Last week Samuel Ronan, a progressive congressional candidate in Ohio’s first district, was stopped by police, assaulted by the officers involved and ultimately arrested. He was charged with three offenses, including obstructing police business. Two of the three charges against him were reported to have been dropped at the time of writing. Shortly after Ronan’s Facebook live stream of the arrest, a number of independent journalists expressed outrage and concern regarding the incident.
A copy of Ronan’s live-streamed arrest is available via Youtube, after having been removed from Facebook. Local press coverage of the event relates a statement made by the Springboro police on the matter, which claimed that the initial stop was prompted by unsafe driving:
“Mr. Ronan was observed, by a Springboro police officer, operating his vehicle in an unsafe manner. The Springboro police officer attempted to stop Mr. Ronan, for the traffic violation, by activating his overhead lights. Mr. Ronan ignored this signal to stop and continued to drive. The Springboro officer then activated his siren. Mr. Ronan ignored this attempt to stop him and continued to drive. Mr. Ronan then led the Springboro police officer on a brief pursuit, turning into an apartment complex.”
However, this version of events does not appear to reference the claim by a police report cited in the same local press article, which attributed the initial stop to a road rage incident. No further mention appears to have been made regarding any additional vehicles that might have been involved if the incident stemmed from road rage.
So, what motivated the police to pull Ronan over in the first place? Confusion regarding the cause of the cause of the traffic stop has fueled concerns that the incident may have been associated with political retribution.
Independent journalists have been especially critical of the narrative surrounding the incident. As Tim Black and others have pointed out, the publicly available record of the charges against Ronan related only to interactions between Ronan and police after the stop began. At this time, there is no evidence that can fully answer the lingering questions as to what instigated the initial stop.
Yesterday, Ronan wrote via Twitter that he had been released from jail, but would not be making public statements about the arrest at this time:
At this time I am released from Warren County Jail. I will not be giving a statement today about the arrest. Today is a day to spend with my family and friends.
If you can offer advice on an attorney for my case I would however, greatly appreciate it.
— Samuel Ronan (@Ronan4Progress) June 12, 2018
Contextually, Ronan has run for office multiple times, reportedly vying for the position of DNC Chair in 2017. Ronan spoke to Al Jazeera last year regarding his bid for the position, stating:
“[Democrats] haven’t been present in rural America for 30 years. We haven’t given a damn for the common people in 30 years. You just have to open the doors to common people. They’re passionate and energized to get things done. That is literally all it takes.”
Additional local press reports indicate that in Primary races against both Democratic and GOP candidates, Ronan received approximately 20% of the vote in each run. A promotional video produced by Ronan’s latest campaign provides insight into the candidate’s platform, which would be anathema to most centrist, establishment-backed Democrats. Independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone has closely followed Ronan’s recent arrest as well as his previous political activity, penning an article in 2017 titled: “If All Progressives Start Acting Like Sam Ronan, We’ll Be Unstoppable.”
Ronan’s work was also noted by Jimmy Dore, who featured him in multiple segments of the Jimmy Dore Show, focusing on his 2017 bid for DNC Chair. Dore described Ronan as having made unprecedented calls for accountability on the issue of the infamous 2016 Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Whether Ronan’s recent arrest was related to political activism or not, it stands to reason that his consistent ability to win a fifth of the vote whether running as a Republican or as a Democrat may have been a concern for a Democratic party struggling to prepare for the 2018 midterm elections across the country. Questions as to whether this specific incident was a manifestation of targeting due to Ronan’s political work is also far from the first time that progressive activists have perceived police violence in such a light.
Disobedient Media previously reported on the repeated assaults and wrongful arrests suffered by progressive activist Niko House at the hands of police officers in multiple states. Like Ronan, Niko House is a veteran, but he is also an independent journalist who has founded his own social media network, and was a prominent activist and supporter of Bernie Sanders leading up to, and during the 2016 Democratic Primary race.
In addition to House’s description of the repeated police brutality he experienced to the reality of systemic racism, he has since stated the belief that the impetus for his most recent arrest may have been retribution for his political activism. House Tweeted:
“We are even starting to believe that given the extremely unlikely coincidences in my last run-in with the law that I am indeed being targeted and am left wide open because they know I cannot financially afford to defend myself…”
If House’s suspicion is even partially correct, it raises questions regarding the arrest of Samuel Ronan: Was the congressional candidate the victim of random police brutality, (an all-too-common occurrence) or was his botched arrest the result of being targeted for his progressive political efforts?
In his recent coverage of Ronan’s arrest, House spoke to the speculation of some who assumed that the police must have witnessed illegality on the candidate’s part for the arrest to have occurred. House refuted this, saying:
“If he was doing something, it would have been on the charges… The only charges listed were obstructing justice, obstructing official business, and failure to abide by police signal. Now, there was no probable cause for the signal to have been given to begin with… or else he would have been charged with it.”
House then noted that two of the charges against Ronan had already been dropped and that the judge in the case had allowed him to leave custody without bond, adding that Ronan’s pre-trial is set for June 19th.
At this time, there is far too little information available to form a judgment on the underlying causes behind Ronan’s mistreatment at the hands of police officers. However, whether it was an instance of political retribution or not, it forms yet another example in the ongoing litany of episodes of police violence and brutality against unarmed civilians without probable cause.
Disobedient Media will continue to report on this story as more information becomes available.