Tay Anderson looked clean, fresh and polished sitting next to Jeff Fard on the Free Think Zone podcast. It was almost as if he hadn’t just been weathering the storm of his young life.
Ever since anonymous allegations of assault, the Denver Public Schools board member has been persona non-grata in the community. These very allegations pushed Anderson to the brink of suicide, by his own admission on the podcast.
Then, there was the article in Yellow Scene, a digital magazine that calls itself the voice of Boulder County and the North Metro region. Written by Yellow Scene publisher Shavonne Blades, it is a highly detailed and thorough expose on what looks more and more like a coordinated cyberbullying campaign — and brute character assassination attempt — aimed at Anderson.
According to Yellow Scene, there’s only one person that has gone on the public record against Anderson, and it’s not even an alleged victim. Mary Katherine Brooks-Fleming, a parent of three Denver Public Schools students, spoke to Yellow Scene. She claimed to be speaking for the original victim who came forward to Black Lives Matter 5280 in March.
Then, on May 29, Brooks-Fleming gave testimony on Senate Bill 73, strongly insinuating that Anderson had assaulted 62 other child victims.
Though Fleming never mentioned Anderson directly, Gigi Gordon linked the alleged victims to him in her online petition seeking to remove his name from DPS diplomas.
The problem with Brooks-Fleming’s story is how isolated she is. No other victims, anonymous or otherwise, have come forward as of yet. Strangely, Brooks-Fleming claims that most of Anderson’s supposed victims were undocumented immigrants, yet no Latinx or immigrant advocacy groups have been contacted to assist the supposed victims, according to Yellow Scene.
Furthermore, at 2:08 into her testimony, Brooks-Fleming said there were multiple non-disclosure agreements signed between Denver Public Schools and these alleged victims, who were said to be particularly vulnerable because of their immigration status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DPS doesn’t do NDAs because school employees are mandatory reporters of alleged abuse. She alleges that this supposed predator targeted these students because they were DACA, but DPS doesn’t keep records of students’ DACA status.
Then there’s the fact that the 2017 timeline of Anderson allegedly raping the first victim at their mutual place of employment does not line up. The problem is that Anderson was not employed during the summer of 2017, according to his campaign manager, Tiffany Caudill.
Something is amiss here, and it ain’t Tay Anderson.
Then, on June 13, after the online furor against Anderson was going into its third month, the original victim recanted her statement, according to Yellow Scene. Then, Yellow Scene followed up with “Victim Number One” on June 25 to be sure she wanted to recant, but could not get a conclusive response. The recantation to Yellow Scene still stands as of writing this column. Black Lives Matter 5280 has yet to make a public post about the recantation.
Some have speculated nefarious intentions on the part of BLM 5280. Though that may be a possibility, I think something else could be true. If Anderson made enemies in high places, nefarious actors could have exploited BLM as a patsy to make the allegations public. They exploited a hole in the left’s public commitment to support victims of sexual violence; believing them without further questions. No trial, no questioning, just compassionate faith that their courage to come forward is all the credibility we need, given the difficulty of going public with trauma.
Here’s the problem: In time, someone will exploit this good faith, and the left must be ready for that. This could indeed be it. The public character assassination attempt of Anderson is likely the wakeup call to remind us that questioning victims does not equal rape apology. Facts must be established because the rights of the accused still matter.
Some well-meaning people fell right into believing Anderson was a rapist because of their own sexual assault. Did they project their own trauma onto Anderson?
The left is made up of many of the groups that have been failed by the promise of American “justice.” We’ve adapted in a system that did not enforce our value in the eyes of the dominant classes, and we were wounded. Through our wounds, we must be just enough to see that even though hetero cis men have been frequent violators, the innocent among them still have rights. If the tide keeps turning for Tay Anderson, it will prove he is indeed among the innocent, as he has asserted all along.
One cruel irony struck me most of all. BLM 5280’s letterhead announcing the allegations against Anderson says, “In commitment to restorative justice.” I saw none of that for Anderson. These same liberal people in my community who want to end the school-to-prison pipeline forget all about that for straight men merely accused of sexual assault. Moreover, the optics of all these cis white women screaming “rapist” at a Black man without trial, judge or jury triggered Jim Crow-era lynchmob imagery gone digital in my mind. That this cry was joined by many white conservative voices was just god-awful.
As the 100th anniversary of the burning of Black Wall Street passed, Anderson was being hounded by a white mob online, calling him “rapist” with no police investigation, trial or restorative justice in sight.
They cyber-bullied him with anonymous accusers, inconsistent narratives and provably false timelines. If Anderson is indeed innocent, a public apology from all his detractors is the least measure of decency needed to reclaim their integrity. Anderson recently announced his return to work, while maintaining his innocence on his personal blog.
Anderson asserts he’s never been contacted by law enforcement, and the DPS investigation is still in progress.
Even in a system as flawed as this one, a day in court is guaranteed to all. Even liberals and progressives must restrain the urge to be mob judge and jury, lest we repeat the same wrongs that united us in the first place.
Theo Wilson of Denver is a poet, speaker, author and activist.
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