Stop the Witchhunt—No. 1

Stop the Witchhunt Against Antiracists!
Hands Off NWROC and ARA! Fighting Racism Is Not A Crime!

The government of Ann Arbor is launching the largest scale political witchhunt in the history of the city. Its target is the entire active antiracist movement.

The city government has spent the last two months and thousands of dollars pulling the witchhunt together. In a belabored fabrication running some 169 pages, police list 8 named and 31 unnamed, charged "suspects". Police have gone around Ann Arbor with photographs trying to get people to ID unnamed "suspects". Sixteen people have been arrested so far—with no end in sight. Six of the 16 people arrested, including Ann Arbor youth, are charged with felonies that carry a possible 10-year prison sentence.

What is the crime of these "suspects"? Their only "crime" is opposing the government-bankrolled attempt by the Ku Klux Klan to set up their hateful operation here in southeast Michigan.

The men and women who are being dragged into court by the government witchhunt are among the hundreds of people who opposed the May 9th rally by the KKK in Ann Arbor. They are black, Latino, Asian and white, male and female, politically affiliated and independent. They include long time Ann Arbor residents and U of M students, range in age from 15 into their 50’s and come from all walks of life.

They are people who share the conviction of a nearly unanimous majority of citizens of Ann Arbor who do not want the KKK rallying, recruiting, burning churches or making other attacks in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi community and who oppose the government spending fortunes of tax dollars to facilitate the growth violent racist organizations.

These antiracists are the victims of a vast political witchhunt. Two antiracist organizations have been targeted: the National Women’s Rights Organizing Coalition (NWROC) and Anti-Racist Action (ARA).

On May 9th, the Ann Arbor city government shelled out $137,000 of public money to stage the KKK rally (Up from $72,000 in 1996!). They provided the violent racists with a police-chauffeured shuttle service. The city government rolled out the red carpet. Despite government bankrolling, the KKK rally was shut down halfway through. This important victory was secured largely through the effort and coordination of NWROC and ARA.

Now, two months later, the same government that said "cost is no issue" when it came to presenting itself as the defender of the civil liberties and free speech for the KKK is sparing no expense to suppress the civil liberties and free speech of antiracists. The same government that has not spent a dime challenging the KKK’s "right" to rally at the city hall under the protection of an army of police is now gearing up to spend tens of thousands of dollars witchhunting the opponents of the KKK and Nazis.

The witchhunt has focused on known leaders of both groups and includes many individuals who are not part of either organization. It is a political witchhunt against the left in the interest of the far right. They arrested one 17-year-old Ann Arbor youth bursting into his house with gun drawn. This is all an attempt to intimidate the community out of expressing opposition to the racists.

This is madness—it amounts to the Ann Arbor city government making a covenant with the KKK.

No Jasper, Texas in Southeast Michigan!

The government of Ann Arbor hatched this witchhunt in the aftermath of the June 7th racist murder in Jasper, Texas of James Byrd, a black man beaten mercilessly, tied to the back of a truck and then dragged to death by three local KKK supporters.

On June 27th the Ann Arbor police traveled to Kalamazoo to make the first two arrests of the witchhunt: two ARA supporters in Kalamazoo to protest the KKK rally there. Just six days later, in Las Vegas, Nazi skinheads murdered two ARA members, Lynn Newborn, 24, black, and his white friend Dan Shersty, 20. Their bodies were dumped in the desert near an area used by local fascists for shooting practice.

These murders reveal plainly enough the real character of the "non-violent" groups the Ann Arbor police are so determined to defend. The Klan and the Nazis are now and always have been organizations whose central purpose is genocidal, racist violence.

The Ann Arbor city government knows about the murderous brutality of these groups and yet they have now spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and put in enormous effort making it easier for these racist killers to build an operation in this area.

Drop the Charges!

The charges that provide cover for the political witchhunt center on the destruction of city property and on allegations of assaultive crime—yet the police reports themselves list no injuries of any seriousness whatsoever and have valued the property damage at less that 1/27th of the tax money that the city government shelled out to stage the racists’ rally in the first place!

The charges are cover for a massive McCarthyite witchhunt. This witchhunt is an attempt to cripple or destroy the only two active antiracist and antifascist organizations in the Midwest: NWROC and ARA.

For this purpose the government has gotten a school employee to inform against a student, a reverend, two social workers and four "Peace Team" members to serve as police-informants for this political wrecking effort against the antiracist movement.

Elected City Council member Elizabeth Dailey is behind the effort to frame U of M NWROC leader Jessica Curtin on a 10-year felony charge. The same city attorney, Abigail Elias, who has opposed offering any legal challenge to the KKK has volunteered herself as a witness against black activist and NWROC leader Shanta Driver.

In launching this witchhunt, city administrator Neil Berlin and Washtenaw Co. prosecutor Brian Mackie have embarked on a policy certain to polarize this community more deeply than any event in recent memory. Going through with this policy will mean a series of long, costly, bitter political show trials directed against the antiracist movement and the left—a terrible throwback to days of government attempts to suppress Black Power and antiwar activists of the 1960’s—with the eyes of the nation watching.

Anyone who cares about maintaining civil liberties must oppose the witchhunt actively. If this outrage continues, and any of these frame-ups stick, it will mean that the next time the KKK/Nazis are in Ann Arbor (which the government’s whole policy has ensured) the organized opposition will be reduced and the fascists’ supporters will be emboldened. The Ann Arbor city government is attempting to silence the antiracist movement in a way that, if successful, would serve as a model for governments across the country. This must not be allowed to happen. Government bankrolling of the KKK must be stopped.

Whether this witchhunt succeeds or fails will have a sweeping political importance in Ann Arbor and throughout the Midwest. The KKK/Nazis are an issue to take sides over; they mean to organize genocide. The witchhunt against the antiracist movement must be defeated.

- July 1998


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Ann Arbor Antiracist Defense Campaign
National Women’s Rights Organizing Coalition

PO Box 1092 Penobscot Station, Detroit, MI. 48231  (313) 730-3577 *