Looking Back on 2021, Looking Forward to 2022

In 2021, the struggle for working and oppressed peoples’ power continued to develop and respond to the changing terrain. This year saw the launch of Hope Packages, which has provided thousands of emergency care kits to houseless residents. People streamed into the streets for the largest protests in solidarity with Palestine that Indianapolis has seen in years. We continued to protest against the inhuman conditions of Indiana’s jails and prisons. We fought against increased funding to IMPD. We took on a politically connected CEO—and won.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is a fighting party of working and oppressed people. We see these varied struggles for justice as connected fights of our class: the class struggle between workers and bosses, of oppressed people against their oppressors. While the Democratic and Republican Parties pander to big businesses and demand adherence to a system that clearly does not work for the vast majority of people in this country, we strive to link up with the broadest masses of our class to establish a new system that works for the people.

We invite you to read our retrospective on the struggle in 2021. As 2022 begins, we encourage you to get organized, wherever you are in the state. PSL has new organizing structures forming in Fort Wayne, South Bend, Muncie, and Bloomington, and our organizing in Indy keeps growing into more neighborhoods too. We’re still adding even more areas to that list – if you want a PSL presence in your town or neighborhood fighting on local issues, you can be that presence!

Hope Packages, Housing and Related Struggles

As the year opened, we launched Hope Packages: Building Unity Through Solidarity. As a joint project with Indy10 Black Lives Matter, this program was a revival of Operation Care Kit, and continued that model by providing emergency kits to houseless residents. Over the year, our volunteers collected donations and used these to assemble and distribute thousands of kits across Indianapolis. This included a Christmas Day distribution at Cleo’s Bodega and Cafe. We also partnered with area businesses for a coat collection drive, followed by a free distribution at the Central Library. Our thanks again to the workers at Hot Lamb, Irvington Vinyl & Books, and Solace Skateshop for welcoming us to collect donations at their workplaces!

The point-in-time estimate of houseless residents at the beginning of this year found 1,928 people, higher than any of the past ten years. While there were some steps taken early on to provide emergency housing in hotels, the reopening of Indianapolis to commerce through major sporting tournaments and conventions has removed this option from the minds of the capitalists ruling this city. Those same capitalists own tens of thousands of abandoned or vacant housing units that they hold out for exorbitant prices. The problem has been exacerbated by the end to the eviction moratorium, which we fought with demands for a cancellation of rents and mortgages, even including those owed by small businesses and small landlords. The failure of the government to provide even this minuscule concession to the people has exploded into a major problem that grips Indianapolis and the rest of the country alike.

The total failure of the capitalist state to address this problem humanely was typified by the response of City-County Councilor Frank Mascari, Democratic councilor for District 21, to the existence of an encampment of houseless people on the south side, near Garfield Park. Despite his wealth derived from decades of owning a jewelry store in Beech Grove, and his political power as a councilor for nine years as a part of the supermajority Democratic caucus, Mascari’s answer to people’s suffering was to call the racist and violent IMPD from afar to evict these people from their encampment. We responded instead with Hope Packages and a street meeting speaking out against Mascari.

If you’re interested in supporting Hope Packages as we continue this project into 2022, please donate here!

Fighting for victims of police and prison terror

While the protests for victims of terror inflicted by the capitalist government’s police and prisons were less explosive and massive than 2020’s earth-shaking uprising, they were no less militant, passionate, or important. 

From May 2 to 9, Indy10 Black Lives Matter coordinated a week of action, culminating in a demonstration on Monument Circle to push forward the demands for justice for Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose, which had gone unanswered for over a year. The first four days were training seminars and teach-ins, ranging in topics from cop-watch programs and street-medic training to calls to action for mutual aid targeting Indy’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. May 6 and 7 were vigils commemorating the memories of the deceased. On May 8, the rally on Monument Circle was attended by over a hundred people. The families of Reed and Rose spoke, still burning with righteous anger that their sons, brothers, and nephews could not be with them for Mother’s Day.

In the summer, we organized a campaign to “Stop 182,” a proposal to give $3.3 million more in funding to the killer cops of the IMPD as well as the new jail. We canvassed the neighborhoods around the Liberation Center and distributed hundreds of pamphlets. Nearly 17 pages of public comment were uploaded and read aloud during the council meeting that followed June 9, and numerous community organizers participated in public comment during the meeting, after which several were forcibly removed by IMPD officers. Although the proposition was approved, the polarizing event further radicalized those on the sidelines of the struggle to become participants.

When IMPD officers murdered Jessie Leonard near 29th and Dr MLK Jr Streets in September, we responded immediately with an emergency street meeting. In that meeting, we analyzed her death as a part of the war on Black America, even though Leonard was white. Killer cops are armed and trigger-happy because of the police’s ongoing vicious war against Black people, regardless of the skin color of the officers or their victims.

A series of brutal incidents perpetrated by corrections officers in Marion County jail led to a series of demonstrations and a public campaign against the office of corrections in Marion County.

PSL Indianapolis, working together with partner organizations, rallied to amplify public pressure for the release of and dropping of charges against two politically charged arrests made by IMPD with the express intent to intimidate the public. Jermaine Vaughn, who was handcuffed for being “too loud” in public, and who was not resisting arrest in a bystander’s video, was curb-stomped by officer Eric Huxley as his fellow officers continued to taunt and threaten Vaughn in the background. The city jailed Titan Kelly on October 28 for the “crime” of throwing back one of the thousands of illegal, expired tear gas canisters IMPD indiscriminately fired across the city during the 2020 uprising. This was really for protesting peacefully against the brutal police war on Black America. Kelly’s conviction included two counts of “battery against a public safety official.”

On December 30, the Indy Liberation Center and Asian Adoptees of Indiana joined cities across the U.S. for a rally and vigil to mourn the loss and honor the life of Christian Hall, who was killed by police officers December 30, 2020 after experiencing a mental health crisis. Several Asian adoptees from all over the state spoke on the trauma they face from being disconnected from their birth families, growing up in a racist country, and having little to no access to inclusive quality mental healthcare, and others spoke on police brutality against people with mental health issues and disabilities and the connection between anti-Asian racism and imperialism.

Anti-racism struggle at the Indianapolis Public Library ousts racist CEO 

The struggle of the Indianapolis Public Library workers, represented by AFSCME 3395, began when Bree Flannelly, a Black woman who worked at Central Library, attempted to address the Board about the systemic white supremacy and anti-Black racism in the library’s work culture. Before Flannelly could finish speaking, Board President Judge Jose Salinas muted her in the middle of her time and read a prepared statement to discredit her. In response, the union began a campaign to make actionable changes to their workplaces. A July 22 report by Natalia Contreras for the IndyStar not only confirmed the legitimacy of the grievances of library workers and the community, but added new damning evidence to support the movement’s demands.

Stephen Lane, an AFSCME member, spearheaded the struggle through organizing a campaign of intensive pressure on the IndyPL board. Jackie Nytes’ emails were leaked, in which she attempted to recruit Black community leaders to support her and speak against any claims of racism. After continued public pressure by the union and Liberation Center organizers resulted in local charities withdrawing their support of the library foundation, Nytes announced her resignation via an email to library employees on August 20, a victory celebrated by organizers and workers alike.

The library struggle continues. With Salinas still on the board, the demands put forward by IndyPL workers are still incomplete. The board also approved a $100,000 contract for the climate survey to be done by Ice Miller, an outside firm that may have close ties to sitting board members, a move that has been sharply criticized by the workers.

Free Palestine! Anti-imperialist struggle strong in 2021

Throughout the year PSL partnered with Muslim Youth Collective, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine on various campaigns and events for the liberation of Palestine. Butler University attempted to block an event hosting Angela Davis, pressured by Zionist groups; PSL joined the fight and the event was reinstated. This coalition would go on to commemorate Nakba Day by demonstrating outside Todd Young’s office, picketing the State House lawn and the Rolls-Royce offices, and speaking on Monument Circle. As the crisis surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque escalated, so too did the show of solidarity in central Indiana. 

The movement to stop U.S. aggression on Cuba and China

April 25 was the first of several demonstrations to be held throughout 2021 in defense of the Cuban Revolution, led and organized to end the blockade, lift the ban on remittances, and lift all sanctions against the Cuban people. PSL Indy, CPUSA, Indy10, and other organizations would join together in the subsequent events as the year progressed and conditions between the US and Cuba changed with the Biden administration. 

PSL also participated in demonstrations in South Bend and Bloomington. In Bloomington, organizers with CUBAmistad held a vigil for victims of the deadly blockade of Cuba on November 17, and in South Bend, organizers with the Michiana Alliance and PSL Indiana hosted a forum on December 16 to demystify the State Department’s propaganda about Cuba. 

As part of the national day of action to stop anti-Asian violence, and to stop the US’s Sinophobic policies at home and abroad, ANSWER Indiana, Indy10 Black Lives Matter, and the Indianapolis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation held a demonstration at Monument Circle in downtown Indy on March 27. The Party’s anti-imperialist lens was essential in providing a counter-narrative to the generic anti-discrimination goals of more reform-minded groups, and allowed for greater focus on how the US’ anti-China policies abroad go hand-in-hand with anti-Asian racism at home.

Abolish ICE!

On April 24, around 100 people braved the rain in Indianapolis to support Cosecha Indiana’s rally and march to “unmask” the Biden administration as just another face of the same system. The Indianapolis Liberation Center and Cosecha demanded: Permanent protection for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, the immediate closure of ICE detention camps, an end to deportations, and the funding of study sessions for licenses to all migrants who are eligible.

Liberation Forums continue to provide clear analysis, platform for broad united front

Opening with Joe Biden’s infamous “nothing will fundamentally change” quip, our first forum of 2021 specifically dealt with the various deceitful ways that Democrats demand public support but refuse to support their public. On March 26, the forum covered what U.S. Imperialism looks like in a Democrat’s regime, that is to say, no different from a Republican’s, and how it is important to combat the tendency towards complacency while a Democrat is in the Oval Office. 

Held on June 26, our forum “Participant to Leader” described how the Party trains and develops leaders from the working class, and it was the turning point for several recruits to finalize their decision to become candidate members of the PSL. The info session emphasized that organizing is a skill, and is best learned collectively. 

Our next forum was hosted in collaboration between the Indianapolis Liberation Center and Indianapolis Library Workers for Justice, organized at a crucial juncture in the struggle against the IndyPL board’s racist, homophobic records. Further, it united and motivated the union membership into taking coordinated action. 

On October 1, we heard reports from local struggles, an announcement of the victorious defense of the Denver PSL organizers who were wrongfully imprisoned for their role in BLM protests, and an analysis of the anti-war movement twenty years after September 11, 2001 were delivered to a forum of community members and comrades.

Black August Series deepens study, training, fighting spirit

On the 5th, the branch opened our series on Black August by reaffirming the principles we continue to honor: study, fast, train, fight. Exploring the works of George Jackson, attendees were challenged intellectually and politically, and encouraged to continue the hard work necessary to achieve Black liberation and revolution once and for all.

The second installment in the Black August series focused on material explored in the Black Struggle is Class Struggle series on Liberation School, the connection between white supremacy and anti-communism, the limits to the liberal identity politics that atomizes the movement into “allies” and “oppressed”, and the necessity of building a multinational party of working-class comrades.

Next, we focused on the most clear and present danger to the oppressed and working people in the U.S.: our own police. Exploring deeper into the slogan “abolish the police,” the speakers examined what the role of the police is in capitalist countries while using examples from conditions in Indianapolis. Additionally, we discussed what it means for communities to protect themselves.

The fourth and final installment of the series was organized in collaboration with the Muslim Youth Collective, and analyzed the history of internationalism among seemingly disparate national liberation movements. From solidarity between Korean revolutionaries and the Black Panther Party, to Black liberation organizers training with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to Cuba’s commitment to societal reparations for Afro-Cubans and Black people abroad, we studied international connections in the past and present.

Liberation Flicks provide revolutionary cultural opportunities through film screenings

Our first screening was of Screaming Queens by Susan Stryker, which documents the Compton Cafeteria Riot in April 1966. It was followed by a discussion of the early days of queer/trans liberation struggle in the days of McCarthyist policies that discriminated against both suspected Communists and queer people. 

On July 8, the branch held a screening of Gaza Fights for Freedom by Abby Martin of Empire Files. Filmed during the height of the Great March of Return protests, it features exclusive footage of demonstrations where 200 unarmed civilians have been killed by Israeli snipers since March 30, 2018. Speakers from both PSL and MYC further solidified the commitment of revolutionaries here to the liberation of Palestine. 

Two days after the 68th anniversary of the United States’ refusal to sign a peace treaty with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we held a screening of the documentary Loyal Citizens of Pyongyang in Seoul, filmed by PSL comrade David Yun to combat the propaganda of the defector industry. Accompanied by solidarity statements written specially for the screening by the People’s Democracy Party of South Korea and from Kim Il Sung University Prof. Chung Kiyul. 

Joining several other organizations, Indy PSL held an information booth at Flanner Farms’ first May Day event, a People’s Picnic. The event was largely attended by those local to the Riverside neighborhood, and provided a unique opportunity to build solidarity with organizations based in one of the most oppressed neighborhoods in the city.

Supporting working class cultural organizing across the city

On July 31, the Muslim Youth Collective hosted their annual art show titled “A Language for Exiles.” Showcasing Muslim art and voices in the community as expressions of resistance to imperialism and colonialism through poetry, speeches, and visual art, they connected the pain of dispossession and oppression with the joy of resilience and resistance. Party members attended, provided equipment, and read a statement of solidarity.

For Trans Day of Remembrance, we joined with TransSolutions, Queering Indy, and other organizations in a candlelit vigil on the steps of the State House to honor the memories of those trans people whose lives were lost in the previous year. The next day, the Liberation Center hosted a forum on the struggle for transgender liberation from a revolutionary optimist perspective, reaffirming the importance of collective struggle. 

Statewide organizing

This year, thanks to all of our growth and successes in Indy, we’ve been able to spread not only to new struggles but new geographical areas. The Indianapolis branch is now admitting members from all over the state, and we have started organizing in 5 new Indiana cities where we weren’t before.

In October, with the assistance of comrades from Indy, our new organizers in 4 different cities facilitated Liberation Forums that introduced our Party and socialism in general to the working class people of Muncie, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Bloomington. Later, in December, we also held a similar well-attended forum in Martinsville, which proves that socialism is needed and appreciated everywhere, even in small towns.

In November, Muncie Central High School’s school resource officers cornered and harassed a student for making a poster about Black Lives Matter for a school project. The school administration, siding with the cops and using Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s anti-BLM statement as cover, ordered all posters be taken out of the hallway immediately. Students quickly launched protests demanding . For the final and largest protest at the city hall, local PSL organizers provided resources like placards, megaphones, and even wrote the only news article about the protests that doesn’t include the police’s point of view. 

In Muncie and South Bend, we mobilized actions to defend the right to abortion free and on demand as part of a nationwide day of action on December 1. In both cities, people of all genders demanded an end to reproductive oppression with chants like “We won’t go back, we will fight back!”

Finally, we are currently seeking donations of winter clothes for the Muncie Coat Drive. This project aims to help the segments of the working class who are the most oppressed and vulnerable, as well as bringing the community together by closing the divisions between neighbors who do not have housing and those who do.

We look forward to the day when our Party has a branch in every last city and town in Indiana, and for that matter, the whole U.S. It will take a massive mobilization of tens of millions of working class leaders to defeat capitalism, and we are proud to say that we got closer to that goal in 2021. We’ll see you in the struggle in 2022!