Englewood city councilmember resigns after communist views were spotlighted

Social media posts from John Stone, who posed with weapons in photos, had drawn backlash

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This is our updated story. For a closer look at Councilmember John Stone's postings on social media, see our previous story.

Englewood City Councilmember John Stone resigned, effective immediately, just after the start of the council's regular meeting on March 1. Stone had been in the spotlight for Twitter posts that contained what another councilmember decried as “violent rhetoric” and after some in the community expressed surprise at the communist political views his tweets reflected.

Online, some talk had arisen of a formal effort to remove Stone from office, although that had not been confirmed by city officials as of the evening of March 1.

Just after 7 p.m., one hour into the video recording of the council's overall virtual meeting, Stone requested an unexpected change to the meeting schedule to address the council and community immediately, telling Englewood residents that he has been reading their emails and other messages in the wake of backlash against his social media posts.

Some Englewood residents had found printouts in their mailboxes of tweets from some of Stone's Twitter accounts that have been deactivated. They include tags such as “#ArmedLeftist” and “#F---Capitalism,” along with other critical rhetoric about the economic system.

Another tweet included a photo of Stone posing shirtless with a firearm, with the caption, “Yeah, I just chill in bed with multiple firearms. Don't you?” Another, of Stone shirtless and holding a knife, read, “Who wants a little poke?”

It's unclear how many residents received a copy, but word of the tweets had spread in Englewood and became a point of contention at recent city council meetings. The printouts appear to have been circulated in mailboxes in mid-February and later garnered attention on social media.

In the build-up to the surprise announcement, Councilmember Othoniel Sierra was one of Stone's colleagues who had taken issue with what he called the “hateful and even violent rhetoric” in the posts, saying at the council's study-session meeting Feb. 22 that it “makes me sick to my stomach” to see the posts coming from an Englewood councilmember.

On Feb. 26, Mayor Linda Olson provided a statement to Colorado Community Media about Stone's tweets.

“While each of us on city council share the same privileges of the First Amendment in our public and private lives, I personally do not share nor support the values portrayed in Mr. Stone's social media posts,” Olson wrote. “I believe citizens expect a higher standard of behavior from their elected officials.”

During the March 1 meeting, Stone said he realized that serving on city council “is not the fit for me and that I need to do other work in other places.”

“I apologize for any harm that people feel I've done,” Stone said. “I wanted to serve this community, and I will continue serving this community in every way that I possibly can in a better field that I am better suited to.”

Stone expressed gratitude for the time he spent on council and pride in the council's actions during his time.

“I know that this city council will pick an appropriate replacement for me … until someone can be elected to replace me, and I leave our community in your hands,” Stone said. “Thank you.”

Other councilmembers thanked Stone for “taking accountability” and had kind words to say before he logged off of the public meeting, which was held over videoconferencing.

In the days leading up to the meeting, an apparently anonymous Facebook page called “Recall John Stone” was created, though it had only garnered 16 follows as of March 1. Geoff Frazier, a 37-year-old Englewood resident and Democrat, had sent an email to the Arapahoe County Democratic Party; Stone; state Rep. Meg Froelich and state Sen. Jeff Bridges, who represent Englewood and nearby areas; and Olson and Sierra, saying he had helped campaign for John Stone in 2019 but now regrets supporting him.

Frazier urged Stone to step down, adding: “It is important for you to know that your response will have a direct impact on whether myself and other Englewood Democrats actively and financially support an already organized recall effort against Member Stone.”

After Stone's surprise resignation on March 1, Olson said she “cares a lot about” Stone although they “don't see eye-to-eye on some things.”

“I hope the best as you move forward and with some of the great passions that you have for other people,” Olson said.

Councilmember Joe Anderson, who in a previous council meeting had criticized Stone's rhetoric at length, appeared to tear up and became emotional after Stone's resignation announcement.

“Thank you to member Stone for stepping up and serving on council, and I do want to wish him sincerely the richest blessings in his future endeavors,” Anderson said, his voice starting to break. He added: “I do wish you the best.”

'A sensational thing'

In an interview last week with Colorado Community Media, Stone — who won an at-large seat on the city's seven-member council in 2019 — said he uses “communist” to describe his views.

“I am a communist. I'm open about it,” Stone wrote on Facebook. “I was open about it when I was campaigning.”

In a since-deactivated Twitter account, Stone — who also listed himself as a labor organizer — identified himself as “anarcho-socialist,” or anarchist socialist.

“Like many other Englewood Democrats I have spoken with, I feel duped by Member Stone's dishonesty. Contrary to his false claims, he never disclosed his extreme views or that he is an 'anarcho-communist' to the citizens of Englewood,” Frazier wrote in his email.

In the interview with CCM, Stone said he knocked on thousands of doors across Englewood and said he talked to thousands of people during his campaign. He added that “nearly every person asked me what my party affiliation” was at the time.

“I said I'm a Democrat, but ideologically, I identify as an anarcho-socialist. Most of them asked me what that is, and so I explained it, and I explained what my beliefs are and I explained how that would influence how I govern,” Stone said.

Stone said his anarcho-socialist views mean “that I believe in the highest level of democracy possible, the most direct governance of the people possible.” He added: “Workers should be the ones that decide things because workers are the ones who make things.”

Stone said he sees the term “communist” as interchangeable with “anarcho-socialist.”

Stone said he experienced homelessness during a period in his life, and he points to his work to support people experiencing homelessness, his support for small local businesses, and his desire for more people to be able to both work and live in Englewood. He said he didn't receive pushback from potential voters when he explained his anarcho-socialist views, noting that he won election. But he's not surprised that some might say they didn't know what his beliefs were.

“I think that people look for sensational things to talk about, and this is the sensational thing right now,” Stone said.

'Community defense'

Stone, 36, told CCM he doesn't see why Englewood residents would be concerned about the photos of him with a firearm and a knife, which he said were posted a few months ago.

“I'm a millennial who has social media and … it's my personal life,” Stone said.

Stone has identified himself on Twitter as an elected city councilmember. He said he didn't specify which city.

“I find it ironic that conservatives are up in arms about me owning 'assault rifles,'” Stone said, calling it a “meaningless term” and mentioning the Second Amendment.

Stone also identifies himself on Twitter as a “community defense partner,” and in the interview, he said: “Community defense is ensuring that the vulnerable in our community have protection from the fascists and neo-Nazis that show up in droves to harass them,” Stone said, referring to an event he said occurred a few months ago in Denver. Stone has tweeted in support of protests and posted that he attended a “PSL march,” appearing to refer to the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“I don't illegally carry firearms — all the ones I own are legally owned and operated,” Stone said.

“But I will interpose myself in order to stand up and protect … the vulnerable communities that are trying to have their voices heard,” Stone continued.

Asked if that means attending protests while carrying weapons and if being armed is a part of his political cause, Stone said, “That's an absurd question,” and repeated that he “owns and operates firearms legally.”

Several of Stone's Twitter accounts have been taken down or suspended. The social media company's rules prohibit “threaten(ing) violence” and “glorification of violence,” among other things, but Twitter appears not to publicly list the specific reason why individual accounts are suspended.

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