By Kyle Jurek
The Michigan Democratic Party is about to kick off its spring convention this week, including the election of the State Central Committee. For those unfamiliar, it’s like the congress of the MDP. Historically, most people are picked in a closed-door, backroom process and the slate is presented to be voted on without anybody knowing in advance who’s on it. Except for the people doing the selecting.
That is until now. Progressives and leftists in Michigan, who have been shut out of the conversation for decades, organized on an unprecedented scale to run a slate of candidates in opposition. The platform is simple. Let’s make the MDP more open, transparent and accessible to all members by passing a series of significant reforms including a Member’s Bill of Rights.
Instead of running a slate of hand-picked candidates selected by a few people, MISolidarity organized to uplift anybody interested in having more of a voice in the party. It’s working. MISolidarity has assembled dedicated activists and volunteers from every corner of the state. People that had given up on the party after Bernie was defeated decided to #DemEnter again. People that have never taken an interest in party politics finally felt they had a reason to. Hundreds of people joined the party for the first time, and more came back to give it one more chance. All of these things are why I decided to run on the Solidarity slate in CD5. My candidacy was used against MISolidarity and the work of my fellow activists. I withdrew my candidacy, because it’s not about me, it’s about us.
About a year and a half ago I was working in Iowa on Bernie’s campaign as a field organizer when our campaign was targeted by Project Veritas, a radical right-wing group that attacks left-leaning campaigns and organizations using doctored and selectively edited footage. Their operatives are often trained in undercover operations by former US and British secret agents, supplied by Erick Prince. For example, they have targeted the Michigan AFT, Planned Parenthood, and ACORN, a voter registration organization working in marginalized communities.
Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda … One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer … helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers … [he] directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show. … Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans … Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.Erick Prince Recruits Ex-spies to help infiltrate liberal groups
The New York Times, March 7th, 2020
Beginning in the fall of 2019, Project Veritas launched a nationwide operation targeting the Sanders campaign. In my case, one of the volunteers on our campaign introduced me to a man she said was her brother-in-law named “Rich.” At the time I didn’t think much of it as we had new people joining and leaving the campaign on a regular basis. Rich claimed he was a disabled vet who had done two tours in Iraq. Rich came to our events, marched with the Bernie campaign in the labor day parade, and volunteered as a marshal at the climate strike event with the Sunrise movement. Over the next couple months, he invited me out for dinner and drinks on a number of occasions, often offering to pay. He would talk about his problems with his family, about struggles with his illness due to his service and I would mostly be there to listen, and talk about some of the struggles I was encountering. It seemed to be a friendship forged in struggle. As it turned out, Rich was an operative for Project Veritas sent to undermine the Sanders campaign.
Unequivocally, the things I said were wrong and inflammatory. I make no excuses, and take full responsibility for what I said. There is no place for violence in electoral politics. Full stop. I want to take this opportunity to apologize.
What I said was wrong and I own that. I have learned from this experience and it has humbled me in many ways. I’m certain I have more to learn and I welcome the lessons to come.
I wrote this as a cautionary tale, so others can learn from my mistakes. In political work, especially in high profile campaigns, or with organizations that may attract right-wing attacks, it’s important for people to know what to look out for. Looking back these are some of the things I should have caught.
- Refusing to sign documents
- Refusing to be in photographs
- Odd behavior with phones or electronic devices
- Refusing to take on a high profile role, such as speaking
- Asking questions that might be construed as controversial
- Frequently leaving town on business or for personal reasons
- Being overly eager to buy you lots of alcohol and pay for everything
These things taken on their own may mean nothing at all, but when two or more of these things are present it should start raising red flags.
I’d like to thank my colleagues for their work in the ongoing struggle for justice, for working people, minorities, and marginalized communities. I will continue to strive to be a better ally in the struggles to come.
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We win this fight together, or not at all.