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Protest demands the release of political prisoners Kelly and Vaughn

A dozen protesters holding placards and signs demanding the release of political prisoners.

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By Brandi Metzger, via Liberation News

After two outrageous and politically motivated arrests, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation protested outside of the Marion County, Indiana, jail to demand the immediate release of Indianapolis residents Titan Kelly and Jermaine Vaughn.

PSL member and organizer Noah Leininger, amplified with microphone and speaker, spoke to the public. “Both of these individuals are in Marion County Jail unjustly because the city places more importance on property than on human lives,” Leininger said. 

Dozens of passersby, on foot and in vehicles, honked, hooted and waved in support of the rally. 

Joining the PSL on the corner of Delaware and Maryland streets were representatives of Queering Indy. Lafayette Louise Slaydon, a member of Queering Indy and Kelly’s partner, has been following Kelly’s case since its inception in the summer of 2020. 

“It’s really evident that the judge is making an example of them [Kelly] and making a political statement and gambling with their life while they do that,” Slaydon said. 

The city jailed Kelly on October 28 for the “crime” of protecting protesters from expired tear gas canisters fired by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department against city residents protesting peacefully against police brutality and the war on Black America. Kelly’s conviction included two counts of “battery against a public safety official.” 

“It is because of capitalist law and the absurdity of the Indiana codes that throwing expired tear gas back to corrupt pigs is considered ‘battery against a public safety official,’” Leininger said to the community supporters. “I don’t know about ya’ll but I have never felt safe in public when IMPD is around.” 

In a rare result for low-level offenses, Kelly was sent immediately to jail after the conviction.

Slaydon’s wishes for Kelly include “not continuing [for Kelly] to be put in an unsafe environment, not forcing them to be in solitary confinement because of their transness and not withholding their lifesaving medication from them.”

The city has not filed felony battery charges upon any of the officers who fired tear gas at the peaceful protesters. Such tear gas was banned as a result of the Geneva Convention following questions of its use during wartime. The particular tear gas weaponized by IMPD was expired. 

“They don’t even care about us enough to keep their weapons of war up-to-date,” Leininger told Liberation News. 

A handful of officers have been charged for lying in the paperwork about having brutalized people during the rebellion of 2020. Video evidence supported the charge. 

A panel appointed by the city to review the actions of IMPD during the rebellion found that the department’s actions led to the damage done to downtown businesses.

“This was a group of lawyers, professors, people who are institutional voices in this city. And they could not lie to the people, because there was too much video, there was too much people out on the streets understanding what happened to be able to lie to us. So they have to tell the truth,” said Leininger.

The rebellion of summer 2020 saw the people of Indianapolis exercise their right to assemble in outrage over police brutality locally and nationally. According to Leininger, “When the people are out in the streets demanding justice for Dreasjon Reed, for McHale Rose, for Ashlynn Lisby — those were just the people who were murdered in an eight-hour span by IMPD in early May last year — those protests swelled into tens of thousands of people in this city after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis.”

video showed IMPD Seargent Eric M. Huxley and Bike Officer Matthew Shores brutalize Vaughn on September 24. Vaughn, who is handcuffed and not resisting arrest in the video, was curb-stomped by Huxley as his fellow officers continued to taunt and threaten Vaughn in the background.

Shores is responsible for more than 300 uses of force, 58% of which were against Black residents. Black people make up 28% of the city’s total residents.

In a press conference following public outrage over the incident, IMPD Chief of Police Randal Raylor stated that violent incidents of police brutality were “one-off” and that the department was moving “swiftly” to curb such behavior. Taylor went on to offer an apology to “not only … the men and women of IMPD who do it right, but every other law enforcement in this state and in this country, because I know these videos, when they’re seen, there’s gonna be people who are gonna say ‘That’s what they’re all like!’ and let me tell you, that’s not what they’re all like.” He did not apologize to Vaughn nor the community that constantly experience such abuse. 

Leininger challenged the narrative crafted by the City-County Council that the city’s violence problems are the fault of the community. “I don’t think the City-County Council knows what’s going on in the city of Indianapolis. Because if they did … they would be blaming the pigs with badges and guns who go around terrorizing peaceful people.”

The PSL demands all charges against both Kelly and Vaughn be dropped, as well as the conviction of Huxley and resignation of Taylor.

Sign the petition in support of Kelly’s and Vaughn’s freedom here!