Statement on abuse by Austin “Maoist” activists
This post is a brief summary of the extensive and serious abuses carried out by Jared Roark (aka “Dallas”) and a small group of others. The basic fact is that 15-20 people in Austin and other cities were emotionally, psychologically, and verbally abused over a period of years in organizations Jared controlled, and several people were severely traumatized. The organizations he controlled harbored at least one rapist.
This page is meant to protect people against him and other activists he is likely to be working with. These other two likely to be working with Jared are Christopher Ledesma (aka “Rico”) and Liam Swanson (“Connor”) (pictures below). Jared and these others are still seeking to carry out activism as “leftists.” Anyone who aligns with them will likely be harmed and encouraged to harm others.
Jared is the founder of Red Guards Austin. He is an abusive manipulator who has used revolutionary politics as a vehicle for his egotism and reprehensible behavior. Christopher and Liam have both abused people directly as well as brought dozens of people under the influence of organizations in which abuse was systematic and pervasive. These organizations disintegrated in early 2022 when the larger number of less-involved people finally learned of the deep abuse of those most involved.
We encourage everyone in activist spaces, especially in Austin, TX, to be vigilant against these three and anyone who defends them. Right now it’s unlikely that these three will appear in public, but a few others who support them may try to enter leftist spaces or carry out apparently “leftist” activism. In short, anyone who defends them or downplays their abuses should be assumed to be helping them spread their influence and escape accountability. Anyone doing this should be publicly identified and tossed out of all activist spaces.
As a final note before going further, we want to say we do not believe this abuse has anything significant to do with the fact that these individuals claim to follow Marxism or Maoism. Anyone who has honestly observed the US left for any significant time knows that abusers have flown under the cover of a great variety of leftist ideas.
To begin with: when a leader in an organization Jared controlled confessed privately to the top leadership that he attempted to sexually assault his partner, there was no investigation. Jared and the other leaders left this man in his leadership position and kept the secret. For at least three months after this time, this individual raped two members he had leadership over. Only when this became more widely known in March 2020 did Jared expel the predator from the movement. Jared and his top leaders never ensured any meaningful support was offered to the survivors, and the only concern was determining how to get them “back to work” in activism to promote the organizations they ran.
In 2020, the mother of Jared’s child was planning on leaving their relationship and Jared caught wind. He collected several people most loyal to him and convinced them she was having a mental breakdown. Together, they hid the toddler from her and later forced her into a “struggle session,” aiming among other things to prevent her from leaving the relationship. (In one organization Jared controlled, a “struggle session” was an intense session of beratement usually rising to the level of verbal abuse in which the offender is relentlessly gaslit and torn down by several other attendees.) This is only one of the most extreme examples, but Jared used his influence in the movement for years to control his partner’s activities.
Many of those most traumatized have described the organizations Jared and his trusted leaders controlled as cult-like. Whether or not they counted as a cult in an official sense, it is very understandable why many who were victimized are choosing to use that term. The environment they created was cult-like in the following ways:
– There was strong encouragement for those most involved to be skeptical toward their family, friends, and pre-existing social network, to the point that it was common for people to lose touch with them. Some were ordered to move to different cities where the only people they’d know were in the movement Jared controlled. Once their support network was weakened or removed, Jared’s frequent implied threats of expulsion or isolation functioned as implicit threats to make those most involved functionally virtually alone in the world.
– Those most involved were required to seek permission for even basic life choices, such as who they were allowed to date romantically, and where they were allowed to live, and were punished for deviation from these orders.
– People who disobeyed Jared or his trusted leader’s commands, or failed to meet the often impossible expectations, would often face harsh and demeaning verbal abuse, and/or physically strenuous punishments. The most extreme punishments also included the “struggle sessions” described above. Often, no exceptions were made for these strenuous punishments even if someone was already in poor physical health at the time.
– Even outside of punishments, Jared and his trusted leaders gave people such a heavy activist workload, on top of having demanding full-time jobs, that for the majority of those most involved, it was the norm that they were not getting enough sleep, often for months at a time. On top of it making it harder for people to simply think straight, it also meant they didn’t have time or energy to socialize with friends and family, further isolating them from outside support.
– As part of the policies that were allegedly to prevent government repression or infiltration, individuals were strongly discouraged from, or even punished for, airing their concerns and complaints to others who were involved, and instead were only allowed to send them “up the chain,” ultimately to Jared and his trusted leaders. This deepened the isolation of everyone who was most involved, not just from the outside world, but even from others in their same situation.
– At the beginning of most meetings among those most involved, they were expected to verbally swear their allegiance to the leadership of the movement… that is, to Jared and whoever his most trusted leaders were at any given time. An atmosphere of honoring leadership (Jared and his trusted leaders) was generally insisted on, and failure to be sufficiently enthusiastic about leadership’s decisions was treated as a bad attitude requiring punishment.
– There was a strong insistence that participation in the organizations under Jared’s control was the one-and-only way to help liberate humanity from the very real misery in the world, and this meant that activity outside these organizations accomplished almost nothing. What this meant in practice is that the organizations under Jared’s control were hostile to virtually all other leftist organizations and most of their members. This also meant that the people most involved in the organizations under Jared’s control knew that, if they were viewed as “betraying” the movement (that is, disobeying Jared), they would face the same hostility that activists outside the movement would face. In this way, the outward hostility also functioned as a sharp warning to all those inside the movement.
– Though this was not known to all those involved, Jared and his trusted leaders actively kept tabs on anyone who left the movement, including knowing or even monitoring their residence and workplace. It was not uncommon to hear those who left or were expelled from the movement denounced as “traitors” and “enemies.” The message was clear to those involved: if you dissent too strongly or leave, you will have reason to be afraid.
– Despite the lip service given that those involved should have strong connections with the community, the real activity of the movement was to give huge levels of energy to creating spectacles for the public to see around town. This meant those most involved were often left with very little time or energy to interact with the community, further isolating them.
– Methods of love-bombing and flattery were consciously used to draw people in. (Love-bombing is a well-known manipulation method in which someone is “bombed” with gifts, special attention, flattery, and warm treatment during an initial honeymoon period.) Jared explicitly used this term and said it needed to be used on certain people he wanted to bring closer.
Taken together, this environment of mental and physical exhaustion, intimidation, manipulation, engineered ignorance, etc. gave Jared a profound control over those most involved and made it hard for them to leave, or even think critically about their own situation, and likely to obey Jared and his trusted leaders and help him maintain his control over others.
We want to emphasize, this mistreatment was carried out along sexist and anti-LGBT lines. While officially the position was equality for women and LGBT people, and many women were significantly involved, the reality was, traditionally feminine qualities and gender-nonconforming behavior were discouraged or even harshly criticized. Besides his abuse of his wife, and the sexual predator who was harbored, other examples include:
– One of those most involved lived in Jared’s and his partner’s home as a full-time, unpaid caretaker for their child. She tried to leave multiple times but was manipulated and threatened with abuse each time. When she finally left it was only when people physically helped her escape the situation and relocate.
– One person who was significantly involved reported that, although they claimed they were transforming women to overcome the timidity that our sexist society often tries to enforce on women, in reality they were only changing the main source of fear and domination, making them timid of disappointing or angering these male leaders who were usually a decade or more older than them.
– In general, less severe male sexual misconduct (eg, inappropriate sexual conversations) was overlooked and treated lightly as long as it was carried out by someone Jared and his trusted leaders found useful. An example of this is when Jared defended a man that cheated on his partner by pursuing a vulnerable young female activist that was under this man’s leadership.
– One person who was involved reported that a woman involved in the movement was criticized for coming out as a lesbian.
– When women who were involved would get tears in their eyes or respond in an understandably hurt way to the harsh verbal abuse they faced, they were told something like, “You’re really emotional” as a way to invalidate their feelings, or accused of “pity-seeking.”
– An organization in the movement that had one of the highest concentration of women was the main one that had its members asked to babysit Jared’s child.
To those that first meet him, Jared and those working with him can seem warm and caring. Jared specifically presents himself as politically knowledgeable and deeply committed to revolutionary struggle for the benefit of the exploited and oppressed. This is a facade put up during the “honeymoon phase.” At no point have Jared, Christopher, and Liam tried to make amends for, or even acknowledged, the harm they have caused to many good people, both within the movement they controlled and beyond.
Exposing the full abuses committed by Jared and through the organizations he controlled is an ongoing process. Jared and his trusted leaders will never trust you, and they should not be trusted.
Jared Roark (aka “Dallas”)
Christopher Ledesma (aka “Rico”)
Liam Swanson (aka “Connor”)