The fallout from a fatal shooting following dueling demonstrations at Denver's Civic Center Park on October 10 has gone national, with the right-wing media attempting to blame a Black Lives Matter protester for instigating the incident, even though the fatal shot was allegedly fired by Matthew Dolloff, a man hired to serve as a security guard for a 9News team.
In one video, that protester, identified in multiple outlets as Jacob Kelly, can be seen yelling, "Mace me, motherfucker" at Lee Keltner, the 49-year-old victim who was officially identified by the Denver coroner's office on October 12.
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Toward the end of the footage shared by the U.S. Sun, Keltner moves away from Kelly and is off-camera when the fatal shot is fired. Yet sites such as The Patriots Report have attempted to blame him for the slaying anyway, for reasons that are obviously agenda-driven.
Meanwhile, the Denver Communists, one of the groups that sponsored a BLM-Antifa Soup Drive that got under way just prior to the start of the so-called Patriot Muster, are blasting the press and accusing the Denver Police Department of essentially enabling white-supremacist hate.
Before the demonstrations, a Denver Communists spokesperson confirmed that the soup drive had been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on October 10 because the Patriot Muster, organized by John "Tig" Tiegen, had set a 2 p.m. start time. "We are committed to counter-mobilizing against the far right anytime they crawl out of their holes," the spokesperson said. "Every far-right rally aspires to be a pogrom. They should never be allowed to assemble without being vocally opposed."
For the most part, the altercations between the Patriot Muster and BLM-Antifa crews were of the verbal variety. But the situation unraveled as the gatherings began to break up, as evidenced by a Denver Police Department tweet from 3:48 p.m. October 10: "Officers are investigating a shooting that occurred in the Courtyard by the Art Museum. 1 victim transported to the hospital their condition is unknown, 1 suspect in custody."
The Denver Post initially reported that the alleged shooter was affiliated with Antifa — a gaffe it subsequently corrected, albeit in a murky way. Meanwhile, as Dolloff was identified and his role as a security guard revealed, 9News quickly began trying to distance itself from him. The station has led the way in reporting that Dolloff wasn't a licensed security guard in Denver, although he had a concealed-carry permit from Elbert County that has now been canceled. Moreover, the outlet is using a pair of reporters from sister stations — Minneapolis's A.J. Lagoe and Dallas's Jason Whitely — to handle coverage as a way of blunting bias accusations.
For his part, Tiegen has not responded to multiple interview requests from Westword. But he found time to chat on October 12 with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, as seen in a segment tweeted by The Columbia Bugle, which describes itself as "Truthful & Conservative Political News & Commentary." The site's intro mirrors efforts to portray Dolloff as an Antifa sympathizer rather than a trigger-happy gun for hire.
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This sort of spin is among the elements that come in for criticism from the Denver Communists. Here's a statement the group supplied to Westword:
On Saturday, October 10th, the Denver Communists, W.I.T.C.H. Denver, the Front Range Mutual Aid Network, Colorado Socialist Revolution, and others held a rally to oppose and confront a fascist militia gathering. Canned and dry foods were collected and hot meals were cooked and served. We also set up tables under canopies to facilitate political conversation, distribute Marxist literature, and invite the people we meet to organize with us to grow the anti-racist, anti-fascist movement. By mid-afternoon all of our goals had been accomplished — most importantly our counter protest had outnumbered, drowned out, and driven off the fascist rally.
As the ‘patriots’ shuffled off in defeat, a little over an hour after their assembly began, one of them struck, maced, and was subsequently shot and killed by another person. The best information we have is that the shooter was a Pinkerton security contractor employed by 9News, the local NBC affiliate. It has also come out that the person who was killed had violently attacked a Black Lives Matter protestor last summer and was aggressively confronting a Black man moments before the shooting. While we support the right to self-defense and encourage emancipatory collective self-defense independent of the capitalist state by the working class and the oppressed, we believe that defense is built with mass organization, not by individual acts of violence. Throughout the history of fascist and far-right organizing, mass movements of oppressed working class people mobilized to oppose them. This has proven to be the most effective, unequivocal and powerful solution.
Our experience on Saturday bears this out. Without firing a shot, or even connecting with a soup can, we were able to effectively repel the gathering of III Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other white nationalists, while building closer contacts with other workers looking to organize against racism, fascism, and capitalism more broadly. Some media outlets reporting on the event, including the one who employed the alleged shooter, imply that the Denver Communists and others involved in opposing the far-right gathering were responsible for the shooting. This isn’t just incorrect, it inverts the situation entirely — had they been able to assemble without our opposition, the militia-fascists would have felt more empowered to exercise violence, not less.
The police don’t do anything to stand against fascist violence — not on Saturday nor this entire summer of mass uprising, not to speak of the historical camaraderie between cops and fascists. We’ve seen them work hand-in-hand with the armed right wing in Kenosha, Portland, and Minneapolis. It’s no different here in Denver where even when the police aren’t directly coordinating with militias and white-nationalist groups they’re always ready to defend them. On Saturday, while we fed the hungry with soup and communist politics, it was no coincidence that the police were facing our rally and kept their backs turned to the armed vigilantes behind them. We can’t rely on the state to oppose reactionary politics. Instead we seek to organize masses of workers to protect ourselves, our communities, and each other.
If we recognize that our power to combat fascism comes from masses organized against it, that also means that our orientation needs to be to the public. While we acknowledge the importance of security and safeguarding those involved in organizing with us, we believe that many have mistaken obscurity with security. Instead, the Denver Communists are committed to organizing publicly, openly, and confidently. We don’t see any other way to grow the large, combative social movements that are necessary to fight the increasingly deadly status quo. After the success of the BLM-Antifa Soup Drive, we look forward to confronting the far right again the next time they rear their ugly heads.
Don't expect this viewpoint to be shared on Fox News anytime soon.