Posts tagged ‘safer spaces’

February 1, 2012

Occupying Process, Processing Occupy: Spokes Council Musings by One POC

By Sonny Singh

(What follows does not reflect or represent the views of the People of Color Caucus at Occupy Wall Street but only the views of the author himself.)

At the notorious Occupy Wall Street spokes council meetings, the People of Color (POC) Caucus, of which I am a member, often finds itself in the role of whistle-blowing and bringing a critical perspective to the discussion. I have gotten the sense that most people at spokes — sometimes including the facilitators — just want to “get through” the agenda with little to no drama or disruptions.  While I can relate, given that these meetings are long and often frustrating, this approach doesn’t create a culture that fosters critical thinking or the voicing of dissent.  So, often when the POC Caucus voices concerns about a proposal being made or something happening in the room, I sense a lot of hostility towards us.

Last week, the issue of banning “violent people” from Occupy Wall Street came up at a spokes council meeting I attended.  Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern of the majority in the room that certain individuals have made others feel unsafe by committing physically aggressive or violent acts towards others.  Many at the meeting were getting understandably worked up about it and insisted on a zero-tolerance type policy when it comes to violence and thus banning so-called violent people for life from OWS.

When it was finally our turn to speak on stack, I raised a question about the meaning of the word violent and how we wanted to make sure people are specific about the actions of a person being deemed “violent.”  Violence means different things to different people.  Violence can be verbal, physical, sexual, institutional, or state-sanctioned.  Pushing someone could be seen as violent. Yelling could be seen as violent.  Damaging property could be seen as violent.  Raising your voice and calling out racism or sexism in a meeting could be seen as violent (no, this is not a hypothetical scenario).

So, we were concerned about three “violent” people (all who happened to be people of color themselves) being permanently banned from OWS and kicked out of the church they were living in without being clear and on the same page about what constitutes violence.  We have not had this conversation at Occupy.  Many assumptions are made when people talk about someone being violent, and to raise the question is apparently taboo.

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January 31, 2012

Survivor Support and Accountability Processes: Interview with Support New York

By Martyna Starosta

My participation in various OWS working groups taught me that safer spaces don’t simply exist. It actually takes a lot of critical analysis, effort, and patience to create those.

My comrades and I had a lot of heated discussions about the surprisingly persistent figure of the “male anarchist hero” and the often outraging paradox of patriarchal behavior in anti-oppression working groups.

I recently interviewed the Brooklyn-based collective Support New York about this question. In this conversation, the volunteers Kat and Milo analyzed harmful patterns of behavior in radical communities and talked about their methods to transform these patterns.

Support New York is dedicated to heal the effects of sexual assault and abuse within the radical community.The collective focuses on meeting the needs of the survivor, and holding accountable those who have perpetrated harm. The volunteers also strive for a larger dialog within the community about consent, mutual aid, and challenging the society’s narrow definition of abuse.
Even though Support New York operates within a narrow local radius, it can serve as an inspiring case study of community empowerment and transformative justice.
More Projects by Martyna Starosta alias The Film Detective: thefilmdetective.org
November 4, 2011

Transforming Harm & Building Safety: Confronting Sexual Violence At Occupy Wall Street & Beyond

Editors’ Note: We are re-printing and posting this statement from the Safer Spaces Working Group at Occupy Wall Street. We admire the work that this working group has been doing to make Occupy Wall Street an anti-oppressive space for everyone and in particular the hard work they have been doing in terms of survivor support around this incident of sexual assault at OWS.

Originally published on the website of the New York General Assembly

New York, November 4, 2011: We are writing this statement to inform our fellow occupiers about an incident of sexual assault at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the response to it. We are also writing this statement to respond to media accounts that blame the survivor, and that attempt to use this horrific incident to attack OWS. We write this statement as supporters of OWS, as fellow survivors, and as allies.

On the morning of October 29, a woman participating in OWS was sexually assaulted at Liberty Plaza. The person who she identified as having assaulted her was arrested on November 1 for a previous assault. He has since been released on bail.

On the morning of the assault, the survivor was accompanied to the hospital by a group of women from OWS, including a social worker, to support her and act as advocates. From the moment the incident was discovered to the present time, the survivor has been surrounded by a network of allies and trained advocates offering resources to provide emotional, medical, and legal support. At every step of the process, and in line with the core principles of survivor support, her wishes as to how she wanted to proceed have been honored, and information from a range of sources has been provided to her about her options. The survivor knew immediately that she wanted to make sure that the person who assaulted her did not harm anyone else at OWS. Community members honored this demand by asking that this person stay off site, and, when he refused, monitored his activity, ejected him from the space and escorted him to police custody.

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October 13, 2011

The Value of a Safe Space: One WOC’s experience with harassment at Occupy Wall Street

By Ashwini Hardikar

Is Occupy Wall Street an inclusive movement? I’ve discussed this in-depth with so many of my friends, colleagues and comrades over the past weeks. It seemed to me that while almost everyone felt inspired by the movement, many were reluctant to directly participate. I read notes from meetings and blog posts where people discussed the unsettling elements of racism, sexism and queer/transphobia that seemed to be present in so many of these “Occupy” spaces across the country.

And at Occupy Wall Street on Indigenous People’s Resistance Day, I unfortunately came face to face with some of these elements myself. Walking with my friend M, we greeted old friends, took pictures of signs, and discussed (unsuccessfully) what kind of clever slogan we could come up with as teachers. We circled back around to the entrance, and I stood there trying to read a sign someone had posted about “ground rules” for the space. I felt an arm circle me tightly around the waist, and then a hand grabbing and squeezing my hip roughly. I quickly disentangled myself, turned, and saw a white man, probably in his late 30s, looking very pleased with himself. And I went off.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t just touch people without their permission. It’s not ok to be in someone’s personal space if you haven’t gotten their consent. I have no idea who you are, you can’t just touch me!” I was yelling, getting louder and louder. I wondered if anyone was listening.

“I was just giving you a hug. I’m not allowed to give people hugs?”

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