PSL Indy in 2020: Looking back on a year of struggle to prepare for 2021

PSL Indy in the streets hours after the grand jury decision to let Dreasjon Reed’s killers off the hook. Photo: Ted Somerville.

PSL Indy increases and expands actions while consistently organizing during ebbs and flows of movement

At the end of every year, the Indianapolis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation looks back on our own–and the movement’s–activities, campaigns, interventions, and growth. When you’re organizing day-in and day-out, taking a moment to zoom out is helpful for analyzing the ups and downs and twists and turns of the struggle. This is especially true this year, as our own lives and the progressive movement have been especially difficult and complex as a result of the capitalist government’s failure to respond adequately to COVID-19.

Yet with the support of our members, friends, supporters, allied organizations, and the working and poor people of Indianapolis, 2020 has been an important year for the struggle in Indianapolis. We ourselves have grown in membership and experience, have strengthened existing alliances and forged new ones, and most importantly have reached thousands of Hoosiers with the message that there is an alternative to capitalism: socialism. That alternative is not only possible, but necessary–and it can only be achieved through revolution.

PSL Indy led and initiated a variety of struggles this year–from the first-ever March for Choice, multiple protests against the U.S war threats against Iran, and leading delegations to support Koreans facing racism in Japan January to our Cancel the Rents protests in May and July and the campaign and protest against Prop 291 in November.

Because the struggle is constantly evolving, we wanted to go over these activities as we begin a new year dedicated to building the revolutionary movement. It’s important to reflect on our past activities as we plan for a new year of organizing. We are especially excited to launch our “Hope Packages: Building Unity Through Solidarity” project in January.

As you continue reading, if you’re inspired by our activities–those we initiate and those we support–consider joining the PSL today! And remember that the events and campaigns listed below are carried out in addition to the regular work of the Party: street outreach, training new candidate-members, leading internal classes, supporting national PSL work, and more.

Fighting racist police terror: Defund IMPD and Free Them All!

Police terror is a daily reality in the U.S. and here in Indianapolis. When the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department murdered 3 people within 8 hours in early May–two of whom were young Black men–the people rose up in anger. Throughout early May we helped organize, provide security, and participated in several rallies demanding justice for Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose. We were one of a few groups who participated in a May vigil for McHale and in a celebration of Dreasjon and McHale’s lives in July. Together with Indy10 Black Lives Matter, we crafted a list of demands to organize the campaign around justice for McHale.

On May 30, we staged a “Cancel the Rents” demonstration that also demanded justice for George Floyd. Within days, the protests turned into rebellions in June, and we were in the streets throughout.

Our comrades were tear gassed, harassed by the cops, and more. We stood in unconditional solidarity with the Black organizations and individuals initiating these events. We were there for the two “Wake Up For Black Lives” events Indy10 BLM organized outside the mayor’s and chief of police’s mansions, for a chalking in commemoration of Dreasjon, and even participated in the first-ever Skate for Black Lives event in the city. We provided key analysis to fight against the politicians’ and media’s attempt to divide the protests into “good” and “bad” ones, a move meant to discourage participation.

After the mass protests died down, we kept the movement going by organizing a protest to demand an end to evictions and police terror in July, which was supported by our friends in Queering Indy. We have to stay in the streets whether there’s hundreds of thousands joining us or just a few hundred.

Working with Indy10 BLM and ANSWER Indiana, we started a petition–that you can still sign–to Defund IMPD and fund people’s needs instead!

We enthusiastically accepted an invitation to participate in Indy10 BLM’s 6th anniversary event in August, a group we recognize as the most significant leadership in the anti-police and anti-racist struggle in Indy.

The first rally at the Northwest Police District after the grand jury decision

After the city announced they wouldn’t indict the killer cop who murdered Dreasjon–an announcement that was simultaneously shocking and unsurprising–we were in the streets hours later. And we stayed in the streets, helping to lead several protests to the Northwest Police District in November.

Yet even before this IMPD murder spree, we were already organizing against racist police terror. Our comrade, Riley Bove, participated in a Pride and Policing Town Hall in February, arguing that cops have no place at Pride. Months later, Pride announced the cops were no longer invited.

SC member Timi speaks outside rally at Pendleton Prison
Timi speaks at Pendleton Prison action organized by “Free Them All!”

During quarantine, we joined the “Free Them All” Coalition for a series of 7 car protests and rallies at different prisons, jails, and detention centers across the state–which disproportionately keep Black people, immigrants, and the poor in cages. We provided analysis through our speeches and slogans, and brought our energy to every single event. Then in May, we helped organize the “People’s Press Conference” to provide a working-class response to the Governor’s daily briefings on COVID-19. We laid out a program of what people really need and are demanding: healthcare, guaranteed income, housing, living wages, and more.

It’s not enough to protest, however. We have to study, too. In August, we held a virtual Liberation Forum that focused on Black August, the thought of George Jackson, and ideas, tactics, and strategies of that time and why they remain so important today.

It’s for the same reason that, in December, we held our first meeting of our Revolutionary Reading Group that focused on the ideas and politics of the faces and slogans we hear in the streets, discovering what Assata Shakur believed, what the Black Panther Party believed, and where those beliefs came from: the Communist International and Harry Haywood.

Fighting U.S. racism and capitalism at home and abroad

One of the first protests against war with Iran!
One of the first protests against the war threats against Iran on Jan. 8

In the earliest days of the year, specifically on January 3, the Trump government assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, while he was on his way for negotiations with Saudi Arabia. The prospects for war were incredibly real. We organized a protest the very next day, and another one a few days later to say that the people of Indy stand in solidarity with Iran, against the US sanctions, and support the masses of people who mourned the loss of the person who did the most to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Iran. On January 25, we participated in the Global Day of Action for Iran, before the immediate war threats subsided.

During the same month, one leader of our Steering Committee led the second ever delegation of U.S. students to Chongryon–an organization of DPRK citizens living and thriving in Japan under extreme repression and racist state violence. For 7 days, US and DPRK students and professors built lasting connections, and the latter helped dispel the propaganda the former were exposed to. The Indy PSL member was also a featured speaker at the regular meeting of the International Institute of the Juche Idea.

Together with IUYA and Cosecha, we celebrated May Day (International Workers’ Day) on May 1 with a protest and rally. We did the same at their July protest outside of the Clay County Courthouse. Our struggle is international and must forefront the fight for justice and liberation of migrants, immigrants, and colonized people across the world and in the U.S.

Fighting for the whole class of working and oppressed peoples

Sam James, a key organizer of the March for Choice.

As we conducted multiple rallies in January in response to Trump’s threats of war, we also planned–together with Indy10–the first ever March for Choice! Every year, reactionaries, misogynists, anti-trans bigots, and patriarchal organizations stage a “March for Life” in the city. This time, we decided we needed to organize and demonstrate that there is opposition to these bigots and their attempts to control the bodies of others.

A few days later, we held a Liberation Forum on “Fighting Capitalism and Patriarchy” to reflect on the march, provide analysis for moving forward, and give historical background so we can deepen our understanding of the struggle.

PSL member Doris and her daughter speak at the first “Cancel the Rents” rally in May

In March, we held a discussion and study group at Cleo’s Bodega on the latest issue of “Breaking the Chains,” a woman’s journal focusing on the international and multiracial nature of the struggle for the liberation of all oppressed genders.

Our members supported UNITE-HERE casino workers in two separate car demonstrations–one in May and one in August, marching around the circle to demand higher wages and better and safer working conditions.

We initiated a “Cancel the Rents” movement on a national scale in May. We had several protests and conducted massive outreach for the struggle. Then, we supported our friends in DSA as they continued the Cancel the Rents campaign later in October and December.

Fighting for our planet and its inhabitants

This summer, we initiated the Socialist Climate Initiative of Indiana to provide a left-pole within the environmentalist movement in the state.

PSL member Riley connects the climate crisis to imperialist wars, especially their homeland of Korea

As part of that initiative, the PSL created the People’s Power Urban Garden, which grew food to donate to the No Questions Asked Food Pantry.

We played a leading role in the September Climate Strike at the statehouse. Several of our members spoke and received the loudest applause when they highlighted the need for socialism and for an end to imperialist wars.

After the climate strike, we held a study group on “Revolution or Ruin?” to gain better knowledge and the causes of and solutions to the climate crisis.

A socialist presidential campaign

As socialists, we know that the state is an important venue to fight for reforms, but we have no illusions that there are any real fundamental differences between the two major parties and that the differences are merely superficial. That’s why we ran a national PSL presidential campaign with Gloria La Riva as our candidate, and first Leonard Peltier as our Vice-Presidential candidate. When Leonard had to step down due to health reasons, Sunil Freeman took up the position.

PSL Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva speaks at Lugar Plaza

We organized a speaking event when Gloria La Riva came to Indianapolis in October. Hundreds of people attended and watched as she delivered her 10-point program, indicted the capitalist system and its politicians, and spoke in plain language what socialism is and why its not only possible but necessary.

Weeks later, we held an online Liberation Forum titled “Beyond Nov. 3: Your next steps in the struggle.” We knew that whoever the president turned out to be, the fight wouldn’t be over.

Defeating Proposal 291 through struggle and UNITY!

The day after the announcement that Proposal 291, a reactionary attack that would effectively criminalize handing out aid and food to those in need, would be proposed to the City-County Council, we began a street outreach campaign. We joined with Indy10 BLM and Queering Indy and built alliances with workers, many of whom were experiencing homelessness, and the better organizations that serve them. We helped move people’s outrage from the internet to the street.

PSL member Cambria York speaks against prop 291 rally

The day the Proposal was to be considered by the subcommittee, we staged a protest in front of the City-County Council. We changed the framing from a general apolitical and moral issue to an explicitly political one: this proposal is about moving the homeless out of the city to make it safer for tourists and investors.

Hours after the protest ended, the proposal was defeated. The media tried to attribute its defeat to individual council members, but we made it clear that the agent responsible for its defeat was the united movement.

Hope packages: Building unity through solidarity

In December, in consultation with Indy10 BLM, we decided to launch a new and bold project: “Hope Packages: Building Unity through Solidarity.” The idea came from PSL Indy member Doris Jones, and the project is not about charity but solidarity. Specifically, it will be a space where the people of working and oppressed communities come together to assemble care packages to distribute wherever they are: whether commuting or running errands. Whenever we see a homeless person or someone in need, that’s our chance to give the person the kit, ask their name, and talk to them; to build connections; because every person has a story and a struggle.

To launch the project, we needed an office and access to bigger spaces to collect donations and assemble the kits. Our GoFundMe campaign received incredible support from the community and by the end of December we reached our goal!

Already in January we collected enough donations to assemble and distribute over 40 kits to our unhoused neighbors. And with your support, we can increase the number of kits and frequency of distributions!

You can donate via PAYPAL or VENMO, or PURCHASE from our Amazon wishlist!

Given the consistency of our involvement and the variety of struggles we’ve led and supported–let alone the sheer number of activities–one might think we’re a branch with dozens or hundreds of members. Yet as a Marxist and Leninist Party, we don’t believe socialism is a label we attach to ourselves, but something we organize our lives around. The dedication, sacrifice, and hard work of our members in doing street outreach, building alliances, organizing events and campaigns, and more, are the main factors responsible for our growth not only numerically, but in terms of our ability to intervene in the spontaneous flows of struggle as well as the ebbs in the movement. Organized around a political program and according to democratic centralism allows us to be as effective as possible.

With your help and participation, in 2021 we can achieve even more! Join the PSL today!