Militant Journalism

Boston activist arrested for assault that didn’t happen

Boston activist Ernst “Shimmy” Jean-Jacques Jr. is facing charges for an assault and battery that never happened.

Jean-Jacques was participating in a counter protest of a pro-Trump rally in Swampscott, Massachusetts on Dec. 12 when Linda Greenberg doused him with a water bottle. Jean-Jacques reached to grab the bottle out of her hand. “This older woman decided to go out of her way to get an open bottle of water — that she had already drank out of out of in the middle of a pandemic — walked over to me, and threw water in my face because I was ‘gyrating’ in front of her and it made her mad,” Jean-Jacques shared in a conversation with Liberation News.

The police believed Greenberg and the other “MAGA-chusetts” protesters who immediately demanded the arrest of Jean-Jaques. Officers even fabricated accounts that they saw the punch. Video evidence later proved otherwise. “Linda Greenberg was not arrested and not asked to leave the rally,” Jean-Jacques recalled. “She stayed at the rally the rest of the time while I was arrested.”

“I personally believe this is an attempt to make me stop,” he said. “To get me to stop assembling the masses, to stop caring about what’s right or what’s wrong.” 

“Shimmy” Jean-Jaques. Photo by @kelseyjphotos. Used with permission.

Greenberg admitted to spraying Jean-Jacques with water on video. “I was drinking my water and he was gyrating in front of me and I was getting mad and I did get water on him. I don’t want to lie,” she says to a police officer interviewing her. She then turns to the person filming and says, “Oh, why don’t you f— off … You are not America. You are not America.”

Local media launches racist smear-campaign

Throughout this past summer, various news outlets highlighted Jean-Jacques’s contributions to the anti-racist movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. Now that Jean-Jacques himself is requesting his story be widely publicized, many of those same outlets have ignored calls to frame the story honestly.  

Local news outlets like the Bay State Banner and 7 News Boston have only amplified and given credibility to the Swampscott police’s racist narrative. They highlight the false allegations and plaster Jean-Jacques’s mugshot across their reports.

Jean-Jacques is not letting these false charges and slanderous campaigns stop him from his organizing efforts.

“[This] didn’t fit their narrative of angry protesters. They don’t wanna show the old white lady attacking people. They wanna show the Black dude acting like an animal… I finally learned the hard way that the media is not for people like you and I who are speaking out against injustices. The media is for furthering their B.S. narrative about folks like you and I.”

Shimmy. Photo by Nate Lamkin, @nateliterally. Used with permission.

Community calls to “Free Shimmy!”

The community has raised over $12,000 on GoFundMe and continue to protest every week at Swampscott police station to demand the false charges be dropped. Swampscott’s police chief Ronald Madigan recently launched an investigation to review the handling of the situation. Despite this outpouring of support, Jean-Jacques has been suspended from his job working with the elderly, without pay. Some media released personal information such as his address, leading to harassment of himself and his family members.

The original assault on Jean-Jaques, the police’s claims and the media smear-campaign are all blatantly racist attacks, and a clear continuation of the repression of anti-racist organizing this past summer. If Jean-Jacques and other activists like him are charged with false crimes when organizing and speaking out against racism and systemic violence in their communities, it will set a dangerous precedent for further persecution of activists everywhere. The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands in solidarity with Jean-Jacques and all victims of police repression who are criminalized for speaking out against racist police violence. 

Protesters continue to demonstrate every Sunday at Swampscott Police Station from 12 pm-2 pm. A pretrial hearing for Jean-Jacques’s case has been scheduled for February 24 at Lynn District Court, where demonstrators will gather in support.

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