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Councillor Evans’ departure shows limits of Democratic Party, not of “leftist activism”

Ethan Evans

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Ethan Evans, left, with Indy10 Black Lives Matter in 2017

By Nigel Lisbon

On April 6, the Indianapolis Star published a hit piece by James Briggs, casting the tenure of City-County Councillor Ethan Evans and his recent departure from the Democratic Party as showing the “limits of leftist activism.” In reality, his exit from the ruling party in Indianapolis after it failed to accommodate the radical program he campaigned on shows the limitations of the scandal-embroiled and corrupt Marion County Democratic Party establishment machine.

Ethan Evans was elected to the City-County Council as a Democrat in 2019, representing District 4 in northeast Marion County. Briggs claims that Evans was elected because of “a combination of Hogsett’s popularity (and money), Republican Jim Merritt’s weak campaign and changing demographics.” This blatant revision of history has nothing to do with what Briggs admits was a “shocking” win over the incumbent Republican minority leader, Mike McQuillen.

Substantially more impactful in his loss to Evans was McQuillen’s late-2018 “Sit-Lie” proposal in the council that would have criminalized sitting or lying on sidewalks or alleyways downtown. The public rose up to reject this brazen attack on people from whom housing is withheld, and ANSWER Indiana published a study on the racist bias of IMPD’s enforcement of anti-poor laws

Also considerably more important to Evans’s victory than the inconsequential mayoral race was the grassroots effort championed by Indy10 Black Lives Matter, a group that Evans was actively organizing with prior to his election. The Democratic Party outrageously strongarmed Evans into stepping away from his role within Indy10, no doubt for their unwavering abolitionist position.

The entire article is full of apologia for the pro-police “war on the poor” agenda of Marion County Democrats. Briggs accused Evans of refusing to “collaborate” with the other nineteen members of the Democrats’ supermajority hold on the City-County Council without any evidence beyond Evans’s refusal to vote for the 2022 city budget that set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for Indianapolis’s killer cops, but no desperately needed aid or truly affordable housing for the many thousands of working-class residents who are being cast aside to make way for rich transplants.

Briggs heaps praise on Councillors Keith Potts and Ali Brown in an attempt to cite cases of “activist-minded progressives” who were able to work within the system to effect change. Potts, who represents a remarkably wealthy slice of north Indianapolis bordering Carmel, is a defender of the police who Briggs outlandishly casts as “a face of police reform” for his toothless proposal to add civilians to the IMPD General Orders board. None of the previous changes to IMPD boards have prevented its officers from brutalizing and murdering residents in broad daylight, nor have any of the killer cops on the force ever been fired or charged with a crime. Two years after the changes to the General Orders board, cops have continued to gun down city residents without facing serious repercussions—either as individuals or as a department of government.

It was the “leftist activism” of Evans’s past and his worker-friendly campaign (running, smartly, on housing; as well as mental health, transit, community building, and public education) that offered a radical departure from the misery guaranteed by McQuillen that got him elected. While the failure by a handful of independent candidates in 2019 to make an impact in their races is a bad sign for candidates hoping to run individual campaigns, the presence of an organized party militantly advocating a workers’ and oppressed peoples’ program against the Democratic and Republican race to the bottom could be a lightning rod for the energy of Naptown’s masses.

Only by separating from the Democratic Party and organizing under the banner of our own party can the working and oppressed masses of Indianapolis, the rest of Indiana, and all of the United States take control of our situation and work to build a better tomorrow. The choice between austerity and fascism is not the only one possible, and Indianapolis might shock the country by proving it.