On the murder of Devonte Ortiz
A cruel reminder of the fact that the 4th of July is not for us (the oppressed) came in the early morning hours of July 4th last week when a white man, Jason Roche murdered an unarmed black teenager, Devonte Ortiz, for shooting fireworks, in the parking lot of a working-class housing complex on Anken Drive. This happened right in the heart of one of the most working-class districts in Austin, where militant communist organizing has been historically rooted. This is our neighborhood and these are our people. Our hearts go out to our community and the family of Devonte. Devonte did nothing wrong and was only setting off fireworks to celebrate the holiday like many others. It must also be stated that US Independence Day is a holiday in celebration of the genocide of Native Americans and the slavery of black people – its racist history is the racist history of this country. In Southeast Austin, a reactionary white man killing an unarmed black teenager is a chilling portrayal of the history of this country playing out in blood. While the police attempted to obscure the details of the incident, on-the-ground interviews with neighbors and witnesses provide the basis for our article.
From the onset we must make it clear and be direct: we consider this to be a racist homicide, reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s cold-blooded murder of Travon Martin in Florida. Jason Roche, a middle-aged white man and Iraq War veteran, was already known to police for a record of belligerence and being armed. He is a drug user and has an open lawsuit against the Austin Police Department dating back to August of 2016, when a car he was traveling in plowed into an emergency vehicle in South Austin. According to the Austin Chronicle, another prior incident involving Roche states that; “Jason Roche was out there. He was drunk, and Hopkins [APD officer] was familiar with his family history: he was a known drug abuser and probationer, and the Austin Police Department knew he owned a gun. Hopkins saw him opposite a younger woman…and immediately called dispatch for back up, then questioned the couple [she was only 20]…Hopkins then arrested him for furnishing alcohol to a minor.” This quote is taken from an article on December 19th of 2014. It proves that the original release of Roche on the basis of “self-defense” was nothing but systemic white supremacy. It further proves that the police, as well as the media, were aware that Roche was armed and dangerous and had done nothing to protect the community from his terror.
Reports from high school students in the neighborhood complexes, who were witnesses to the murder, confirmed our suspicions of a racist motive. They informed supporters that Roche had referred to Devonte as a “monkey” during the confrontation. Among the youth of the area, Roche’s racist views are no secret, according to a tweet from a community member; “this man [Roche] tried to run him [Devonte] over a week and a half ago and threatened to kill him 2 weeks ago and to top it off he walks around showing his gun and pointing it at kids in the apartment complex.” We have faith in this source, as well as the kids in the neighborhood. Both confirm that Roche was a menace to black and brown youth in the 41. Community members report that Roche drives a truck decked out with white-supremacist bumper stickers, including a swastika and pro-Trump stickers. Whether or not Roche is an organized fascist is yet to be determined and good people are still trying to track down photos of his truck to confirm these reports. Witnesses have stated that Roche’s father, Dennis Roche, was also involved in assaulting Devonte, by placing him in a headlock. Racism tends to be a family tradition passed down from the bigot father to the bigot son. Denis has been known to get into conflict with his neighbors, most of whom are not white and then threaten to call his racist son Jason on them. Relying on the fear Jason invoked to terrorize the neighborhood.
Jason was heard using racist slurs against the youth, saying “stop lighting those fireworks ni****” and baiting the teenagers to “do something”. These are all facts which the mainstream media and the police are not reporting, but we have eyes and ears wherever there are working people and we know the truth. Their only reason for failing to report these facts is because they fear the emergence of rebellion. They do not want another Ferguson rebellion in the heart of Austin.
Media has confirmed that prior to killing Devonte, Jason first went and changed into full-out tactical gear. He saw himself as going to war. Combine all this with the fact that APD knew that Jason Roche was an armed drug user and failed to arrest him immediately only highlights the settler colonial nature of this crime. It all comes into sharp focus—laws are unevenly enforced against black and brown people as white racists float freely. For more information on our position regarding the settler history of gun rights and gun laws, please read our article But Who Controls the Guns, found on our blog.
We know full well, from this case and every other case that the police are but the strong arm of white racist violence. They are useless at crime prevention and complicit in civilian settler colonial violence. It is up to the people of Austin and progressive forces to make damn sure that the system does not pardon this murder, the way it tends to, as was the case with George Zimmerman. Devonte was backing away from the conflict and attempting to leave when a white racist murdered him. Roche, convicted or not should never feel safe on our streets again. He is now likely held at Del Valle Jail, on a $250,000 bail, a very low figure for a first-degree murder charge. In fact, the only people who get lower bonds for this type of charge are police officers charged with murder. The system is making it clear to all that they will be taking it easy on racist murderers, once again implying open season on young black men.
We have always advocated for the formation of a People’s Red Army, which can wage war on our enemies against imperialism, injustice, and racism. Beyond that, we argue for the formation of working-class community self-defense units which could provide conflict mitigation without involving the police. Such units would be able to prevent situations like these by the fact that armed workers could patrol their own neighborhoods and suppress, and monitor people like Roche from the start. These same units could eventually enforce the people’s justice and no longer rely on the racist courts of the settler colonial empire.
We call on all supporters and community members to take action and mobilize on behalf of the victim, to apply pressure and resistance to the system so that this scum does not walk free. We call on all supporters and community members to stay vigilant and to get organized to create the kind of community which becomes a no-go zone for racists and the police. It is the people who will make history and we cannot expect the system to protect our youth or give them justice. The only correct thing for us to do is to fight back and to rebel against the racist nature of the United States of America.
We must identify the 4th of July for what it is, a racist holiday that is not for us but against us – our kids are not even allowed to celebrate the day off or enjoy fireworks. We must mourn for our dead and the loss to the community, but we must not stop at mourning. The best way to honor our loved ones who fall to racist violence is to get active in the fight back, to organize disciplined resistance and to militarize ourselves in the face of the militarized enemy—white racists and their white racist state.
The family of Devonte has set up a fundraiser to help them cover funeral costs and anything else stemming from this attack on the community. Please donate what you can and help spread the link through your networks. We stand in mourning and solidarity with our community; we will rise with them in resistance!
When we say no justice, no peace we mean NO FUCKING PEACE. That means to prepare for war.
Red Guards Austin, July 2018