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Conference Report Back

I am outraged that three awesome activists with long and amazing histories of radical activism were prevented from speaking at Law and Disorder over the weekend.
Scott Crow, Kristian Williams, and Jenny Esquivel, whose activism spans decades and includes prison support, police accountability activism, and important books like "Our Enemies in Blue" were prevented from speaking by a small group of loud mouths claiming to be upset that Kristian Williams wrote an article (The Politics of Denunciation) critical of call-out culture. I say "claiming," because at least one of these slackers has made a career out of childish pranks at conferences intended to disrupt planned speakers. ENOUGH.

Since when do we let a few loud mouths determine who can and cannot speak in the radical community?

From the panelists 12.May.2014 07:54

Shame on the shamers

On May 10, 2014, we attempted to speak on a panel at Law and Disorder
entitled, "Informants: Types, Cases & Warning Signs." This is a subject
with which all three of us are only too-well acquainted. It is a subject
of utmost importance to us -- both personally and politically. One of us
has a partner spending almost 20 years in prison because of an informant.
We believe that sharing our experiences with the movements and struggles
we are a part of and that we care about deeply can go a long way towards
protecting those movements and the people involved in them.

And so it was with great dismay that we realized two weeks before our talk
was to happen that people were planning on disrupting the event. The
series of events that has unfolded has been disheartening and upsetting to
us as long-time anarchists and organizers.

As our first presenter began to speak, several people from the crowd stood
up and started chanting over him ("We will not be silenced by your
violence") while the panelists sat silently, waiting to speak. The people
who were chanting have accused him of silencing survivors of domestic
abuse by writing a critique of call-out culture in his essay, "The
Politics of Denunciation." Despite the efforts of the moderator, some
conflict-resolution peacekeepers, and event staff hired by the conference
organizers, it became impossible to proceed with the panel. When we were
notified that the police were preparing to intervene, we decided it was
best to end the event and leave.

To be clear -- no one on the panel called the cops. And we also didn't
tell anyone else to call the cops. This should be obvious to anyone who
was present at our panel, as none of us used our phones or in any way
communicated with anyone else who used a phone during this time. We did
everything within our control to prevent this from happening and were
assured prior to the event that no one would call the cops and that no one
would be arrested. We would not have agreed to speak if not for these
assurances.

As speakers, we have had two security priorities throughout this entire
experience: 1) ensuring that the cops did not get involved, and 2)
ensuring our ability to speak about an issue we believe is critically
important to our struggles. In the end, we resigned ourselves to
sacrificing our second priority (our ability to speak) to ensure that the
first was achieved. Our exit from the room was the only way we knew of to
ensure the safety of others who were present -- including those who were
being disruptive.

We believe that the damage caused by patriarchy and intimate violence in
our movements is a real and terrible force. These are problems that need
to be discussed, addressed and confronted head on. The way we do that as
a community has real implications for how we move forward together -- our
process around these issues has the potential to make us stronger. To
forge relationships based on solidarity, mutual aid and support that can
carry us through as we struggle against the state, patriarchy, capitalism
and all forms of oppression requires a level of willingness to treat each
other with respect and care -- even when we disagree.

We also believe that our communities and movements are strongest when we
can disagree without branding each other as enemies. Dialogue around
critical issues is sometimes painful and complicated -- but it doesn't have
to mean that we destroy each other in the process, or that we sabotage
other important work. There are so many other places we need to be
focusing our energy and outrage -- but instead people seem insistent on
internal destruction. This pattern is not unique to this particular
instance, unfortunately, but seems to be happening in many other places
across the country. We hope that someday very soon we can learn to
disagree in ways that are constructive, rather than destructive.

That is, in part, why we opened the panel by promising time afterwards to
talk about the issues about which people are upset. We wanted to provide
space for people to engage in a more productive dialogue about how to
resolve our disagreements and frustrations. It is unfortunate that this
did not happen because people shut down the entire talk.

We would like to thank the organizers of this event for standing on
principle. It would have been much easier for them to cave under the
pressure of coercive threats than to move forward with the presentation.
Their willingness to foster a dialogue, rather than run from politically
complicated issues was heartening and reassuring during an otherwise sad
and stressful time.

Audience member report 12.May.2014 11:27

Penseur

Saturday, I tried to attend a panel presentation at the PSU Law and Disorder Conference. The talk would have included information about informers, infiltrators and provocateurs and ideas about how social movements can protect themselves.

As I opened the door to the second floor, in the PSU Smith building, I was wondering where room 238 was. I didn't have to look at all because I immediately heard angry shouting -- and since one of the panelists had mentioned that certain people might try to disrupt the discussion I followed the shouting. Sure enough there sat the panelists, someone at a microphone, some of the audience sitting and several people - it seemed mostly young women - stood, shouting angrily.

I was not one of panelists and while I knew one of them, I was not the person's close personal friend, and still I felt as if I had walked into an attack. The shouting included statements such as: "We will not be silenced!" and continued at loud volume despite the person at the mike trying to calm things down. I felt tears spring to my eyes as once again I realized that activists will never gain ground when such infighting occurs.

It crossed my mind that perhaps these people had been paid or otherwise encouraged by some faction of the State - by the police or political leaders - to cause disruption. After all, the government regularly enacts policies and actions that try to stifle dissent. It was shocking to me to think that other people trying to make positive changes in the world would use bullying tactics against other activists just because of disagreements. The hostility, anger and hatred were palpable and as usual when I'm around violence - even just verbal violence, I felt upset. I also felt anger - because the women who were shouting that _they_ would not be silenced, were using bullying tactics to silence others. At one point, one of the angry women shouted out a personal attack against one of the panelists who's only "crime" was to write an article that offered an opinion that was different from the opinion shared by the group of women. Why would these women feel justified in using tactics of oppression? Were any of the panelists perpetrators of actual abuse? How is writing an article which did not include derogatory statements but rather contained civil polite language examining a particular issue become fodder for hatred and verbal abuse?

Why would the women feel so threatened? Apparently, the women are survivors of abuse. As a female who grew up in an abusive home, I recognize that such anger comes from deep pain and fear - but taking it out on someone else is not okay. I had to work very hard to heal from my childhood - to not let fear and anger consume me - and to not allow my pain and anger to drive me into becoming abusive. I believe that these young women have several unresolved psychological and emotional issues that they are using to manipulate others. Encouraging victim mentality is not healthy - it doesn't help the person heal or learn from their experiences. It sucks, but unfortunately, victims of abuse are not entitled to special rights but rather have to take it upon themselves, hopefully with the help of well trained and compassionate psycho-therapists, to heal and learn healthy coping skills. Becoming abusive yourself because you were once abused only keeps the cycle of abuse alive, destroys your health and destroys society. All negative behavior stems from some form of abuse, neglect - some lack or deprivation during one's early years such that it prevented healthy physical, psychological and emotional development.
Becoming assertive and confronting (politely) wrongs and mistreatment is a healthy thing. But too many people define aggression as assertiveness. What happened in that room Saturday was definitely aggression - definitely verbal abuse. It was not a knee-jerk reaction which would have been somewhat understandable while still being inappropriate, but rather this was an action that was planned. Was there not one person in that group of women who saw how irrational and abusive such behavior would be? Being a survivor of abuse does not entitle you to commit abuse yourself. And yes, speech can be violent. What happened to safer space policies? How is it creating a safe space - a space in which issues can rationally and intelligently be discussed without intimidation to repeatedly shout such that the panelists could not present their information? How is it that this group of young women thought that only they have the right to present a certain opinion?

It is only the insecure person who feels so threatened, so intimidated by a difference of opinion. It isn't as if any of panelists - to my knowledge - held positions of power such that their opinions could become new legislation. Such loud shouting might be a good tactic in a street protest or before a government body, because definitely ordinary citizens have no voice in government decisions. How were the women being silenced? They would have had a chance to offer their differing opinions in this panel discussion and/or at some other presentation, perhaps one that they would arrange themselves. They would have had a chance to participate in a polite, intelligent, mature manner, but instead they chose to silence the panelists one of whom told them that he did not feel safe and so the police were coming.

What a great delight it must have been for the police to see activists disrupting other activists and to learn that the shouting stopped what most likely would have been an intelligent, informative discussion - a discussion that might have helped social movement progress. You could argue that the panelists could have remained and gave the presentation anyway, but very few people in the audience would have been able to hear them over the shouting women and most people in the audience would have felt uncomfortable and concerned about their own safety.

The panelists left the room. It seemed to be a wise move. The hatred spewing from the young women was indeed hate speech that could have lead to physical violence. I saw one young woman shaking as she shouted. Such shaking could have indicated a high level of negative emotion which can lead to violence. (I entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe, a small part of her was struggling with her behavior - trying to tell her that it was not okay.)

Activists should never try to prevent the discussion of theories and ideas but rather encourage all people to use and develop critical thinking skills. The shouting tactics used in a room at a college - a place of higher learning - was, in my opinion, unconscionable. Several people were shocked and distressed by such behavior. It saddens me that people claiming to want societal change would adopt the mentality and tactics of the corrupt and abusive powermongers. Such dysfunctional behavior is the reason that I no longer am an activist. The problems in government are severe - America is an oligarchy - and many people suffer the oppression of the corporate and military government. The government will not relinquish power easily but rather it will take a massive civilian movement to make any kind of meaningful changes. Such a movement means that activists must join together - work together - stop the infighting. To do that, I believe that each individual activist must engage in compassionate, healthy self-examination and, if necessary, seek professional help with unresolved issues that get in the way of being able to work toward healthy positive societal change. Activists don't need to strive for perfection but rather identifying their own problematic issues and learning healthy coping skills would enable them - even if they are survivors of abuse - to work with others - even those with whom they disagree -- to enact positive healthy changes. Healthy change is not going to come from a position of hostile, irrational, negative emotion.

It probably felt powerful to shout and shut down the discussion. Police officers feel powerful when they use excessive force on protestors. Why would activists want to adopt that same unhealthy mentality? And most especially to aim aggression at another activist who merely wrote an article?

Essentially the young women were fostering censorship and violating the panelists' free speech rights. The State does that enough, must activists take on the tactics and mentality of the power hungry State? The women apparently argue that even the discussion of certain issues is a patriarchal mechanism but somehow they didn't see their shouting and verbal abuse as such a mechanism. If abuse is wrong, it's wrong for everyone including survivors of abuse. You can heal from abuse. You can take awareness of your pain into compassion for yourself and others. I'm sorry that these young women are in pain and I hope that some day they will be able to heal and move on to healthier, happier mentalities. The women will gain no sympathy for their movement with such aggressive hostile energy and might eventually destroy themselves. They are allowing the abuse they suffered to keep them in a position of suffering. Even labeling themselves as survivors of abuse, serves to keep them in a suffering victim status.

@penseur, op 16.May.2014 01:21

*

>It crossed my mind that perhaps these people had been paid or otherwise encouraged by some faction of the State - by the police or political leaders - to cause disruption.

Are you high? No one is being paid to do this shit. It's the same old fringe interest trolls the organizers of events like these let walk over everyone in the interests of "free speech" because the dumbasses don't know what free speech is.

A really paranoid person might this this was all staged for publicity or to give credence to the "cause"(how's that ton foil?), but no one needs to go that far. The government isn't out to get you because you marginalized yourselves into irrelevancy by tolerating fringe right wolves in sheep's clothing.

>Since when do we let a few loud mouths determine who can and cannot speak in the radical community?

See above re:irrelevancy.

The last battle being fought is who will control the corpse of the radical community, and my money is on the Tie die Tea Party fake hippies because radical leadership has either been lulled to sleep or is really that dumb. It happened to the Green Party, and no one learned then. It'll keep happening until "radical"(usually fake) leadership is called out and/or the "people" abandon the coopted institutions.

Ask yourselves WTF were the organizers doing?

If you bleat about "free speech" you deserve what's coming.

To Penseur 16.May.2014 15:14

thank you SO much

Thank you for taking the time to write all that out. Indeed, one wonders. WHY. What sick egos were at work here? What shit heads decided THIS would be a good tactic? One DOES, in fact, wonder. It was disgusting. Repulsive. There is NO excuse for it.

Williams Shut Down at Law & Disorder 2014 17.May.2014 23:18

repost

On May 10, over a dozen feminists protested Kristian Williams' appearance at the Law & Disorder Conference (L&D) in Portland, Oregon. We challenged Williams' continued harassment of a local abuse survivor, her supporters, and other political organizers. We did so because this harassment is not isolated; intimate violence and patriarchal power relations are pervasive in radical communities. We shut down Williams' speech. Subsequently, video footage of the protest has circulated widely, but the political reasons for our disruption have traveled less far.

Williams' supporters claim that he was protested "not for something he did, but [...] for his perspective" in other words, because of Williams' article "The Politics of Denunciation." This is only partially correct. We protested because it was vital to challenge Williams and his cadre's anti-feminist behavior and politic. The article was produced to shield Williams' close political associates from criticism, and to justify Williams' prior work against survivors and feminist political organizers. Even without detailed knowledge of Portland happenings, many readers recognized "The Politics of Denunciation" as aiming to shut survivors out of the radical community. Providing some background to the article is necessary.

In early 2013, feminist organizers from radical communities up and down the West Coast hosted a panel in Portland, Patriarchy and the Movement. During the discussion session, a survivor and long-time organizer, and her support team, brought up the behavior of a well-regarded male organizer, Peter Little. Little had joined her abuser's accountability process and used it to undermine and spread misogynistic lies about the survivor (see: Survivor Support Team Statement ). For over a year prior to PatM, the survivor and her team attempted to handle this matter discreetly by approaching Little's political associates. At the event, as a member of the survivor support team concluded her remarks, one of Little's comrades read a prepared statement (edited by Williams) that, while ostensibly of a broad political nature, reframed the survivor's criticism as "personal attacks" unworthy of discussion. Neither Williams' nor his political circles stopped there, but after the event continued to harass the survivor and other women organizers, including PatM event organizers.

In this context, Williams' article mischaracterizes and marginalizes opponents rather than fostering discussion. Williams has never been interested in dialogue; he undertook hostile efforts against the survivor without attempting to hear anything from her perspective. Following the PatM event, Williams still wouldn't hear her perspective or answer to any critics, exclaiming "Can we not talk about this?" when the issue came up. "The Politics of Denunciation" was just another escalation, with Williams trying to legitimize the anti-survivor tactics used in Portland and provide rhetorical cover for treating survivors like enemies.

We believe:

(1) It is never appropriate to use situations of abuse instrumentally, as a weapon against political opponents;

(2) Survivors feeling failed by a leftist "accountability" process is not grounds for ostracizing and punishing them;

(3) Survivors' decisions to speak out about the mistreatment they receive after being failed by such processes should likewise not be punished; and

(4) Women and survivors who call attention to patriarchy in our movement should be listened to, believed and respected, not scrutinized and vilified. Characterizing women and survivors as political liabilities does not represent any sort of feminist politics.

These beliefs put us in clear conflict with sectors of the radical community. The rupture in our community began with Peter Little's hijacking of an "accountability" process to harm a survivor, but Williams widened this breach.Williams' role in editing the anti-survivor statement read aloud at PatM (a fact which he concealed in "Denunciation") and subsequent characterization of those critical of Peter Little as "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" creates a hostile climate for the identified survivor as well as other survivors. Williams, Little and company have expended incredible energy not only discrediting a single abuse survivor, but offering resources to discredit other survivors who come forward in the future.

We realize that confronting Williams silenced his voice. Alright. Such confrontation is resistance. Williams has used his resources and prestige to endanger survivors and women. Williams' attendance at L&D was a slap in the face to those who have, since PatM, been lied about and harassed by Williams and his closest associates. We protested Williams because, despite his anti-police work, he engages in political repression against those who speak uncomfortable truths about his associates. It is reprehensible to vilify a survivor, and even more so to use one's power as a movement author to lie about that vilification and one's part in it. It is unprincipled to claim that these differences are about minor political disagreements, rather than about preconditions for collective work or even co-existence within a community. In asserting our place, loudly and confrontationally if needed, we carve out space to exist and to struggle.

-Patriarchy Haters

 http://patriarchyhaters.wordpress.com/

sadly, though 18.May.2014 04:25

comment above is disinformation

What is not clear from the above comment is that Williams was neither perpetrator nor defender of any perpetrator. The suggestion that his article was intended "to shield Williams' close political associates from criticism" is at least partially correct. What is not clear from that comment, however,
Is that the "close political association" mentioned is *also* not the perpetrator. As we are on Portland Indymedia right now, we must understand what radical journalism is, yes? So we realize that what each of us writes about is our own experiences. We don't pretend "objectivity": it's a given that this does not actually exist. Thus it's hardly a fair criticism that Williams wrote this article because he knew one of the (now MANY) people being attacked by the shameful shut- downers. In fact, he apparently wrote it precisely because he was concerned by this *very* dynamic, watching it take down people and organizations he respected. At that time, the person being targeted was someone who was *also* being unfairly ostracized and dragged through the mud, whose only crime appears to have been a) trying to help someone in a bad situation at personal risk to himself; b) not being willing to, for example, use violence to force an abuser to his knees; c) finally defending himself from a constant and vitriolic stream of criticism (for not being violent apparently) by writing an angry email telling what he saw as his side. For that he was roundly attacked, and so was anyone who supported him. Just like THIS.

Williams ' criticism of the phenomenon was not only fair, it's been completely justified by this reaction to it.

An interesting point: since William's article is about the failure of both call - out culture *and* the "accountability process, " it would appear that there is common ground. NO one can seriously believe the accountability process, as currently used, is anything but a dangerous failure. It doesn't work for *anyone* except, perhaps, those who get a power rush (or something even darker) from destroying other people and organizations.

Searing hostility...much? 20.May.2014 15:41

sss

Well, just from a cursory glance at all the evidence on both sides, I'd say the shamers are assholes. Seriously. The call out ship has sailed. You were on it. Your voice fades into the ether.......