Questions Answered and Followup on Move to Dissolve Media Committee

After my heated article about the proposal to dissolve and replace the Occupy Minnesota media committee
and many headed comments I finally got in contact with the author, Chris Grey.  I sent him a series of questions and he answered them.  Instead of editing the questions and answers I will post them unedited here.

To quickly answer some other questions from others.

– Screen shots of censorship by OHMN are being gathered up.  I have received a few but want to put that stuff in a separate article.

– A link to 2008 St. Paul Principles of Solidarity  Neither group has held to these in this dispute.

– A link to OWS NYC Principles of Solidarity  Neither group has held to these in this dispute.

– Another document that pertains in multiple ways to this situation is the Statement of Autonomy.  Read it and apply it to these groups and their actions.

The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City  Is the document that got me involved in the movement and underlays my involvement.

– Below the Q.A. I will repost the document that the Q.A. is pertaining too.

__________________________________

Questions I asked of Chris grey and his answers.

The proposal was written by whom?  You and who else?
I initiated the proposal a few weeks back.  At the time it seemed that these conflicts and issues would be resolved, so it sat on the computer.  After it was clear that the social media admins were accountable to no one but themselves, it made sense to introduce the proposal at the same meeting location where the open letter removing equal access for OHMN was read.  There was input by Nick and Becky (mainly because I was not fully up to date on the ongoing dialogue between the Social Media Committee and Nick and Becky at OHMnpls meetings.

What group approved it?  What group voted on it?
No it was written in a personal capacity, nor does it represent OHMN as a whole.  It does represent me as a person fighting under the banner of Occupy Wall Street, and the democratic principles I think movements should grapple with and decide upon.  

If no Occupy group proposed/approved it, what individuals did?
I proposed it, therefore I am responsible for the final language.
Why wasn’t it signed or attributed to individual/group so someone (Like me) could contact someone for details?
Typically proposals are not signed, and it is attributed to whoever introduces it, or it represents a committee, etc.  Any press should relay this.  I introduced it during the meeting.

The proposal identified 6 individuals by name but not the authors/group responsible for the proposal.  Why not sign the proposal?
It identifies the individuals which signed the declaration to remove Nick Espinosa, and in practice, equal access for OHMN residents to Occupy related media.  Since I can only speak from a personal capacity, it did not seem important to sign it.  The individuals were mentioned because they spoke for a committee, and represent an un-elected and unaccountable body.

Again, sorry if not signing it caused confusion.

The proposal called for a meeting Sunday May 26 of the media committee.  Was this a meeting of the old committee or the some new one?  
It called on the existing committee to meet do address concerns about the process for making decisions.  There should not be any changes to the social media admins that happen outside of an accountable and democratic process, nor should there be a new committee formed outside of the process I proposed (an election, where everyone fighting under the Occupy banner can fully weigh in and participate)

Was any member of the Media committee contacted prior to the release of the proposal to see if they were available at that date and time?
No, but we could easily amend the proposal to reflect people’s availability provided they are willing to meet as a body.  Currently all that has been offered in an official capacity from the committee has been online messaging, which is not a proper forum for accountability.

In the proposal it says, “…a meeting representative of all Occupy related movements in Minnesota,” Was anyone from occupy Rochester, Occupy Dulth, Occupy St. Cloud, Red Lake Blockade, Idle No More MN, or anyone from any Occupy related movements other than OHMN or OMPLS contacted before this date and time was chosen?  Was the date OK’ed by any of these groups?  Was/is there any attempt to get these groups to the meeting on May 29th?

Not in any official capacity, nor were those groups consulted when the committee unilaterally decided to remove Nick and OHMN as admins.  These groups should have full access to Occupy related social media tools.  Potentially a slate proposal where groups select an admin using their own decision making processes would be ideal.  I am totally open to working with interested people on developing a democratic process that works for all the groups, but am unwilling to accept the current or historic process used by the admins of the OccupyMN Facebook and Twitter page.
Has the staff at 4200 Cedar been informed of this meeting at 5:30 and how many people may show up?  Were they informed before the release of the proposal to make sure the space was available?
No, if the space is not available we should make arrangements for a different location or date, depending on the circumstance and availability.

_____________________________________
The Document being discussed. 
Democratic Election for Access to “OccupyMN” Facebook and Twitter accounts

Whereas, members of the media committee have voted to censor all Occupy Homes content from the statewide social media resources in another closed process without holding a public committee meeting, claiming to speak for the entire statewide movement.

Whereas, for over two months, after publicly agreeing to a meeting, members of the Occupy Minneapolis media committee have ignored requests or refused to meet with a mutually acceptable mediator to begin to work out their concerns.

Whereas, members of the media committee violated their own consensed upon process for removing administrators: two weeks notice given for an open committee meeting.

Whereas, the unilateral decision of members of the “Media Committee” unnecessarily endangers active residents fighting for their homes, and people risking arrest during an ongoing home occupation under threat of imminent eviction.

Whereas, the unilateral decision of members of the “Media Committee” has caused unnecessary divisions across the movement including publicly denouncing other sections of the movement to the media in violation of the St. Paul principles of solidarity.

Whereas, the statewide “OccupyMN” Facebook and Twitter accounts belong collectively to the 99%: the community, groups and organizations that identify with Occupy Wall Street as part of a network that is not represented by any single group.

Whereas, no group or committee should unilaterally and undemocratically deny access to our collective tools to individuals, groups or organizations that identify with Occupy Wall Street.

Whereas, allowing shared access to these media resources does no harm to the ability of any group to use it, but censoring or limiting another group’s access has real life consequences.

Current members of the Occupy Minneapolis media committee include: [Names shortened since they did not  write this] TB, DF, LD, D, AS, and SR.

Be it resolved that the current Occupy Minneapolis media committee be dissolved and replaced by a democratic election of new representatives of the Occupy Wall Street movement that are accountable to those that identify with the movement at a meeting representative of all Occupy related movements in Minnesota, to be held Wednesday, May 29th at 5:30pm at 4200 Cedar Ave.

• Becky Dernbach be given immediate access to post on behalf oOHMN until a democratic process is completed
• The media committee hold an open meeting Sunday May 26th at 12pm at 3325 2nd Ave S.

• The current administrators with the power to revoke access (TB and DF) should be replaced by a neutral party who will respect the democratic processes of all groups involved. i.e. Ricardo Levins Morales. This will not limit anyone’s ability to continue posting content, but will ensure that we do not end up in the same situation yet again.
• The administrators and content of the “OccupyMN” Facebook and Twitter accounts should reflect the various tendencies and organizations under Occupy Movement.
• The “Media Committee” should not make unilateral decisions about which groups, posts, and practices do and do not align with Occupy Wall Street. Organizations and groups should self-identify with OWS, and be empowered to make their own decisions.
• Groups that identify as Occupy and want access to the “Social Media Committee” should use their own decision-making structures to elect or consent on who comprises the “Social Media Committee” of the broader Occupy movement.
• The committee should be empowered to work-out processes regarding parameters (if any) for deleting posts. This process should be presented in a clear and transparent way to the respective groups and organizations which make up Occupy.

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9 thoughts on “Questions Answered and Followup on Move to Dissolve Media Committee

  1. Did all or any part of Occupy agree on the St. Paul Principles? When? Where? Written record of? The rest of your links to OWS Principles of Solidarity, Statement of Autonomy, Declaration… etc. did not work.

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  2. All of Toby's links work fine right now. Be sure to update your browser CJ. Also the St Paul Principles clearly inspired various agreed-upon OWS principles. I believe the OHMN group that posted the countermessage “Open Letter” believed that the rules around town preclude beefing in the mainstream media. That is a laudable guideline but when systematic technical censorship around social media is the strategy of the group – when in fact there are technical avenues being blocked off through censorship operations which is what OHMN *as an org* has done frequently since summer 2012, that makes it impossible to keep the debate tucked into obscurity, it's an abuse of the idea of the 2008 principles. [background info: i did not shop the story to City Pages, but was contacted and asked questions which I answered as honestly as I could under the circumstances of months of censorship operations from OHMN.]

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  3. Yeah, tober up before you post, ok. I guess it's time to lay off the cooking wine now. Yes, I have had my problems with alcohol and drugs in the past although I have never been addicted to anything except for nicotine, which I gave up in 1988. But i wouldn't come to a political rally or burden a whole occupation that is supposed to be chemical free such as the one on Peoples Plaza by being inebriated and selling drugs on and around that occupation like you and other inebriates you associate with have done. I like a drink as much as anyone and i think I have even shared some cooking wine with you while you stayed at my place and I hope our relationship improves to the point that we can do that again sometime. I don't blame you so much as the non leader leaders in Occupy Minneapolis/Minnesota Media Committee that continually enable your addiction by make excuses for you and allowing you and other inebriates to block a consensus on a serious policy to deal with you and other addicts. I kicked my addiction. So can you.

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  4. Thanks for the tip Dan it seams to be working ok for me also now. I think the St. Paul principles are primarily concerned with differences in tactics such as the question of whether to engage in property damage, blocking streets for no legitimate reason, denying people we don’t agree with thier right to freedom of speech etc. I don’t agree with the St. Paul principles and I will continue to exercise my right to freedom of speech when it comes to criticizing tactics that I believe are counter productive in achieving our aims. This would include engaging in property damage or violence (and yes, they are not the same thing), which will only turn off 99.9% of the 99% and give the government cover to come in and attempt to destroy the movement. This is where I have taken positions contrary to some in OHMN including Nick Espinosa and Ben Egerman while he was with OHMN and alined myself with Melia, Bird, Tom, and some others in Occupy Mpls. after having allied myself with Nick and Ben in criticizing these same people over the issues of lack of structure and leaderlessness. I try to keep my criticism on the issues because I know that most people on both sides of most issues are well meaning and I will be allied with those I am now criticizing in the future. I think this is true for you as well. Even though you have made horrendous mistakes in dealing with the current controversy I look forward to the time when we will be working together on an issue we agree on and are both passionate about. I hope it will be about some issue that involves fighting the system though rather than infighting with other parts of the Occupy movement as is now the case.

    This argument though didn’t have to get into the press. The Occupy Mn Media Committee meetings are not open. You have given the excuse that some of the members are out of town and it would be a burden to travel to a meeting. Well of course if we had an accountable finance committee that would be no problem. But because the finance committee decided to be unaccountable, and like the Media committee, insisting on only adding people to the committee that they appointed and not taking direction on spending decisions from the larger movement it was dissolved. If people cant get together than those out of town could participate through live stream. That way the meetings would at least be transparent like the GAs and the Wednesday meetings are still transparent. (except when the sound gets cut when I am speaking on a subject not in agreement with the media committee positions.) At the very least the meetings even if conducted on the phone in conference calls with others allowed to join in and they could be recorded with all of the participants permission and distributed to anyone in leu of minutes. If these policies were followed OHMN could not claim to have been “blind sided” as they have and as has been admitted by the OMMC.

    And according to one person on the OHMN media team it is not true that you could not have had discussions with OHMN because they would have been in a position to change passwords and take over the site because they didn’t have that kind of access or admin status. Please show evidence if you disagree with that statement.

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  5. (Continued from aboveI have asked for evidence of inappropriate censorship by OHMN. They have agreed that someone but not necessarily anyone from OHMN or its leadership reported violations of Facebook policy. And I think we can agree that it is reasonable to censor some kinds of material, child porn, for example. Please show evidence of inappropriate censorship by OHMN or its leadership if you are going to maintain the veracity of that statement. If you can’t show evidence then please retract the statement and other allegations you have not been able to document or show any kind of evidence for. And please stop saying that OHMN is a commercial organization when it bring in less than fifty thousand per year. And please, please, please stop saying that the staff is somehow overpaid and implying that they are profiting off the movement when they get less than 200 per week. Think about that for a minute. You felt you had a right to take this kind of slanderous material to the City Pages. The proper response to their inquiries at that point would be “no comment”. St Paul principles not withstanding your actions were pure foolishness for anyone that cares about the movement and its goals which we all agree on.

    Also this could have been brought to the Wednesday meeting or a specially called GA before the decision was made. It is simply inexcusable to have a decision of this magnitude made by a self appointed group that purports to speak for the whole movement in Minnesota with no accountability. Even today Occupy Minneapolis says you were not speaking for them, yet that is the way it got reported.

    In fairness these same problems also existed early on in OHMN. The Coordinating Table which is the de facto Board of Directors of OHMN was meeting for a time before its existence was made known to the larger organization. I knew decisions were being made someplace because I could tell they were already made before being brought to the general membership meeting. I thought at first that perhaps the decisions were being made at informal discussions at bars over drinks which I knew existed having been invited to some of them early on. Some of these meetings were at Palmers and Arcadia and later at some bars in North East. I once asked Nick and Ben about this when I saw them at Hard Times Cafe but I got no answer. I was out of Ben’s good graces by insisting on continuing with the pirate theme that we had started in our marches against US Bank in the Skyway. It was decided that I would risk arrest in late january when we attempted to deliver petitions to Richard Davis the head of U’S bank. I suggested that we dress as pirates again, a tactic that Ben was dead set against but which we followed through with never the less. Three of us “pirates” were arrested. I was subjected to “pain compliance” when i refused to walk out on my own. A policy I have adhered to consistently since my early days as an activist with People United for Economic Justice, and Up and out of Poverty where I was the first documented “Occupier” of both the Peoples Plaza and a foreclosed home on the same day in 1988. I was later arrested and carried out of the house when I refused to walk out. There were over a hundred of us on the Plaza and several people were arrested with me but I was the co-founder, the lead organizer and the main spokesperson as we had not yet been able to fully transfer those skill to others. This and similar acts of civil disobedience resulted in over 10 homes being released by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for homeless people.

    I reminded Ben about my past experience as an organizer and stated that I had been involved in more demonstrations resulting in arrests than everyone in OHMN put together at the time. He still didn’t agree and just kept getting redder in the face as the conversation went on.

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  6. (Continued from above) I mention this because when I asked Nick and Ben about where the decisions were being made they were both of non responsive. I wasn’t sure if that was because Ben was still angry at me for not accepting his leadership or if they had something to hide. I made it clear I was asking as a journalist for OCCUPY!

    Soon after that, perhaps because of my inquiry, the existence of the Coordinators table was announced. After letting them know I wanted to attend as a journalist I was told that I would be able to attend but that i would not be able to speak at the meeting. I was asked if I had been recording the meetings on one meeting and was asked by this person if I was a cop on another occasion as was being implied. I had not been recording the conversation and did not confess to being a cop but I still don’t see why the meetings can’t be recorded as it is a common practice to live steam and video Occupy meetings. I was at the time in charge of the “Covert Action Committee” which was charged with opening vacant houses and bank doors prior to other demonstrators arriving as well as reconnaissance missions etc. We made the existence of this committee known but for obvious reasons we never gave reports other than to say “this is the report of the covert action committee” followed by silence then a statement that said “this concludes the report from the covert action committee”. I invited the leaders of OHMN to check me out prior to accepting that assignment and I was told I had been investigated and that I had passed. I also informed one of them of my history in the adult entertainment industry in case they had any concerns that it could be a liability to the movement. He said he didn’t think it would be a problem.

    I continue to attend Coordinating Table meetings but some on the Table seem very uncomfortable by my presence. I am not sure if this is because they think I am a cop, because I am an investigative journalist, or because of my past in the adult entertainment industry which some view as politically incorrect, but which I have made no secret of. I was told by someone on the Coordination Table that she was told that I am a pimp. I believe the person that made that incorrect allegation was a leader of Freedom Road Socialist Organization which I had exposed as being Stalinists and for saying they were going to “burn the anarchists along with there books after the revolution”. So am I a cop or a pimp? It seams unlikely that I am both doesn’t it? And if I am maybe we should get more of each. I have said that I have worked in the adult entertainment industry and I have said that I have done armed security where I have worked with ex cops, so I suppose it is easy to make the leap if one really wants to but should others be so easily led as to fall for it? Or maybe they just don’t like me which I guess I could understand. I’ve heard that some other people don’t like me either. Go figure.

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  7. P.S. Ben Egerman, who I understand is on the OMMC was one of the first to get a stipend from OHMN. I understand he got the money but never finished the work that he had agreed to. Ask him if his stipend was too much. Ask him if he plans on paying back the difference. If not we can add him to the list of people on the OMMC that have taken it upon themselves to …how shall we say it… expropriate money from the masses for their own personal use.

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