Englewood city councilmember says communist views should be no surprise

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

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An Englewood city councilmember is in the spotlight after printouts of his Twitter posts — containing what another councilmember decried as “violent rhetoric” — turned up in some local residents' mailboxes. Some in the community appeared surprised at the political views John Stone's tweets reflected.

“Is this our councilman at large?” the printout read. It's unclear how many residents received a copy, but word of the tweets spread in Englewood and became a point of contention at recent city council meetings.

In an interview with the 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."

The printouts of Stone's tweets included numerous posts from some of Stone's Twitter accounts that have been deactivated. They include tags such as “#ArmedLeftist” and “#F---Capitalism.”

In response to a tweet by Carol Roth — a national media personality with a background in investment banking who posted a tweet with which Stone disagreed — the councilmember posted: “Light the BBQ, comrades. It's time for some capitalist pork ribs.”

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?”

The printouts appear to have been circulated in mailboxes in mid-February and later garnered attention on social media. Councilmember Dave Cuesta noted that “it's out there in the public forum at this point” at a Feb. 16 council meeting.

Councilmember Joe Anderson pointed to the “light the BBQ” tweet by Stone.

“Is that ill-advised juvenile rhetoric, or is it an actual threat of violence?” Anderson said at the Feb. 16 meeting, also noting the photos of Stone with knives and a firearm. “A threat of violence combined with the means to commit the violence should be taken very seriously.”

About a week later, Councilmember Othoniel Sierra took similar issue with what he called the “hateful and even violent rhetoric” in the posts, saying that it “makes me sick to my stomach” to see the posts coming from an Englewood councilmember.

“When free expression looks to incite or justify violence, you've lost me — as a citizen, as a parent and as a councilperson,” Sierra said at the council's study-session meeting Feb. 22.

Stone did not respond to Sierra but, in a Facebook post, scoffed at the idea that some of his rhetoric was offensive. Stone said another person he said he “wanted to BBQ” was Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, while decrying the wages Amazon workers make.

“The idea that anyone is offended by that is laughable, to me,” Stone wrote. “If anyone is surprised I would say it, you've clearly never talked to me.”

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."

A 'sensational thing'

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

One Englewood resident wrote to Stone on Facebook expressing surprise about his views.

“At no time did myself or anyone else think you were anything other than a moderate Democrat,” wrote Brenda Hubka.

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

He lamented members of the working or generally low socioeconomic classes being “regularly exploited by those who see themselves as our betters.” Stone said he sees the term "communist" as interchangeable with "anarcho-socialist."

Stone argues that his voting record on city council demonstrates his political views, saying he supports sending anything possible to a vote of Englewood residents rather than having council decide because “people should have the most say possible in what happens in their city.”

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.

Stone has been doxxed — a term for when someone publishes online a person's private or personal-identifying information, such as home address or phone number — on a website that describes itself as a running list of “far-left people.” Every two or three weeks, he gets harassing calls, text messages or emails and has heard derogatory comments about his Jewish heritage, he said.

'Community defense'

Stone, 36, said 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 elected a 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.”

In his Twitter description, Stone also listed “AntiFa," short for anti-fascist, an umbrella description for far-left militant groups that oppose forms of far-right ideology. The movement commonly draws criticism from conservative politicians.

Stone said he's “against facism, as any decent American should be,” adding, “I'm pretty sure we fought a pretty big war about that.” He criticized “the idea that it's a subculture to be against facism in the United States.”

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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