Fight for Editorial Rights: Occupy Homes vs Media Team

Media area from the plaza occupation.

I remember sitting at the Hard Times Café for a meeting of Occupy Minnesota’s Media Committee meeting on a mild December day in 2011. Osha was there but had left when because of a health problem. It was after he left that Nick brought up kicking him off the Media Committee. After discussions it was concluded that if we vote to kick him off the move to change password had to be done right then. If he knew what was happening this could get very messy. After the vote, of which I didn’t vote either way, the person with the laptop didn’t want to change the passwords, to do the actual deed. I volunteered and changed it. I have not been to a Media Committee meeting since.

When I saw that the Media Committee had chosen to “No longer share a content process & resources with Occupy Homes MN” last month I knew this was going to be a big deal. I have independently covered events and actions by Occupy Homes MN, Occupy Minneapolis, American Indian Movement, and several others by streaming, writing, making videos, and spreading the word by using the many tools I have. I am attempting to cover this as neutrally as possible. The goal of this article is to educate everyone on the issues.

What Occupy MN Media Committee actually did was to kick Nick Espinosa from Occupy Homes MN (OHMN) off of the Occupy MN Facebook Page administration and to change the password to the @OccupyMN twitter account and not give Nick the new password.

Occupy Homes MN is demanding that someone from OHMN be on the Media Committee. The Media Committee is refusing saying that they cannot share an editorial process with OHMN. OHMN holds that they have time sensitive issues that rely on these sources in getting the word out about it. A member of the Media Committee agreed to sign up to OHMN alert system to be notified when something happens. That’s where it stands right now.

Why did the Occupy MN Media Committee do this?

In the joint statement by the Media Committee they accused Occupy Homes MN of tactics not befitting what the term “Occupy” stands for. The main accusations are that OHMN demands dues to be a part of decision making; censorship and banning people off listserv; the intake of and misuse of funds; and using messaging attacking chemically dependent homeless labeling them as “drug house” rot.

OHMN does require $10 a month dues and to have attended an event in the past 3 months to be a voting member or ask for it to be waived for hardship. When I asked for more details on this from OHMN Becky responded by email. She says that before a vote they announced their membership system, ask that only members vote, that if you are planning on becoming a member at end of the meeting you can vote and that it is all done on the honor system. They have never refused anyone who claimed hardship.

OHMN has admitted to censorship of violent, hate, and sexist speech on their pages but not to dissenting opinions. They had no formal policies in place before this event on how to handle these situations. They are working on policies and procedure for the future.

I asked OHMN about their funding. They told me they have received a $5,000 grant from Headwaters Foundation for Justice and a $4,000 from Resist, Inc. They received 2 grants from the Movement Resource Group for a total of $15,000 and a $10,000 grant to Occupy Our Homes for the purpose of hosting the national convening in Minneapolis but Movement Resource Group no longer exists as a funding source.

I asked for a list of donators of over $1000 (5 times the minimum campaign disclosure limit.) because funding is a concern of others. I have not received such but am still in negotiations. I have agreed to not share personal information. I would only be looking for major donors that may be tied to groups that could be a concern.

OHMN said they would give me a copy of their budget but haven’t received it yet. An OHMN budget I received from a third party showed other grant not listed above. It also showed that around 70% of their 6 month budget goes to stipends. I am waiting to get the budget from OHMN themselves before saying anything more about the budget.

The local Occupy movement, especially when it occupied the plaza, was a safe and inclusive place where many homeless people had support and a voice. One of the recent campaigns of OHMN has been putting homeless families into vacant homes, a worthy cause. In their media about this they have, to some people, badmouthed homeless drug addicts who were squatting in these homes previously.

Occupy Homes MN’s response.

Their response was to ask for one of their members to be a part of the Media Committee and to have access to the Facebook page and Twitter accounts. Their reasoning was that these resources were built in common and should be share with all the local Occupy movement. The procedure to remove access was done against the rules set out by the Media Committee and therefore done invalidly. Groups should be able to self-identify with Occupy Wall Street and every group that does should be able to have access to this resource.

The “resources” that are the Occupy MN Facebook and Twitter are great tools. The Facebook has 12,000 likes twitter has 10,000 followers. The Media Committee has allowed me to look at the stats as far as when people “liked” the Facebook page and approximately 80% of them were before Occupy Homes MN was formed. This fact could be argued that these “likes” were for both since there was no separate place to like OHMN or that they were only for Occupy MN. There is no way of knowing.

The procedure for removing OHMN access to the accounts was done without giving a 2 week notice. This rule I have not been able to find in the rules given to me by the Media Committee. They do not deny that this rule may have existed.

Occupy Homes MN wishes to have autonomy to do things the way they decide but not the media committee. Occupy Minneapolis, do to strife in the past on many things, has left committees to be autonomous. OHMN asserts that all Minnesota Occupy groups should members on the Media Committee. This argument is self-defeating in my opinion. Why should the Media Committee not be able to determine their autonomy and self-identification?

Why wasn’t prior notification given to HOMN by the Media Committee?

This question touches at a lot of the heart of the cause of this conflict. What must be understood when thinking about this is that there are two aspects from the Media Committee’s “side” that were in play. One is Occupy Homes MN itself and the other is Nick Espinosa, one of the founders of and a stipend receiving worker at OHMN. There is a long history since the beginning of Occupy MN of Nick disenfranchising individuals and taking control of media resources. He apologized at the Occupy Minneapolis meeting on March 27th for these past actions and would not seek access for himself. There was a legitimate concern that if the Media Committee followed procedures and gave Nick prior notice to make his case that he would take over these resources.

What must be understood about these media resources is they are not designed for situations like these. To have access to the twitter everyone knows the one password. Anyone who knows the password can change it thus eliminating access to these accounts to the other members. Because of this ease of hijacking there needs to be a high level of trust to have this access. Nick has admittedly broken that trust in the past.

The rift between many of the Media Committee and others and Occupy Homes MN goes much deeper than this. Deep wounds that are still festering. Neither entity is innocent. It is not the topic of this conversation but there existence must be acknowledged.

Where does it stand right now?

The Media Committee has agreed to keep posting Occupy Homes MN updates and be available for emergency media releases. OHMN does not have direct access to the accounts.

A few members of the Media Committee had agreed at the March 27th meeting to meet in a smaller group setting with members of OHMN with a mediator. This hasn’t happened. What I hear is that the media team members have been reluctant to meet and is in no rush to do so.

The Media Committee wants to sever the tie to being obligated to post OHMN media. Occupy Homes MN wants a full fledge member to be a member of the Media Committee.

Where do we go from here?

There should be a meeting. Even if it is just to air all concerns had by both sides it would allow some of the people not directly related to the issue to take a step away from this issue.

The “solutions” being presented are leaving things the way they are right now or letting someone from OHMN on the Media Committee. The Media Committee is happy to leave things the way they are, Occupy Homes MN is not.

In order for the Media Committee to allow an OHMN member to be on the team he or she would have to earn the trust of the Media Committee; A trust that is longer than a few meeting and chats away from being earned. The trust could be built over time. OHMN could do many things to earn that trust.

I will get back to how to build up trust after covering some possible other “Solutions” that I see. The creation of a joint media committee in charge of both Occupy Homes MN’s media and the Occupy MN media could be created. A solution requiring each side to have trust in the other to make work.

Another way this could go is Occupy Homes MN assert so much pressure from outside to related groups that the Media Committee is dissolved. This would end the dispute but in a very destructive manor. I mention it because there is real, although slight, possibility of it happening.

I wish I could see better solutions but I do not see any. Please share any that you might see.

Ways Occupy Homes MN could build trust with the Media Committee.

It will take time but I believe it can be done. The first step would be having a direct meeting to be able to openly communicate and understand where people are at. Trust will not happen without communication.

One step would be holding Nick Espinosa to his word that he would not be directly involved in this issue. The bad blood involving Nick is too much to overcome anytime soon.

The Media Committee could be granted access to the Google that the Media Committee hasn’t had access since early last year. These Google Groups include contact list of people who signed up for newsletters etc. since the beginning of Occupy Minneapolis.

Occupy Homes MN could participate in promoting non-homes events on its media. We are all working toward the same thing but there has been no cross promoting by OHMN. I went back months and found nothing in their Facebook posts supporting other local movement organizations.

Both sides

Before posting this I sent copies to both groups asking to check my facts and assumptions. I took their input into consideration and did have to correct a few things. This is part of my attempt to be as fair as possible about the situation.

Some people want a quick and easy compromise and move on. I foresee either this conflict staying heated with both sides digging in their heels or it cooling off and the slow rebuilding of trust and eventual cooperation. The assorted year and a half history that has led up to this I may cover in the future but felt explaining the facts, logistics, and an overview of what the conflict is about was more important. I will attempt to answer any questions about this that I can as fairly as I can.

Toby Iverson
@TshirtToby

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29 thoughts on “Fight for Editorial Rights: Occupy Homes vs Media Team

  1. “In their media about this they have, to some people, badmouthed homeless drug addicts who were squatting in these homes previously.”

    Could you reference where you found language disparaging people experiencing homelessness or addiction put out by OHMN?

    If not, please remove this inaccurate information.

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  2. Thanks Nick for your comment. As I told you in emails, I cannot say that OHMN did not offend people because people were offended. I do personally think it is a little touchy of those who were offended. I even softened the tone of this line because, Nick, of your comments after letting you see this article before release.

    Nick, and I assume it is you since it was posted so soon after I responded to your last email about this very topic, I cannot fully answer your question because I have not gone through every handout, Facebook post, tweet, and piece of media OHMN produces.

    I will say that in Jessica's Story you show a house all messed up, it being cleaned up, and blamed it on being a “Drug House.” A house OHMN broke into to reclaim for a family to live in from the people who broke into it to live, could be considered hypocritical and offensive. I personally do not. But as I said before it is not my call to say if something is offensive or not.

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  3. Again, I cannot say that OHMN did not offend people because people were offended. I do personally think it is a little touchy of those who were offended. And I have not gone through every handout, Facebook post, tweet, and piece of media OHMN produces.

    Saying that to satisfy whatever it is that makes you keep asking the same question I will take the time to answer you, again.

    Jessica's Story: Reclaiming Our Homes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN8jloK6vEc

    1:19 OHMN show a house all messed up, it being cleaned up, and blamed it on being a “Drug House.”

    1:46 “When you have empty houses that are just sitting there causing blight in the community”

    When combined someone might determine that because people lived there before then OHMN refer to the house as empty and a blight. Someone who was living there before Jessica might think you just called them nonexistent and a blight.

    Again, I personally do not. But as I said before it is not my call to say if something is offensive or not.

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  4. Saying the word drug house is not the same thing as what you're accusing ohmn of. You said “using messaging attacking chemically dependent homeless labeling them as “drug house” rot.” Where is the evidence of this specific claim?

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  5. I said that in the paragraph describing what the Media team had said in the joint statement. That is true and I have posted in a previous blog post for people to see. I disagree with the media team on this personally.

    When actually discussing that point and offering my thoughts on it I wrote. “In their[OHMN] media about this they have, to some people, badmouthed homeless drug addicts who were squatting in these homes previously.” Also true.

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  6. If I am to report on someone saying “Legitimate Rape” I need to say someone said “Legitimate Rape.” Then, and only then, am I reporting on someone saying “Legitimate Rape.”

    If I describe how “Legitimate Rape” is an invalid term without mentioning the context it is an factual essay or scientific report.

    What other reason should I have not said that?

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  7. Hi Toby, this is Gillette. In your article you wrote that, “OHMN has admitted to censorship of violent, hate, and sexist speech on their pages but not to dissenting opinions.” Several months ago, I made a comment on one of OHMN's Facebook page posts. My comment was not abusive and I didn't use any foul language, I simply shared my opinion. I told a fellow activist that I had finally shared my feelings with OHMN and he said, “You better get a screen shot of that immediately because they will probably delete it.” I said, “Really?” So I took a screen shot and within a few minutes my comment had been deleted. I took another screen shot. I was also banned from making any posts or comments on the OHMN Facebook page, permanently. I would be happy to share the screen shots so you can include them in your article. This comment I made on OHMN's Facebook post was made many many months ago. At the time, I did not even know they had been deleting people's comments and/or posts on social networking pages and knew nothing of the whole censorship controversy. My ban is apparently permanent as I am still banned from their Facebook page as of April 26, 2013.

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  8. Occupy Homes blocks anyone who comments in a neutral or non-positive way on their facebook page. Even those just questioning tactics.

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  9. Gillette, you are not the only person to offer the same evidence. Before this conflict is not as relevant because OHMN is putting together a policy to deal with it.

    I have had one person tell me that it has happened since then. That is more relevant to the situation. Any evidence of that would be interesting to see.

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  10. So where is the link to the deleted screen shot or other evidence of Gillette's claim? She has also made unsubstantiated claims that the first house that OHMN took over was selected by someone other than a member of OHMN or NOC in some conspiratorial fashion. When I called her to ask about it she said she didn't want to talk to me about it. I know that her statement isn,t true because I have been with OHMN from the beginning and while I didn't personally select the house I was the one to open it up prior to he other demonstrators arriving. Im just saying, lets have evidence before we make wild unsubstantiated claims in the future to avoid needless confusion and suspicion. Along with freedom of speech should come responsibility.

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  11. While your comments are literally true you have spun the story in a way that supports the claims made by the Media committee that you agree are misleading and disingenuous. I think what Anonymous is trying to say is lets not give undue support to comments that if not outright false are at best misleading and exaggerated by any reasonable standard. It is comments like the ones you have made above that cause me to continue to believe that you are not objective in your reporting and you should stop making the claim that you are. I would have much more respect for your repairing if you would clearly label your posts as editorials.

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  12. I went to the You Tube link you referenced. The phrase “Drug House” was used by a homeless mother that had began to occupy the house. She had determined in conversations with neighbors that it had been used for the distribution of illegal drugs. The neighborhood had been terrorized by the kind of activity that is commonly associated with this including violence and other socially distractive actions. She was speaking for herself and does not claim to be speaking for OHMN. Are we to censor her and deprive her of her right to freedom of expression because the OccupyMN Media Committee doesn't think it is politically correct speech? Isn't censorship what the Media Committee is accusing OHMN of doing? I mean WTF!

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  13. Please do not “out” people that choose to be “Anonymous”. They may be doing it for a reason. I know Nick's life has been threatened by people that attend the Occupy Minneapolis meetings while at those meetings and I have been threatened there as well. The person making the threats has recently committed an assault where the victim sustained a concussion along with other injuries. The poise report is available upon request. My car was also vandalized twice while I attended the meetings at 4200 Cedar. I am not sure if “Anonymous” is Nick but if it is he has every reason and right to keep his identity private. It is irresponsible of you to try to make his identity public and in fact you don't know who it is. This is just more irresponsible “journalism” on your part.

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  14. The OHMN video is well edited and produced. She was interviewed for OHMN. There is no raw footage of the entire interview. Whoever edited it from OHMN also chose to let those words into the video and put it up on OHMN YouTube page. The video asked to sign a OHMN petition and has Occupy Homes logo in it. To claim it isn't from OHMN is laughable.

    Anyone can say anything and except the consequences of their speech. You can say the sky is green. I have the right to say you are crazy. I am not censoring you. If someone took down the video by making claim that it was plagiarized to YouTube that's censorship. Editing the interview is the closest thing to censorship in this whole thing. (It's not just to be clear)

    CJ, you posted 5 replys in 2 hours and I don't have time to sit a write out responses to all of them. But quickly: It's a blog. Fair point on Nick/Anon, didn't use last name, I've removed his email address from posted docs handed out, and it was him. Gillette posted that and I asked to see it. Responses by others I do not control.

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  15. I would like to see that evidence also Gillette. And I would like to see the evidence that someone other than Occupy Homes or NOC selected the first house that was occupied. I was the one that opened that house for the other demonstrators before they arrived. I won't say who gave me the order, but I can assure you that it was someone from Occupy Homes and not some one from your conspiratorial fantasy.

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  16. No one has claimed that the video was not produced by OHMN. Jesica, a formerly homeless mother used the term “drug house” because that is what it was. In conversations with neighbors they expressed gratitude that someone would be in there that would not be terrorizing the neighborhood as people that distribute illegal drugs often do. We saw the results of people being allowed to freely use and distribute drugs on Peoples Plaza toward the end and it was that way from the start at Peavy Plaza. A situation make worse by the DRE program, but if Occupiers were not willing to use drugs on the Plaza the DRE would have had to go else where. We turned both Plazas into garbage dumps with the highest crime rate of any block in Minnesota. To take the phrase “drug house” out because someone might think it is politically incorrect would be censorship plain and simple which is exactly what OccupyMN Media Committee has been accusing OHMN of in the first place. You can’t have it both ways. Does the Media Committee want censorship or not!? To keep the phrase out would have been withholding information that was vital to an accurate picture of what was going on which is the only legitimate purpose of journalism. As a” journalist” you should know better. This is journalism 101.


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  17. CJ what exactly are you accusing me of? Not one thing I have written has been false. You keep talking about things that I have never discussed nor relevant. I made it clear at the end of my article I wasn't covering the history that led up to this situation.

    You say the term “Drug House” was used appropriately by OHMN but not be me? Is that your point? I shouldn't have repeated a term used by both groups? I shouldn't have , in a comments and article, explained that some people were offended? Please explain clearly and simply What I got wrong because up to now I have not seen it.

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  18. Sorry, just came back to your blog for the first time in a while. I have my own blog now and as you know it can be time consuming. I will be responding to your comments above. I just want to do it when I am not too tired and when I have time to give it the attention it deserves. I have put a link from my blog to your is my “blog list”. Will you do the same for me. I plugged your blog on a Live Stream conversation with Dan Feidt and Ziggy last night. You should have noticed a spike starting at around 9pm last night. I am interested in you page views per day, week, month , etc., to get an Idea of what is normal. I will be back to address your issues very soon. Check out my blog to see the Live Stream of yesterdays meeting, which nearly turned into a riot, and the conversation where I plugged your blog. Thanks Toby. I enjoy looking at your blog. I have a lot to learn about blogging and you have a lot to learn about journalism.

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  19. Just watched the conversation. Dan actually plugged my blog, you mentioned it. Did not receive a bump. I did not see a “near riot” Make sure you go turn off Blogspot tracking your own hits, that's how they make you think your blog is doing better than it is. (goto stats, overview, under page views all time there is a link that says “Don't track your own pageviews,” click and turn them off. It will fool you) I'll plug your blog when I find something interesting on it.

    One thing you said on the video conversation was that you have attacked OHMN in these responses on my blog. I don't remember seeing any, can you give me a date and time of one of those post so I can find it? Thanks

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  20. Thanks for the advice but I have “don't track your own page views” off. I still got 271 page views yesterday so someone must find my blog interesting. I got 30 page views from Croatia last month so Ziggy definitely finds it interesting. The only other country that does better is Russia which had about 200 page views last month. I suspect some “pirates” are routing through Russia to throw off those that might be interested in their activities in the US. Regarding the near riot. They turned off Live stream because “we are looking like a bunch of asses”. They could have stopped acting like asses but instead they took the easy route and shut Live Stream off. If they would have left it on you would have seen what even you would agree was “near riot”. Again please let me know what your page views are per day, week and month.

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