Vaun L. Mayes, a leading activist in Milwaukee’s African American community, has been attacked with trumped-up charges resulting from a coordinated campaign of political repression reminiscent of the 1950’s and ‘60’s Counter-Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO.
The Wisconsin District of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization calls on activists, progressives, and socialists to take a stand against the outrageous politically motivated frame-up of Vaun Mayes by the ATF and Milwaukee Police.
Mayes is currently in custody facing three charges including attempted arson. Federal prosecutors claim Mayes tried to organize people to firebomb a police station and throw rocks at police two years ago during the Sherman Park uprising, but never carried the plans out.
The Milwaukee Police killing of Sylville Smith sparked the Sherman Park uprising in August 2016. Police said Smith pointed a gun at officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who was pursuing Smith. During the mass uprising that ensued, protesters demanded the release of body camera footage. The camera footage revealed that Milwaukee Police lied to the public about details of the incident. It showed that Smith had thrown a weapon to the ground before officer Heaggan-Brown fatally shot him.
Officer Heaggan-Brown was charged but acquitted in the murder of Smith. Earlier this year Heaggan-Brown was sentenced to three years in prison for sexual assault.
The police have a long history of using repression, lies, and deceit to cover up their crimes and target political activists. In the two-years since the Sherman Park uprising, Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) has been working with federal agencies to try to file charges against people involved in the protests. The charges against Mayes come at a time when Milwaukee Police have been the subject of national attention for the racist harassment and tasing of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown. The plot against Mayes is an effort by MPD to take the focus off police crimes that are the cause of mass uprisings in Sherman Park, Ferguson, and Baltimore.
In response to the mass movements demanding police accountability, the federal government is taking steps to protect killer cops and put activists on the defensive. There is no doubt that Trump’s racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions wishes to return to the days of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO was a secret and illegal federal program that targeted the Black Panther Party and other left-wing activists with disinformation campaigns, threats, and assassination. In Chicago, local police worked with federal agencies to carry out the political assassinations of African American liberation movement leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in 1969.
In the frame-up of Vaun Mayes, the Milwaukee Police also worked with federal agencies. This is not the first time the MPD and ATF have carried out a campaign based on lies in an attempt to bring arrests. In 2012 Milwaukee Police and ATF agents worked together on a comically mismanaged operation to take illegal weapons off the streets. The MPD opened a storefront called “Fearless Distributing” in a quiet residential neighborhood. The storefront was robbed of $35,000 in merchandise, including an ATF military-grade machine gun that ended up on the streets, unaccounted for. Police filed bogus charges against at least three people. The charges had to be dropped, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The operation ended in utter embarrassment for the MPD and ATF.
Mayes is the most recent target of the MPD and ATF collaboration, this time it’s a transparently ridiculous effort to retaliate for the Sherman Park uprising and conviction of killer cop Dominique Heaggan-Brown. Just last month, Mayes posted a report on social media about suspicious activity outside his home, sharing images on Facebook of gas cans with wicks in them someone left outside his home.
Mayes is a well-respected activist, community leader, and youth mentor who is being targeted because of his role as an unapologetic fighter against police crimes, racism, and oppression of the African American community. Mayes was also an active leader in the high profile movement to hold MPD accountable for the killing of Dontre Hamilton in 2014. Mayes has worked tirelessly to fight for the residents in Milwaukee’s African American community, which suffers from some of the highest poverty and incarceration rates of any major US city.
The charges against Vaun Mayes, for an act that never happened, are a blatant attempt to silence criticism of Milwaukee Police for their crimes. We must defend Vaun Mayes and the African American liberation movement. We must continue to fight to hold police accountable for their lies and crimes.
Community groups are asking supporters to stand in solidarity with Mayes at his court hearing on Thursday, July 5, at 3:30pm (arrive at 3:00pm for security screening) at the Federal Courthouse room 242, located at 517 E. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee WI.