|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.
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.