Ryan Mears and IMPD complicit in the genocide of Palestinians

On April 25, the third day of the Jewish holiday Passover, Jewish Voice for Peace – Indiana held an empty Seder outside the mansion of Governor Eric Holcomb to protest the Israeli and U.S. genocide against Gaza. At the same time, ANSWER Indiana helped organize another rally to run defense and distract police attention and resources from the empty Seder. Despite ANSWER’s efforts, IMPD arrested 14 Seder participants. Now Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, in an outrageous move, has charged the 14 Seder participants with “obstructing traffic,” a class B misdemeanor that, if convicted, could result in 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 for each of the activists. This stands in stark contrast to the treatment of protestors at Indiana University – Bloomington. There, Monroe Country Prosecutors declined to press charges.

The Seder is a ritual meal, typically held on the first night of Passover, during which the Exodus story is told. In protest of the Israeli genocide, protesters set up bare tables in front of the Governor’s Mansion on Meridian Street, covered only with a tablecloth reading, “Our Seder Plates are Empty, STOP STARVING GAZA.” Nearly a hundred protesters gathered nearby, carrying signs and banners with messages like “Stop Arming Israel” and “Stop The Genocide, End All U.S. Aid to Israel!” Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Police Department (IMPD) bore down on the peaceful protestors arresting the 14 who Mears would later charge.

We have seen this kind of police violence towards peaceful protestors many times before, especially during the heroic uprising against racist police terror in 2020. During that summer, IMPD attempted to discredit and divide protestors by spinning binary narratives that there was a right and a wrong way, a peaceful and a violent way, to protest. All this served their efforts to try and invalidate protests that did not stay within the confines of the system upheld by IMPD and city government and to try and justify IMPD violence against said protesters. The same thing is happening now, as the charges against the 14 protestors for “obstructing traffic” are just another attempt by IMPD, Prosecutor Ryan Mears, and city government to discredit protests for Palestine and to try and set the terms for what protests are deemed acceptable in this struggle.

The IMPD has also already begun their efforts to divide the movement as they posted the names, ages, and areas of Indiana that all 14 protestors were from on their social media showing a clear attempt at doxing and isolating the protestors. However, IMPD is sorely mistaken if they think these tactics will derail the movement for Palestine. Rather, it is a historical fact that, whether looking at 2020 or the student protests all around the country today, police tactics aimed at suppressing movements against oppression only add further fuel to the flame and embolden those who stand in solidarity with Palestine.

Furthermore, during the 2020 uprisings streets were shut down all over Indianapolis by organized protesters, even before the nationwide rebellion began following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On May 7, 2020, the day after Indianapolis Metropolitan Police murdered Ashlynn Lisby, McHale Rose, and Dreasjon Reed, hundreds of protesters took over the intersection of 62nd Street and Michigan Road where Reed had been shot to death by Dejoure Mercer. Throughout the summer, marches shut down major roadways including 38th Street on the northwest side, several streets in the downtown Mile Square, and elsewhere. Though significant IMPD violence against protestors took place throughout that period, almost no one was arrested for “obstructing traffic” during these marches.

One explanation for the current arrests then could be a difference in circumstances. The 2020 uprisings saw protests in hundreds and thousands compared to the one hundred or so protestors present at the empty Seder. Additionally, the arrest of these 14 protestors can also be taken as a reflection of just how fearful IMPD and the city government are of the growing movement for Palestine. Such a fear is illustrative of the fact that the struggle for a free Palestine is not one that they can easily co-opt, given its fundamentally anti-imperialist nature. The movement therefore stands directly opposed to the current systems upheld and protected by the police.

Simply put, the choice by IMPD to arrest people protesting a genocide and the choice by Ryan Mears to bring criminal charges against them illuminates how desperate the state is to suppress the movement for Palestine. The hypocrisy in the system is plain too, as when racist cops are caught on camera brutalizing or murdering Black Hoosiers, the police and prosecutor collude to deceive the public as to the ability of prosecutors to charge police and the “difficulty” in securing convictions, which are rarely fought for. In such cases, Mears has a history of hiding behind special prosecutors and grand juries who fail to return indictments despite Mears having the ability to “make recommendations on whether a grand jury should return an indictment.” Furthermore, public data on IMPD police action shootings shows that from 2015 to 2023 there had only been one case where charges were filed, highlighting the lack of concern the city government shows for killer cops in contrast to their active suppression of the movement for Palestine.

The people of Indiana will not silently allow our state or local governments to be complicit in the genocide of Palestinians. The 14 people who stand accused of obstructing traffic are not criminals—they are heroic fighters for justice whose charges must be dropped. Ryan Mears, the terrorist officers of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Eric Holcomb, and other state officials who support the genocidal Zionist entity are the real criminals!

Featured image: Participants during the empty Seder ceremony. Credit: Indianapolis Liberation Center