WOW mtg minutes 4/29/12

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WOWS meeting minutes
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Ghandi Statue at Union Square

Meeting convened at 5:00 pm
Meeting adjourned at 7:00 pm

In attendance:
Sean McKeown
A guest to WOWs for a discussion of the FemGa

*I regret I can’t recall the names or what all of us had said – I had volunteered to do the minutes after the fact because I had been taking notes on the info Sean had offered.

I had brought up my concerns, in an email, about the recent letters addressing isolated and repeated events, within the history of OWS, where the safety and protection of women occupiers was ignored (and covered up) and occupiers of color left the movement as a result of feeling alienated, marginalized, and ‘otherized’ through domination by (their description) the white male hierarchy within OWS.

Mel invited Sean to the WOWs meeting to help answer any questions.

Lisa – I would like to have a conversation with the authors of the letters in an attempt address the issues that have caused them pain – and more importantly begin a dialogue to understand one another’s perspective’ s, intentions, and the miscommunication that results from the lack of authentic communication.
Lisa felt it was an opportunity to address these issues to understand how our behavior affects others and that our perspectives could shed some light for an understanding and empathy going forward, in what I hope will be the beginning of joining forces against the creators of this manufactured phenomena – simply through authentic communication.

Lisa felt that a lot of the terminology used in the letters to describe the events, would be counterproductive for healing and communication, as they belong to social/academic critique; they are too easily used, carried too much weight, intimidating, creates a shut down, thwarts authentic communication, allows the speaker to hide behind them, avoids vulnerability and  subsequent healing.  Personally, for me, I find no meaning in them – I cannot understand them b/c they do not express feelings.  I would like to know how my actions make another feel.

Sean McKeon offered to come to the WOWS meeting on Sunday at Union Square and give us all of the information he had about the incidences of sexual assault that occurred during the encampment at Zuccotti.

Here is what we learned:
Approximately 2 weeks into OWS, an male, who was not part of Occupy, entered the camp one evening and lay next to a woman and groped her.  When she screamed he ran and got away – but there was a description of him.
The guy came back at did it again – this time when the woman screamed he was apprehended and turned over to the police.  He has not been seen since then.

The first of a second set of incidences: Tonye
A male, who went by the name Dave Park –  5’6″, white guy with dreadlocks who appeared high – would enter the tents of women occupiers and grope them  He was arrested, plead guilty, paid bail and was free within an hour and a half.  That same day he entered the park 12 times and each security escorted him out.  The last time Security escorted him out of the park – they brought him to a side street and beat the crap out of him, breaking both of his legs. He has not been seen since.

Another male, by the name of Tonye, was working in the kitchen at Zuccotti, had been drinking and slipped a woman a drug in her drink and tried to get him to go home with him and attempted to sexually assault her.
Tonye invited another occupier to use his tent while he worked – when she is asleep he rapes her.  It is believed her mouth was covered as there was no sound.  Security brought the victim to the hospital and interviewed the victim on tape, which was then turned over to the police.

After that Tonye was on 24 hour surveillance – but Sean walked into 60 Wall and there he was facilitating a working group!  Word got out of who he was and an angry mob appeared and John Furman aka Conscious brought him to the Police for his own safety. The survivor pressed charges and he was arrested and released on bail on 11/2/11.  There is no new information as to his whereabouts.

Post eviction, in January Tonye, calling himself Elvin shows up at one of the churches Occupy used for housing.
It is Jason Harris, of Housing, who brings him to the church and introduces him as Elvin.  By the 3rd day church occupiers feel that all is not right with Elvin – he doesn’t respond to Elvin.  They discover that he is Tonye.  5 women confront Jeff, of Housing, about the situation and they hold a vote to see if he should be asked to leave.  The vote was 24 to 6 in his favor.
Tonye was given an opportunity to speak to the women.  And he is allowed to stay.
The next day, he, again, was inappropriate with a woman – she screamed and was willing to press charges.  He was told ‘either you leave or stay and wait for the police.’  He has not been seen since then.

Mel G reports that, shortly after, Jason and Jeff went to Spoke with a proposal for money for Housing.  There was a name you mentioned, Mel, and I cannot read my own notes – but that person met with everyone in spokes to tell them that Jason and Jeff were not involved in Housing.  I will wait until I see the minutes from that Spokes to fill in the blanks here.

More incidences:
There is another housing facility that Housing utilizes and that is a private place known as ‘Gay Squat’.  There are many problems regarding safety, drugs, and underage girls living there.  There was an alleged rape of a female there.
There was another incident around the #M17 event  – that evening. There is a group that is drinking until very late;  the survivor, who is male, goes no bed. John ‘Conscious’ Furman  recalls that one of the drinkers lays next to the survivor and his behavior is odd.  Furman is drunk and leaves the room.
The survivor wakes up and he is naked from the waist down and the rapist squatting on his face.  Survivor states that has had no previous exchange with the rapist.  The survivor does leaves Gay Squat.  Security tried to get him to press charges and get help.
In this case the rapist was enjoying his last night as a free man; he had been found guilty for assaulting a Police Officer and was to start his incarceration the following day.  He is currently in jail.

* There are a few facts that may be unclear – I have sent Sean a list of items for clarification.  I will update this as soon as I receive the answers.

More discussion: The Fem GA and Values-Based Consensus:

We have not arrived at a clear structure for the FemGa.

We talked about the topics we wanted to use:
It was said that maybe the questions of “what is Feminism?””What does Feminism mean to you?” seemed irrelevant and would take up too much time that could be used to really move forward.

Also that it would be great, if we could bring an agenda, as OWSWOWS, that included all of the things we talked about that was directly impacted and oppressed by the patriarchal society, i.e.; everything. And then get right down to work!

We talked about using Values Based in the WOWs.

Lisa explained that the V&G wg is poised to officially use it, now, as we have compiled our list of values and are working on the statement of purpose.  At the last meeting I gave a VBC teach in and skill share and that we will first use the process as a mock exercise.
I had started brining this consensus method to the meetings, as a facilitator – before we had decided to commit to it – because the meetings were an extremely contentious environment and I wanted to see if it could change that.  It did!
It was explained that it created a real safe space – and the group really appreciated that.

Mel asked if we could use it at the FemGA?

I said that I felt that we could easily get the process down and then use it at the FemGA and that I thought that talking about values and what our statement of purpose would be a great thing for the first FemGa  – it is really bonding and creates enthusiasm and optimism for the future.  And that we could build that together.  It is the perfect offering that WOWs could bring to the FemGA.

*Please add anything that is missing – I only seem to remember what I had said. 😮

Lisa said that she will provide a link for the PDF of On Conflict and Consensus, by CT Butler for WOWs – and that putting together our list of common values was avery quick and easy exercise.

She will send the link and info in another email.

In solidarity,
Lisa R.

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