rokita does not speak for us!