Exclusive: Lancaster social justice group tied to Communist Party USA

FPI / September 17, 2020

Analysis by Bill Wilson, WashingtonExpose.com

A social justice advocacy group which was prominent in the recent rioting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has links to the Communist Party USA and provides insights into the summer of violence in the United States leading up to the 2020 election.

Rioting erupted in Lancaster after the police involved shooting of Ricardo Munoz.

Lancaster Stands Up has been funded and operational following the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. Similar organizations are believed to have contributed to the outbreak of violence in multiple cities, large and small, since the the death of George Floyd on May 25.

The organization advocated for several rioters charged in the violence this week which came on the heels of the death of Ricardo Munoz, a mentally ill 27-year-old who was seen on bodycam footage charging with a knife in hand at a police officer.

A Pennsylvania judge threw the book at several of those who were arrested and accused of rioting by setting their bail at $1 million each.

“The absurdly high bail amounts indicate that what we’re seeing is not a measured pursuit of justice, but a politically motivated attack on the movement for police reform and accountability,” Lancaster Stands Up tweeted.

Lancaster Stands Up then called on a number of elected officials, including Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, “to step in and defend Taylor, Kathryn and other peaceful protestors against the politically motivated actions of local law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.”

Lancaster Stands Up, formed in 2017 as part of the Trump resistance, has three paid staff organizers.

The organizers are paid by a group called Beyond the Choir.

Beyond the Choir is a communist front which targets “progressive veterans” among other groups.

Beyond the Choir says on its website: “Through our partnerships we have provided training, advising, and direct support to a range of movements and organizations. Past partners include #AllofUs, American Friends Service Committee, Beautiful Trouble, Chelsea Manning Support Network, Electronic Frontier Foundation, #IfNotNow, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Lancaster Stands Up, MoveOn.org, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Our Homes, United for Peace & Justice, Rainforest Action Network, Veterans For Peace, Working Families Party, and numerous local campaigns.”

Related: Anyone you know? A handy list of organizations that take George Soros money, Aug. 29, 2017

Beyond the Choir is affiliated with United for Peace and Justice, which says on its website it is “a coalition of more than 1,300 international and U.S.-based organizations opposed to ‘our government’s policy of permanent warfare and empire-building.’ ”

The Beyond the Choir staff (as of November 2018):

• Julia Berkman-Hill, Field Director, Lancaster Stands Up
• Eliza Booth, Community Outreach and Administrative Coordinator, Lancaster Stands Up
• Pam Campos-Palma, Director of Veteran Strategic Initiatives
• Jessica S. George, Operations Assistant
• Michelle Hines, Campaigns and Communications, Lancaster Stands Up
• Alexander McCoy, Communications Strategist
• Perry O’Brien, Director of Veteran Campaigns
• Marisol Ocampo, Director of Partnerships
• Jonathan Smucker, Co-founder and Executive Director
• Jose Vasquez, Training Director, Veterans Organizing Institute

The group’s Board of Directors includes Richard Healey, a prominent U.S. socialist and the son of late Communist Party USA leader Dorothy Healey.

Related: Arnaud de Borchgrave’s ‘The Spike’ exposed leftist influence in year of Reagan’s election, Feb. 16, 2015

Also listed on the group’s board is Judith Le Blanc, a leader of the Communist Party USA and the national field organizer for Peace Action. She is also formerly the national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice. LeBlanc joined the Communist Party USA in 1974.

Also listed on the group’s board is Rain Phoenix, Executive Director and Founder of the Grassroots Policy Project. Phoenix has served as Director of the New American Movement, and subsequently as Director of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies and the Preamble Center. He has served as the director of the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, Nuclear Times magazine, and was a founder of the Study Circle Resource Center.

The mission statement of Beyond the Choir sheds light on its organizing vision and activities, including the Veterans Organizing Institute, in Pennsylvania leading up to and following the Ricardo Munoz incident:

Beyond the Choir began as an inquiry into why progressives are often so insular; why we tend to talk to ourselves and “preach to the choir.” We wrestled with questions of how to reach, mobilize, and organize broader social bases—and what stands in the way of us doing so effectively.

Through this inquiry, we developed the analysis, training tools, and practical skills that inform all of our programmatic work today. It’s part of what led us to create the Veterans Organizing Institute (VOI) in 2016, as we understood that veterans come from diverse (mostly working class) demographics and hold a wide range of views, and we realized that many progressive veterans were hungry for opportunities to put their beliefs into action. Out of the VOI we launched #VetsVsHate in the 2016 election cycle. Eventually we started a separate veteran-led political action committee, Common Defense, which has amplified the voices of veterans in standing up and speaking out against the Trump agenda. (Recently, Common Defense incorporated as a separate organization to run all of the veterans organizing work incubated through Beyond the Choir. See their website for more information.)

This analysis of how to reach beyond the “usual suspects” is also baked into our emerging program to support organizing in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas too often neglected by progressive forces. In Pennsylvania we’re creating an organizing prototype that breaks out of entrenched patterns of progressive insularity. Over the past two years, Beyond the Choir has played a central role in supporting and sustaining Lancaster Stands Up, a new local formation that has been demonstrating one of the strongest organizing ground games in the nation. Lancaster Stands Up has mobilized thousands of people on critical issues like immigration, health care, and racial justice, and has on-boarded hundreds of new people into volunteer roles. Beyond the Choir has provided ongoing training and significant staff time to Lancaster Stands Up. This past summer we began expanding this training and support work to a statewide level in Pennsylvania, in partnership with PA Together. We have also been sharing out our trainings to a national audience, through webinars and in-person trainings.

Many of the staff of Beyond the Choir are also members of the Democratic Socialists of America.

FPI, Free Press International