Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Occupy Nashville - Anatomy and Autopsy

I watched the last Occupy Nashville General Assembly I plan to ever watch as it was live streamed last night.  If you missed it, the footage is archived here, but be warned that viewing it will probably be a rather sad experience if you ever cared about ON or believed in the goals the group determined to support last Fall.  In the end, the remnants of what was once an Occupy esteemed as a model by other groups around the country has devolved into perhaps the saddest lot of mopes ever convened on a few square yards of plaza anywhere.

If there's any entertainment value in the two hour charade that was last night's GA, it begins at about twenty minutes into the gathering when Michael Custer presents a proposal to the crowd of seven people (besides him and the person streaming the meeting) who were on the plaza steps.  Michael told the group they needed to make a big sign with the ON Code of Conduct on it to be displayed at future GAs, apparently so the body can, as Custer put it, "protect ourselves" from people who have raised their voices to them in past GAs. He lamented, with appropriately feigned indignation and presumably exhausted patience, his assertion that what's been engaged in here is "psychological warfare."

Sigh.  Because, of course, in Custer's world (mind), the numbers of people who are part of Occupy Nashville have been "decimated," not because the group that is ON tacitly supported liars and more for eight months, but because the victims of their abuse told the story, in some cases, loudly.  Again, still, yet, even, a pattern of assault on those who didn't kiss ass but chose instead to confront what was going on was dismissed as people "fighting about stupid shit," the grievances of those who were attacked were "petty squabbles," and GAs are "not the place" to address any of it.

That brings us pretty much full circle.  Months ago, the ON stream team disallowed any disagreement or even discussion in stream chat and later they would ban posters and delete posts made via any ON social media avenue.  I once had even an album of a few pictures I'd shot of the Walkupy folks on their way to the plaza deleted...because I'm the one who shot the pictures and posted them.  When the ON Internal Restorative Justice group completed a three month investigation into some of these allegations made against one member of that team and presented their findings at a GA last month, should anyone have been surprised that some of the people effectively shut out showed up at that meeting to see if their grievances would finally be addressed?

Pondering the shoulda/coulda/woulda has the potential to keep us here all night, so I won't.  Instead, I'm going to end this blog by suggesting it be regarded as both an anatomy and autopsy of what has been Occupy Nashville.  Besides over fifty blog entries that I've posted here since last November, there is a page on this blog that contains posts I wrote on facebook before I started this blog, and another page that has links to a gallery of ON-related visual media (videos and photographs) I created during the past eight months.  Considered in the aggregate, I believe this blog makes clear, to anybody who wants to know, two things:  1)  A significant number of people who "occupied" Nashville since last Fall either terrorized others within the movement or gave their tacit approval by refusing to confront it in any meaningful way (this is the anatomy of the body, if you will), and 2) The reasons Occupy Nashville is now, for all practical purposes, dead...that's the autopsy.

In closing, I feel compelled to note just a couple more things here.  For starters, if you watched the footage of last night's GA, you may have heard Michael Custer cautioning the group (during announcements, just a few minutes into the footage) to not interact with anybody who presents as part of the ON legal team and to only deal with Tripp.  The problem with that, of course, is that the person he was trying to get people to, yes, shun, is the person that Tripp had asked to act in his behalf while he was out of town earlier this week.

I think it would be groovy if Tripp clears that up when he himself addresses the GA on Thursday of this week, but I'm not holding my breath.  This is, after all, the same Tripp who shamelessly played into the meme that Mickey Russell was arrested because he was part of Occupy Nashville, when, in fact, Russell was picked up because he was being an asshole in public and there were outstanding warrants on him in at least one other Tennessee county.

Now, for extra credit...can anybody explain exactly how what Custer did last night to Darlene was any different from what Jason Steen did to Dorsey months ago when he told at least one reporter to not deal with her because she really wasn't part of ON's media or public relations teams?  Yanno, the offense that the RJ committee took Steen to task for and that the ON GA decided was sufficient grounds to shun him from their group?  And, not to beat a dead horse, but how was this not the same sort of behavior that Custer declared as offensive to him in that GA when he told the group he knew what to do about this sort of problem and the answer was to shun the liar?

Over and over again in the past eight months, I've found myself pondering the question, who are these people?  Who lives in a world in which people treat each other the way this crew has?  Who are the people that can imagine the silliest, most juvenile, outrageous things to falsely accuse people of when they want to attack their character and silence their message?  I found at least part of the answer to my question of who these people are when I found this link to a search form that can be used to access public arrest records for those who have been charged in Metropolitan Nashville.  When you have some time to kill, I suggest you spend a little of it keying in the names of some of the people you've met on this blog.  It won't take long before you begin to understand why so many of these people use aliases.  It will also give you context for the cesspool that has been responsible for so many vicious lies about others who tried to be a part of Occupy Nashville.

And, finally...Some of my most poignant moments as part of Occupy Nashville have come in recent months when I've heard one person after another declare their "embarrassment" at having ever been a part of ON.  I genuinely wish people didn't feel that way...I don't.  I'm not embarrassed at all for anything I've done here...far, far from it, and I don't think you should be either, not if you told the truth.  The embarrassment and, yes, even shame, isn't mine and it isn't yours either.  That, my friends, is the realm of those who did the dirty deeds, not the baggage of those who told the story.

The heart and spirit of Occupy Nashville is not now and hasn't been for a while on Legislative Plaza.  It's out in the community, at Occupy Vanderbilt and the housing group and in the newly formed Occupy Women's Economic Empowerment group now organizing and in other small groups around the city.  People who are serious about working for change walked off the plaza weeks, even months, ago and got busy where they didn't have to fight to work.

There will be no more entries on this blog.  Let it stand as both anatomy and autopsy for Occupy Nashville.  Anything else I ever (if ever) have to say about ON will be related on a new blog.  I've told the truth here.  Let it be.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Different Occupy Story

I recently fell behind in my rent and found myself earlier this week presented with written notification from my landlord that they would begin the legal eviction process if I did not pay $500 by the end of the business week.  That's an amount of money that in my world seemed as accessible by me before the deadline as $500, other words, not at all.

I've been homeless before and the prospect of being so again has been terrifying, so much so that my way of dealing with it has included periods of choosing straight up to simply disassociate.  Being homeless in one's 20's or even 40's is no party for anybody, but is one thing for men, another for women; I've allowed myself only very short intervals of contemplating what it would be like as a 65 year-old woman.

During the times when I did try to examine what sort of concrete problem solving I could do to come up with this money, I spoke with several people, but I didn't speak with much detail to any friends I thought might actually have $500 to give me.  I purposely chose to speak about particulars only with people I was pretty sure could not help me in that way because I've lived in relative financial poverty for a very long time and I learned along the way that money between friends often complicates things and poverty embarrasses everybody.  It gets messy.  It has seemed to me like people think you're asking them for money sometimes when what you're really trying to do is get support and feedback in your problem solving process, so I've learned to pick and choose who I discuss what with.

By the time I tried to get some rest Thursday evening, with my deadline looming, I had no answer to my dilemma, but it was soon clear I was too stressed to find any sleep either.  I ended up all night and that's how I came to be awake at six this morning when a friend who is also a neighbor called and wanted to come up and speak with me.  So help me, she said she had the answer to my problem.

My friend and I (I'll call her Mary) have both lived here for almost eight years.  We live with addicts (recovering and otherwise), felons (practicing and not), registered sex offenders, as well as some good people who consider themselves damn lucky to be here because they really have no place else to go.  There are plenty of one bedroom apartments here that are home to four or five or six people; those who can afford to live somewhere  So, while this isn't the tony side of town and the accommodations are a bit sparse, I must acknowledge there have been countless times this week when I've found myself assessing my humble little apartment and looking at all of my personal things in it, then having to stop myself from considering how truly devastating it would be to lose it.  There aren't a lot of places to go if you get kicked out of here.  Those moments were frequently accompanied by visions of my neighbors picking over my belongings in the grass after the sheriff's department emptied my apartment while I was who knows where.

Mary came to my apartment within minutes of her phone call and told me she had a plan that she thought would save me from losing my apartment.  Mary is one of the people I had talked with a great deal about my predicament, including for hours as recently as the day before; I had no clue what sort of "plan" could emerge at this point, but Mary said she had one. 

Her plan was for her to call the executive director of the organization that owns the property where we live and ask if they would allow her to pay my arrearage for me in five installments of $100, with the first being paid before the end of the day.  I would repay this money by assisting her doing some of the work she does to help others, via my writing, photography, and speaking on issues relative to women and poverty.

I felt no real optimism this was a plan that would be acceptable to management.  I believed that both Mary and I had going for us the fact that we enjoy a good relationship and reputation with management here and that, other than this arrearage (my first) in rent, we were considered to be the sort of tenants they wished they had more of.  But I was also cognizant of the reality that those of us who live here do so on a budget that most generally assures any sort of unexpected or added expenditure puts everything up for grabs...I just saw not a lot of reason to hope that this was a plan that would fly.  I couldn't find in myself any real confidence that Mary's financial circumstances would enable her to follow through on such a plan and I saw no reason to think management would see it otherwise.  But, Mary went back to her apartment to do what she said she was going to do and I tried again to get some rest.

Mary was more successful than I was, because I was still awake when she called later to tell me that the plan she proposed to our landlord had been accepted and she needed me to take her to Kroger where she could buy a money order that we would then take to the rental office.  Relief doesn't quite describe what I felt, but I hadn't had a lot of rest and was mostly running on autopilot by this point.  I just did what I was told to do.

My friend Mary has post polio syndrome and must use crutches to get around, so I dropped her off at the door when we got to Kroger and circled the parking lot a few times as I watched for her to exit.  When she did, I drove up and stopped in the fire lane to pick her up.  Mary put her crutches in the floor of the backseat, got in upfront on the passenger side, and handed me a money order, saying to me, "Now, you just have to fill it out."

The money order she handed me was not for $100, but was instead for $498...the total amount I owed in back rent.  I don't know exactly what to call my response, but incredulous would have to be in the description somewhere.  I think I recall saying something like, "How did you do this?" I know I said, "You can't do this."  She advised that yes she could and that she just did.

By then, I couldn't stop trembling and sobbing.  That's all.  I simply collapsed behind the steering wheel.

At some point, Mary spoke and told me that the policeman wanted me to roll down my window.  What policeman?  I'm still sobbing and can't stop shaking at that point.  But I looked to my left and, yes, there was a Metro police officer who wanted my attention.  I am, after all, in the driver's seat, with the vehicle's motor running, obviously impaired in some way, obstructing the fire lane.

I managed to speak, and ended up answering the officer's question about whether or not I was ok by assuring him I was, in fact, ok, but needed a moment or two to compose myself before driving off.  He kept standing there, watching me warily, and I suppose it's my civilian "guilt" and a lifetime of feeling a little intimidated by uniforms that made me feel compelled to offer further explanation.  Money order still in hand, I blurted out that my friend had just saved me from eviction and homelessness with that money order and that I was simply overwhelmed with emotion.  I told him I would move my car the few yards to a parking spot until I was ready to drive.  He told me to sit right there where I was as long as I needed to.

Then the officer told me he wanted to give me a gift.  You have to know that by now I'm just about beside myself.  I can hardly take in what's going on.  I've imagined, for weeks, myself sleeping in my car, I've just been saved from that, and now this policeman wants to give me a gift?!  Not a ticket for being in the fire lane?

The gift he wanted to give me was a small pouch made of perforated plastic and embellished with pink yarn.  The pouch contained a cross also fashioned from plastic and yarn and a folded piece of paper in explanation of the Pocket Cross Ministry.  The officer gave one to Mary too and told us that he and his wife make them.

He started to walk away, but then returned to my car window, a twenty dollar bill in his hand.  He handed it to me and told me, "Use this for whatever you want."

Now you know how I went from weeks of searching online for tips on how to be homeless and considering who had driveways where I might be allowed to park my car to sleep safely in at night to being overcome with so much relief that I needed nothing so much as to just get home and be still.  After we took the money order to the rental office, that's just what I did too.  Then I took a few minutes to make some calls and write short notes letting those I'd counted on for support so much in recent weeks know the dilemma was resolved.  When I was able to think clearly again, I knew I wanted to tell this story.  And, it wasn't long before I knew it was actually an Occupy story.

How is this an Occupy story?  Mary and I were part of the Occupy Nashville caucus of people who live where we do.  You never heard there was a caucus here?  There's a reason for that and that's precisely what makes this an Occupy story.  Allow me to explain...

I understood long before I became a part of Occupy Nashville that women are acculturated to ask for permission to do things when there's really no permission needed.  An early example of how this fact of life would manifest itself within ON occurred on Halloween night last year, less than a month into the occupation, as a woman was derided for being "divisive" for requesting in an ON general assembly to form a women's caucus within ON.  My approach to this would have been to make an announcement that I was forming a caucus, tell you where and when we'd gather, invite you to show up if you're so inclined, and that's that.  (Please note that this is in no way intended as criticism or anything akin to it for the woman who tried that night to get a women's caucus going.  It is not.  I watched her when she made that request and cheered her on from the ON live stream chat.  I admired her courage and forthrightness that night and still do.  I cite this only to offer a concrete example of what I mean about asking for permission and the difference between what I frequently see happen and what I think the more effective approach could be.)

My response to the denial of a women's caucus within ON was to within hours launch the Women Occupy Nashville facebook page.  I needed no permission to do that and, voila, there was a space where women who Occupy could gather in support of each other and share their concerns. 

And, if you've been following this blog, it will be no surprise to you to learn that by the first of the year, I was still looking for effective ways to be a part of working toward achieving the stated goals of Occupy Nashville but becoming increasingly frustrated in my attempts to be a part of the movement.  This was at the same time when Occupy all over the country was dealing with winter weather and the question of what next for Occupy.  To camp or not to camp.  Retreat and regroup in the Spring...or not. 

There were many things to be considered, but I kept coming to the point where I felt strongly that it was time to move Occupy out into the communities.  I wasn't the only one thinking along those lines, of course.  Many others were and not a few of them were talking about trying to make the Occupy presence better understood in wealthier communities, the thinking seeming to be that there could be both financial support and possibly participation by those with the privilege of time on their hands if they understood what we were about.  

I was looking at it differently.  I agreed that seeking participation and support from the "haves" was a good idea, but I was also really starting to think about those people who are at the bottom of the economic scale within the 99% this movement claims to represent.  People like me.  I knew I had met others like me online who had significant barriers to their participation in Occupy Nashville, but who, nonetheless, burned with desire to be a part of it because they understood it was about them.  I also assumed there were many others who would understand it was about them too if we could just find 'em and tell 'em.  I kept remembering that  Harriett Tubman said, "I freed thousands of slaves.  I could have saved thousands more, if they had known they were slaves."

I conceived the idea of launching a neighborhood caucus right where I live.  Lord knows, this is a group of people who have suffered under the policies and boot of the 1%.  And, by then, I had first hand experience with how issues of class and misogyny and ableism and more would manifest themselves within ON just as they do within the larger culture.  It only made sense to me to take it to the streets...our street, my street.

I put up flyers announcing a meeting to be held in the community room of our apartment complex.  I don't live with a lot of people who have the means to get to the plaza or elsewhere for GAs or direct actions, so I'd bring Occupy to them.  I wrote and made copies of an agenda of informational Occupy related topics to address at our meeting and made an Occupy fact sheet to pass out as well.  I told a couple of other people within Occupy Nashville what I was going to do and one of them, Dorsey, graciously volunteered to attend the meeting to assist in any way she could.

Counting Dorsey and I, four people were in that group in the basement that winter afternoon.  This is a small complex, so even though I would have loved it if we'd had more, I was neither surprised nor particularly disappointed.  One elderly gentleman who is caregiver for his disabled wife stopped by before we  began to say he wanted us to know he was interested and glad we were doing this, but could not attend...he had to tend to his wife.  He asked us to advise him later about anything that happened at the meeting.  The other person who showed up was, of course, Mary.  

Mary and I talked again during the few days that immediately followed that meeting.  Mary had long been involved in helping people who live here in the ways that she was able to...writing checks for the blind woman who needed that help, making herself available at scheduled times in the community room for people who might simply need someone to talk to.  Mary is one of those wonderful people who manages to grow wherever she's planted and to find around her who needs what she has to give.  She's one of the most selfless individuals I've ever known and that's only one of the reasons it was her I'd donated my entire library to last year when I decided to let go of my books.  I knew Mary was only one person, but she was exactly the one person I needed to help me find a way to bring Occupy to some of those who most needed it, just as I understood that there were many others here besides Mary and I who have something to give, even if it isn't green and doesn't have dollar signs on it and we're among the most marginalized and overlooked of us.

I'll try to cut to the chase here...Within days, Mary and I had a plan that we believed would make life better for the people living here and would at the same time benefit those who were holding down the fort for the rest of all on the plaza with their presence as Occupy Nashville.  Nutrition and eating well on a food stamp budget has been an interest of mine for a long time and Mary and I had often talked about me doing some sort of classes or workshops here for the people who could use that kind of informational help.  Mary reached out to some other women here about our meeting and the conversations she and I were having in an effort to ascertain what interest there might be.

Before long, we had a plan.  We, our small group that by now was up to three (!), would meet in my apartment, cook simple but nutritious and delicious meals that could be prepared on a food stamp budget, then deliver the cooked food to the plaza.  We would use food we could get for free through resources we were eligible for because we couldn't afford to buy extra groceries, I would do the menu planning and gathering of the food, I would instruct about the nutrition of what we were preparing and provide recipes for the women who cooked to take home with them, the women who would come would benefit by learning more about how to feed their families on a tight budget, and people on the plaza would get a hot meal they might not get otherwise.  We'd record our work in the kitchen and our trip to the plaza to share with others here in a group we would invite others to attend and try to grow our humble start.  Mary was delighted because she had wanted me to do something about nutrition for the women here for a while.  I was thrilled because I'd found a way I hoped would work to bring more people into Occupy.  Winning...right?

But, you never heard of any of this before, right?  And, now, here's why...

When I attended the ON GA last week in which the Internal Restorative Justice group gave their report  and the assembled body ended the evening by deciding unanimously to shun Jason Steen, I hadn't planned to speak.  I mostly went to be support to the other women attending and to video record the event. As it turned out, I decided right before leaving to attempt to address something I felt had been perhaps not explained very well and that's the matter of why it's been so disastrous to have problems within the Occupy Nashville stream team.  My camera was already packed up and the recording the ON stream person captured of what I had to say is mostly inaudible on that video, but it's pertinent to why you have likely never heard of the Occupy Nashville caucus that was formed here months ago where I live.  

Here's the deal...If your circumstances preclude you from coming to the plaza for general assemblies or from showing up for direct actions, the means available to you for participation in this movement is online.  Online means social media and in Occupy Nashville, that has meant dealing with the guys who have had absolute control over ON related communications.  They shut out anyone they didn't want to hear and attacked anybody who carried a message they didn't like.  They were shunning before Custer even spoke the word relative to Steen last week, they just weren't admitting it, never mind calling it that.

They were, of course, doing a lot more than simply shunning.  Besides removing posts and banning from participation in chat, in the ON forum, and on the facebook pages, there were, of course, always, the attacks on those they didn't want to be heard...well documented elsewhere in this blog, so there's no need to rehash it all here.  We can tie this up very quickly here by my telling you that when the women here who wanted to help ON started watching GA and reading up on ON, they decided this was not something they wanted to be a part of after all.

In other words, the stream team routed more support that they might have sorely wished they'd had in the days that would follow.  And that, my friends, is why this is in fact an Occupy story.  There are a hundred, if not a thousand, Marys out here.  There are so many of us who wanted to do what we were able to do, to give what was ours to give.  We are Occupy.  If there are lessons from this long tale, at least one of them must be that we never know what we're missing when we presume to know what another has to offer or to assume that they have nothing to offer.  Occupy Nashville's forum on their .org page was littered all last Fall and Winter with posts from people trying to find out how they could hook in and help out...posts that would follow earlier posts askin' why nobody got back to them...some asking, didn't you need their help?

This is long...and I'm tired.  But this is an Occupy story as much as anything that's in this blog.  While I was out living this story today, the dredges of what's left of ON were online telling people this blog should be ignored because it's full of lies.  That's code for, "thou shalt not be aware."  I have words for you here too, just two...fuck you. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guilty as Charged

When Occupy Nashville made the decision to begin a physical occupation on Legislative Plaza in the first week of October 2011, I was very clear with myself and anybody who was paying attention to what I was saying at the time about why I was involved:  1) I supported the stated goals of this movement and, 2) I wanted to be a source of support for the women who chose to participate in the process of working toward achieving those goals.

I'd watched for months leading up to October as forces gathered publicly in Nashville in response to both what was happening in our state (regarding issues like teachers' and public unions and more) and also to what was going outside our provincial bounds, in states like Wisconsin.  I went to numerous rallies and grew to believe, as did others by October, that it was at least possible what I was seeing coalescing for the first time in my life was a movement with the potential to bring together people who could leave aside parochial differences and unite to confront our common enemy.  Not even in the fabled 60s, that epically activist decade when I was a teen and young adult, had I seen anything like this.  The politics of those who were gathering in the streets were diverse; some whose political stance might be described as Tea Party-like  found themselves talking with leftists and anarchists (and others) in small groups about what to do, how to work collectively to achieve what we all understood was the only thing that would level the playing field so we could eventually fight those parochial battles we individually cared about...get money out of politics.  End corporate personhood.  Some of those who were uniting had voted for Democrats, some for Republicans...others claimed fierce independent status.  Did I want to be a part of this?  My first reason for being here as stated above was a no-brainer for me.  I wouldn't miss this for anything. Even now, I pine for those early, heady days.  (And that may be the saddest thing I've written in a very long time.)

Reason number two was a no-brainer for me as well.  I've been female in this body for close to sixty-six years, so I've had time to observe that there is no part of my experience since the day I was born that has not been influenced by the fact I was born a baby boomer white female in a patriarchal culture, to a blue-collar family in the South.  I consider those circumstances to be both my privilege and my baggage, but they're no doubt a part of why I've worked with and for women on issues that impact women for most of my adult life.  It's what I do.  The fact that I came of age at a time when the world for women was changing at dizzying speed enabled me to see both the before and after life for women in this country as a result of the feminist wave of the 60s and 70s.  Once my own feminist spirit was birthed, I never thought to do other than what I could to ease the way for other women.

It's what I've tried to do within Occupy Nashville as well.  Because some of my professional work had at times included working with homeless and formerly homeless people, I expected to see some of society's most vulnerable women show up at the encampment on the plaza; they did.  My first trip to the plaza after the encampment began found me coming up on a young woman standing just off to the side.  She appeared to be a little disoriented, or confused, or...I wasn't sure what, but she appeared, at minimum, to be very uncomfortable, so I initiated a conversation with her.  I asked her if she was staying on the plaza.  Her first response was to ask me, "Who are these people?"  She told me she was homeless and had been drinking on Broadway the previous night, had nowhere to go, and had been brought to the plaza by someone she didn't know.  She didn't know where they were now.  She'd tried to sleep out in the open on the plaza, in a sleeping bag someone had given her when she got there.  She was tired.  She was hungry.  She was hungover. 

I don't know what happened to that young woman.  I walked her over to the food table (there was no kitchen or food tent yet), then I went and got "Tim," who allowed her to get some rest, safely and undisturbed, in his tent, while he assured she would be left alone until she was in a less vulnerable state.  When I returned a couple of days later, she was gone and I didn't find anyone who knew where she went.  I never saw her again.

This is just one woman, one that I encountered during the first few days of the occupation.  I'd like to think that there's nobody who would argue against my position that women within Occupy, Nashville or elsewhere, are more vulnerable than are their male compatriots, but at this point I'm just not sure there's anything that's not possible when it comes to either lies or delusions around the issue of women or misogyny or even feminism within Occupy Nashville.

I've related the story of the young woman above just to offer a glimpse into who some of the women are who found their way to the plaza during the months that ON had a camp there.  There were some exceptions, but I think it's fair to say that the majority of women who spent the night on the plaza while the ON encampment was in place were there because they had no other place to be.  The next time I would attempt to intervene to assist a vulnerable woman whose circumstances, not her politics, had landed her on the plaza was what I saw only retrospectively as a turning point in my own relationship with ON.  (That incident is related here.)  My audacity to confront male members of the ON stream team about their treatment of another young woman who was part of ON triggered the onslaught of an assault on my character that has continued mostly uninterrupted for the ensuing seven months since November.  I had no idea at the time what buttons that would push for those guys, but that it did and what that looked like for me and how a similar phenomenon would repeatedly manifest itself within ON and that team's interactions with other women is well documented in this blog.

This blog entry isn't about my cred or credentials as a feminist, nor will it be a catalog of what I've contributed to this movement.  I'm simply trying to be as precise as I can be about why I was a part of ON and why I'm writing tonight.  And I want to assure of a few things I've seen speculated on as well...If you think I've spent more time during the past eight months taking up for women than for men in Occupy and Occupy Nashville, you are correct.  If you believe I've spent a lot of time actively looking for women within Occupy and ON who are vulnerable and/or need support, again, you are correct.  Have I been "looking for trouble?"  Absolutely.  Guilty as charged.  I considered it my "mission" to seek the overlooked, the least powerful, the bullied.  The most vulnerable.  This is my unapologetic acknowledgement of all of that.

None of that makes me a misandrist, any more than my being female makes my awe and wonder at and love for my adult son any less than the same that I feel for my adult daughter.  It is patriarchal defensiveness that concludes the very act of acknowledging disparity in privilege between men and women and confronting it must by definition be "man hating."  It is a very deprived (depraved?) sense of equality that doesn't allow the possibility one can care for all while at the same time recognizing the privilege of one group over another.  

If you're reading this, I'll assume you know about the Occupy Nashville general assembly last week in which the ON Internal Restorative Justice group reported on their findings after a three month-long investigative process of incidents involving Jason Steen and the ON body present determined unanimously to shun Steen.  (If not, you can catch up here.)  In the hours that immediately followed that GA, the repercussions of Occupy Nashville appearing to finally address in any meaningful way the misogyny within their internal organization were fast and furious.  You know why I said it appeared they acted in a meaningful way if you've read this.  Clearly, the long established pattern within ON of attacking the messenger instead of addressing the issue at hand has become SOP here.

And, now it's escalated.  What we have here, folks, in the above photo, is "circumstantial evidence" that I'm a bully. Yes, that's an actual quote and as far as I can tell, the dude who said it thought he was serious. Alternatively, it might be evidence I'm a "terrorist." The other explanation floatin' around via Twitter is that I'm armed for bear and actually an infiltrator, an agent provocateur, if you will (a title that may have more syllables than any other I've ever managed to acquire for anything I actually did).

Ok, jest jestin' about the title part.

The reality (sorry to be rude and disturb the trance) is that this is a staged shot (ooops, and I was tryin' to be so careful) created one fine sunny day for no other reason than to post online to play with some people who were posting with me in November 2009 on a political forum.  What we were going around and around about at the time was, you guessed it, 2nd Amendment views. I was visitin' friends in Missouri who also posted on the same forum, and I put on one of their jackets and they armed me...momentarily, of course (they're not idiots).

Ok, I guess I can joke about this stuff, right? Or can I? Here's the rest of the story...No shocker here, but it's the Occupy boyz again. This mess is going out all over the place online to be done whatever with by whoever is in their sphere of influence.  Jason's boyfriend, Mickey Russell, entertained himself yesterday by posting it on the Women Occupy Nashville facebook page as well. (Note to J:  Some of us wish y'd take better care of yer dude.)

By yesterday, there appeared another image supposed to be about me.  Skills previously honed muckin' up a copyrighted photo of Eva belonging to me were now used for this...

You'll note, of course, the names Jason Steen and Michael Custer in the above screen shot image.  You might even recall that a great deal of the over two-hour exorcism that was GA the other night dealt specifically with the matter of Jason tweeting out harmful allegations about ON members and using the ON hash tag to do it.  And Custer who led the move to shun Steen for his actions.

Make no mistake.  There is potential harm in what is going on here and it needs to stop.  It is not a joke, no matter how funny you think it is to laugh at someone's imagined discomfort, to put information out that creates the false impression that someone is doing something that others could be angry enough about to hurt someone over.  It's called slander, for starters, and it's also called inciting, which has potentially much graver consequences for everyone involved.

This isn't the first time someone within ON has suggested that I was an infiltrator or agent provocateur and there's no question that it's a go-to tactic for the busted when they're caught for their own misdeeds.  In spite of the seriousness of this all, however, I feel compelled to note that I've wondered just how stupid these people think any group would have to be to choose a sixty-five year old woman with significant barriers to even getting to the plaza on a regular basis to infiltrate a group of young Occupy activists?  Because it would, of course, go smoothly and work so well, right?  When I stop laughing at the insanity of that, I'll...

I dunno what.  I haven't stopped yet.  But I do have some questions while we're talkin' as we are about agents and provocateurs...Where's MajikNinja?  On which team has ON had their only security issues?  'Ssup with the guy who says he's on probation but apparently doesn't have to have verifiable income and can travel all over the country, who spent time away from the rest of the group when taken into police custody on Broadway one night, but was subsequently released uncharged while the others who had been detained elsewhere were issued citations? Did I miss the tweets on the ON fb social media page about these other people? 

And, good grief...Is there a damn thing I could possibly say here that would make any sense of the insanity of Jason Steen, shunned by the ON GA days ago, spending every day since doing a different verse of the same song to me with the loving approval of the one who led the group to shun him?

Does this look crazy to you?  Well. 

There is also some specific criticism of this blog that I want to address before I stop.  I've made it clear elsewhere and on this blog in earlier entries why this blog exists and how it evolved to be the only platform I had for saying what I wanted to say about Occupy Nashville.  The bullies assured I was silenced in every format they had control over, so I made my own platform.  Simple, really.

But I want to especially address the criticism that this blog is angry.  Too angry.  Once again, I want to acknowledge that your perceptions are correct.  I'm pissed.  I'm righteously angry at what I and other women have endured because we brought ourselves to a movement we believed in with every fiber of being.  I'm furious for that and I'll never apologize for being angry about it.  I ascribe to no belief system that tells me there's anything spiritual about either turning the other cheek or walking away from injustice directed toward another.  Further, if one is being truthful, there is nothing abusive about expressing, no matter how loudly, ones pain and, yes, anger at being violated.  I wonder at the being who wants to live incapable of expressing rage when it's appropriate to do so.

(PLEASE NOTE:  I feel like I do need to say just a few words about my use of the words "women" and "men" here, because it has been brought to my attention that I recently wrote some things that were offensive to some, words perceived as horrifyingly transphobic.  I've already apologized for that in the place where it came up, but I want to acknowledge here as well my own sorely deficient understanding of transgender issues.  It's not something that heretofore I've examined, for no reason I can think of other than it hasn't been necessary in either my personal or professional life.  Now that it's been brought to my attention, I do feel it's incumbent upon me to address that deficit in my understanding of gender issues, and I'm working on it.  For now, I'll say that when I'm discussing here "women," I'm including anyone who lives their life as a woman.  I have no doubt that I'm still laboring under the delusion/illusion of a binary gender system.  Again, I do apologize if I'm offending.  I'm trying to expand my understanding.  I'm absolutely willing to be schooled by anyone who would like to offer constructive instruction on this subject.  I am genuinely embarrassed to feel like I must apologize for my ignorance in this clumsy way, but will sincerely say thanks if anyone wants to steer me toward something you think I should read or take a look at.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Have You Seen the "Crazy Lady" Video?

If you follow Occupy Nashville on Twitter, you've no doubt seen the tweets all weekend that post a link to a video recorded at the ON general assembly on June 7th, last Thursday.  Tweets teased with things like "Lady Goes Crazy @ #occupynashville."  If you haven't seen the video yet, you can, here.

Wow!  Looks pretty nuts, huh?  Especially if you have no context, back story, or, um, more video?  (Which, of course, is how it was tweeted out.)  Well, turns out there is, in fact, all of that.  We have context, back story, and, yes, more video.

If you read the blog entry I posted yesterday, Nuckin' Futz, and watched the videos of the GA that I posted, you already know some of the back story and you may have also noticed there was some commotion about who was shooting video and still photography at the GA.  You also know that there was a lot of discussion in that meeting about Jason Steen having used a copyrighted photo (taken by me, interestingly enough) as part of a smear campaign against a woman who was part of Occupy Nashville.

But there's still a lot you don't know.  First, there's a piece of video I hadn't included in the playlist of videos I shot Thursday night.  The reason it was not included was because it ends with Darlene asking Jason a question and I found his responses so uninteresting and short and not related to the question asked that I just didn't post either of them.  It didn't seem at the time that omitting two short pieces of video would distort the story of what happened in GA, so I left 'em out.  You can see it here, and hear Darlene go into some of the reasons she was attempting to stop Alvin Lewis Wade, Jr. from filming.  (If you're bored to tears, you can also now see Jason's response, here.

Here's what else you should know about this incident.  Wade, who shot the video, took it off the internet after he posted it.  Why?  Because he and Darlene spoke and he felt it had all been a misunderstanding.  In fact, he posted in the closed group I introduced you to in yesterday's blog entry (which you seriously need to read now if you're ever gonna keep up with the insanity of this drama) to that effect...that he had removed the video from his YouTube account and that it was all a misunderstanding.  Wade stated elsewhere that Jason Steen had asked him to come to the GA to take pictures of people attending, but denied any knowledge of Jason having used the photography of others to slander any individual or plans to do the same with what he was shooting.

So why have tweets touting this video been papering the Occupy Nashville Social Media facebook page all weekend?

(Click to enlarge.)

Well...Do you remember my introducing you to DrTweeker?  And, did you note who owns the video account where you watched the video that the person who recorded it had taken off the internet because he thought it was all a misunderstanding?

I know.  It's hard to keep up.  Let me keep this really simple here.

  • Occupy Nashville GA determined unanimously on Thursday night to shun Jason Steen from all social media for Occupy Nashville and to shun his speech because of unacceptable behavior that included attacking ON participants online with posts tagged #occupynashville so they were assured to be displayed for all to see on the Occupy Nashville Social Medial facebook page and also received as a tweet by every Twitter account holder who follows Occupy Nashville.  That was Thursday night.
  • Jason Steen responds by...attacking another woman from Occupy Nashville, via posts online, tagged #occupynashville.  And he does it over and over and over again.  With video that the guy who shot it has told him point blank he took off the internet because it was all a misunderstanding. 

Earlier today I wondered at how it is I can still be surprised by these guys.  I mean, honestly, what is wrong with me that I can still be shocked?  I had to give up, because I don't know.  But, here's what else I don't know...why are those posts sitting on the Occupy Nashville Social Media facebook page?  All weekend?  All of them?  Why has the admin for that page not removed them?

Perhaps they're too busy in the closed group to be bothered by ridding the social media page of inflammatory posts about yet another woman in Occupy.  From the mail I've been getting, it appears to be a hoppin' little joint.  I was kinda hard on 'em yesterday here on the blog, so I'll be nicer today and note that they did name it appropriately, but you can decide for yourself by checkin' out Occudrama....

And, of course, Jason Steen is there.  With Custer et al.  The delusions I attempted to report yesterday here have, I'm a "bully," and a photograph of me holdin' a gun is "circumstantial evidence" of the fact.  I kid you not.

There are two remaining pieces of video that I had not posted before now, but since I'm droppin' the others, I'll go ahead and drop these as well.  All things considered, it seems sort of appropriate.  I had thought at first that they didn't really add anything to the story of GA, but it turns out they are a couple of more windows into the mess that has become Occupy Nashville.

First, here's Mickey Russell, Jason Steen's boyfriend.  You've met Mick on this blog before too, and the first time was here.  You may remember him as Joe Black.  (Why do all these guys have aliases anyway?)  The note on this video from Thursday night is self explanatory.  Note to Mick:  You made it, big'un.

The last video I have to post is also the last thing I shot that night on the plaza.  It's of Michael Custer speaking.  He wasn't through speaking when I shut the camera off, but I was through listening, because I've seen the Custer show before.  You, however, can enjoy it here.  Just remember when you watch him tell ya about how all the problems they've had in ON have been because of things that have gone on "when no one is looking," that he's probably over in the new closed group his wife started after GA the other night hangin' with Jason Steen who the GA unanimously shunned the other night for defaming people online in the name of Occupy and the same Custer who...Oh, this is where you came in, right?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nuckin' Futz

Occupy Nashville's General Assembly on Thursday resulted in the unanimous passing of proposals to shun a prominent participant in ON, Jason Steen.  I've referenced Steen's shenanigans on this blog repeatedly, but the arguably long overdue action taken by ON this week came as a result of a report presented to the body that night by the ON Internal Restorative Justice group and the ensuing discussion. Proposals passed at GA on June 7th, 2012:

Unanimous Consensus reached to ban participant from admin privileges: Unanimous consensus reached to shun participant for inappropriate and destructive behavior:

1. Proposed by GA, with Michael presenting:

A.The GA accepts the RJ statement as a matter of fact and record. Accordingly:

B. The GA reached unanimous consensus to remove all posting pri...vileges from Jason Steen to any and all Occupy Nashville social media outlets and to remove all access to postling. livestream, and other social media accounts.

C. The GA reached unanimous consensus to advise participants and interested parties that the FB page Occupy Nashville Discussion Group, administered by Jason Steen, is not a GA endorsed Occupy page and does not represent the GA. Further, all participants are encouraged to remove themselves from this FB group in acknowledgement that the page does not support the ideals of Occupy Movement and is engaged in behavior that is destructive to our community.

2. Proposed by Michael:
The GA reached unanimous consensus to shun Jason Steen due to his inability/refusal to either acknowledge the damage he has caused to our Occupy community or to be able to enter into agreements with our community to alter his behavior. Further, this shunning also means that he will not have access to GA as a forum for speech; although we cannot prevent anyone from entering a public space, we will not accept his speech in GA and his presence will be shunned by GA if he should present himself. GA acknowledges the nonbinding aspects of this proposal: if individuals choose to have personal interaction, that is their right.

I was in attendance on the plaza for this GA and recorded much of it.  I've put together a playlist that you can access here, and if you were not present yourself and want to understand how this group came to do what they did, I highly recommend you check it out.  It's about an hour and twenty minutes in length.  It's not a complete account of everything that went on in the GA because I left before it was over and also because I was limited by equipment to making short video as opposed to uninterrupted footage.  There does exist a video shot by an ON person that you can see here, but my best suggestion is that you watch what I shot because you'll see a lot of things her cam didn't, for whatever reason.  Of course, you could also see hers to see the end of the proceedings when the actual proposals were made and passed, but you'll have a clear understanding of how Jason Steen came to be chastised by his peers if you watch mine and it's mostly higher quality footage with better audio than what was captured by the ON person.

What will you see if you watch the videos I shot?  Vids numbered one thru five are DJ and Ali from the Occupy Nashville Internal Restorative Justice group presenting the findings of that body to the ON General Assembly.  Number six addresses a question posed about a recommendation from the RJ group, with response from them.  Vids numbers seven and eight are the presentation by a member of ON who has been involved since the beginning, offering his perspective on the findings of the RJ group as well as providing information about something Jason Steen has done too recently to have been addressed by them.  Video number nine captures Jason repeatedly flipping me off when he doesn't like the camera focused on him and is perhaps my personal fave of the lot...but I digress.  Number ten shows Dorsey addressing the GA, as she was the person most impacted by the actions committed by Steen in the isolated instance investigated by the RJ group.  In video number eleven, several members of ON offer their perspective on what Jason Steen has done to women who are a part of Occupy Nashville.  The idea of shunning Steen is introduced to the group for the first time for discussion by Michael Custer in video number twelve.  Video number thirteen finds Steen telling the group he feels justified in what he's done to one woman and labels what he has done to another woman as "minute," then, "very minute." One of these women was there to respond and that's included on the video as well.  Numbers fourteen and fifteen are personal statements by Ali and DJ respectively about their experience with the Internal Restorative Justice process involving Jason Steen and ON in general.

So, there ya have it.  Three months after the Internal Restorative Justice group took on the issue of Jason Steen lying to the media about another member of Occupy Nashville and her role in the movement, they reported to the body to whom they were beholden and presented their findings, which you know if you watched the videos included that Jason did, in fact, lie to the media.  He also obstructed the restorative justice process with his delayed responses to requests for information.  You know that too if you've watched.  You also know that the group was traumatically impacted by the process and that Jason, as evidenced by his own words in GA and the testimony of others, has harassed another woman in the interim.  And, you also know that Jason doesn't deny what he did, clearly states he would do it again, and never answers the question of whether or not he could stop himself if he wanted to.  None of this is under question.  The GA, on hearing of all this, moved unanimously to remove Jason by shunning him, as suggested by Michael Custer.  Time to move on.

Except, this is Occupy Nashville.  From this point on, it might be helpful to grab a tinfoil hat.  And/or a stiff drink.  Or you might imagine you've just entered The Twilight Zone and go with it.  I do, however, strongly recommend putting sharp objects out of reach.

Within hours of Michael Custer introducing the people present in GA to the concept of shunning as a way to effectively remove someone you cannot literally or physically remove from a public space and the assembly unanimously agreeing with him that it was the thing they needed to do, Michael and others appeared in a new closed group on facebook where the guest of honor appears to be...Jason Steen.

(Jason Steen on the plaza at Christmas)

I know, right?  Told ya to grab the tin foil.  Earlier in the week, the headline story for ON was that the Restorative Justice group would be at GA to announce their findings.  Within hours of the event, the new headline seems to be, "Infiltrators show up after 6 months and effectively shut down a protest."  Oh, wait.  That's not a headline, it's a tweet tonight made by Jason with the #occupynashville tag.  Dear Reader, if heart problems are your plight, you may want the meds close by before continuing.

There's a new group on facebook, where Michael, his wife (Sarit), and the usual stooges are gathered in what can best be described as an altered reality.  I have no clue if substances are involved or not, but I can tell you f'sure that it looks a lot like group hallucinations.  There are people there who were present at the Thursday night GA -- Michael, Sarit, Chris, Lewis whateverhe'scallinghimselfnow Wade -- posting as if they were perhaps in another meeting altogether.  If video of that little production exists anywhere, I wish someone would kindly provide a link to it.

Because, you see?  Michael Custer, the same Michael who presented the proposal to the GA to shun Jason, yes, that Michael, et al, are now posting silly shit in their new closed group.  With Jason.  Who they just decided to shun.  Unanimously decided.  And, did you miss the part about Michael being the one who introduced the concept of shunning to the group?  And who introduced the proposals to be passed?  Unanimously?

Whew.  I know, right?!

I've neither the time nor the inclination to post all that crap here.  If you're into drama, here's the link to the new group.  Maybe they'll let you in, maybe not.  Hard to say.  If you get in, you'll no doubt note that the meeting they describe bears not a great deal of resemblance to the vids you've hopefully now watched of the same proceeding.  The newly minted version is that femiNazis invaded and abused them all.  Terribly.  Painfully.  Brutally, even.  Shameless hussies. 

Again...I know, right?

Here's the deal.  Michael Custer should clean up and go into politics.  It's clear he's proficient in being able to say whatever the traffic or market demands at any given moment and there's no doubt he's charismatic in the way that sociopaths are so often.  (Note:  I did not say Custer is a sociopath, I only noted here one (1) shared trait.)
(Michael Custer on the plaza in January)

I have no heart for putting any more energy into this crap.  It really is nuckin' futz, but just a few points do need to be made here before I stop.

1)  As evidenced by the videos, what happened in GA on Thursday night was no witch hunt, nor was it the matter or concern of only a couple or even just a few individuals.  Video recordings show clearly person after person stating their concerns.  Grave concerns.  Outrage and more.  Not just me.  Not just Dorsey.  Not just Dar.  Jane.  Josh.  Will.  DJ.  Ali.  Crap, the damn RJ report itself.  Delusions or substances or fabrication might make this GA into something akin to what these assholes are posting in their closed group, but watching the videos makes lies of their shameless rants now.

2)  Nobody has taken the ON body itself to task for what has happened here, so I will.  What happened on Thursday night need not have happened.  What Jason has been allowed to do under the arm of Occupy Nashville in the three months since the Restorative Justice group decided to take on the matter did not need to happen.  In the GA during which the RJ group took over, the people in attendance cowardly allowed it to happen, instead of allowing a ban to be enforced against Jason...only a temporary ban, at that, but a ban the RJ group would, three months after the fact, find to have been valid in the first place.  Most of the people who were in that GA three months ago didn't have even the courage to vote their convictions after objections were raised.  Almost nobody voted.  That's how this happened.  People stood there and abstained.  This is what you got because of it.  Shame on the lot of you.

3)  And, finally, I'm not sure what shunning means to Occupy Nashville.  As noted above, within hours of Jason Steen being unanimously shunned by the ON GA, he was the darlin' of the closed group put up by Michael Custer's wife, Sarit.  Same Custer who made the proposal to shun.  Same Custer who...oh, never mind.  And now they are talking about who to shun next.  Except it appears that they want to shun the very people who made it perfectly clear on Thursday night they'd never come back to work with the assholes in the first place.  I get it.