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Clarifying Occupy Berkeley (To Move Foward)
Due to continued confusion generated by a small group of individuals, Occupy Berkeley would like to take the time to clarify its status and ambitions. Occupy Berkeley in one form or another has been around for an entire year. Berkeley occupiers have mainly been active in supporting the actions and rallies of Occupy Oakland, Occupy UC Berkeley and Occupy SF. There have also been notable, though small, achievements in Berkeley itself.
As the election and the Nov 8th WalkOut loom, Occupy Berkeley needs to be clarified to cut through confusion which may be used to disrupt progressive motion.
The website occupyberkeley.org is a continued source of confusion, as it has no associations with the current Occupy Berkeley movement. It was a former remnant of the defunct camp. Currently the website is not updated. The website currently serves no function other than to hold the domain name from Berkeley Occupiers who would use it. The domain name was purchased and is maintained by an LBNL graduate student who had very loose interest in the Occupy Movement, rarely participating in person, and has no current ties to the Berkeley activist community.
The website was mismanaged, making it difficult for Occupy Berkeley to communicate. Minutes, resolutions, and calls to rally were not regularly posted. The website suspiciously lacks much information on the camp's progression and destruction. Web posting duties were passed onto a second individual Christina Tuccillo who has previously falsely claimed to be a lead organizer of the Occupy Earth Day movement which lead to the Occupation of the Gill Tract. Tuccillo has also pictures posted of a MoveOn event claiming it was an Occupy Berkeley event.
The site lists an email info at occupyberkeley dot org, which is not an email address currently associated with Occupy Berkeley. This was an email associated with the camp, but is no longer part of Berkeley activism. (Occupy Berkeley currently primarily communicates through Twitter, Pastebin, and Indybay.)
Tuccillo has made some public statements with Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner Phoebe Sorgen though local sites like Berkeley Daily Planet, but never to promote Berkeley activism. The two were making statements just to hold the name Occupy Berkeley, to falsely claim they had become lead organizers of the movement. Phoebe Sorgen stated in the Berkeley Daily Planet that there were negotiations to end the camp with city council member Jesse Arreguin, but such discussion was never decided by Occupy Berkeley though a consensus process. Phoebe Sorgen was acting autonomously, wrongly claiming that the decision was made on behalf of the facilitation committee (which Sorgen never was on). (See: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2011/12/22/despite-eviction-notice-no-raid-on-occupy-berkeley)
The Occupy Berkeley Solidarity Knit In has no current association with Occupy Berkeley, and has no solidarity with any Occupy group in the Bay Area. Despite being a San Leandro resident with no current ties to Berkeley activism, Maxina Ventura claims to be the leader of 2 separate Occupy movements in the city of Berkeley, falsely claiming to the originator of Occupy Berkeley along with being the originator of the Knit In (a true claim). Ventura's claim to have created Occupy Berkeley is odd, as as the divisive individual was - and still is - Occupy Berkeley's harshest critic, even appearing in a Lee Stranahan video to describe a dysfunctional and violent Occupy Berkeley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCvxQ7DaEkM.
Maxina Ventura is a housed individual, and at no time was required to commute to stay at Occupy Berkeley for a place to sleep. Despite this fact, Ventura has made statements as if legitimate homeless individuals were inconveniencing the San Leandro resident's sanctuary. In reality, it was Ventura's inflaming behavior that was fueling camp conflict instead of working towards mutual solutions towards a shared space. The function of the camp was to help the houseless and any support volunteers, not to be a vacation getaway for those who already have a place to stay. The core action of Occupy Berkeley was supposed to take place out in the community; the community can't be changed inside a park.
Maxina Ventura has a trail of lengthy public online statements denigrating Occupy Berkeley and Occupy Oakland, including the #OO support (medic, live-stream, and camp solidarity defense) which aided the Berkeley encampment in its last days. The comments go beyond provocative, and were clearly designed to create a tension in the Occupy movement. As the Occupy Berkeley camp was dismantled by the Berkeley police department, Ventura supported the police.
* Direct quote from Maxina Ventura:
"What we endured at O Berkeley was like watching a gang form. Alienated from families and society, they banded together to form their sick version of family. They stole from people, ransacked and stole our most basic kitchen supplies, said this was Occupy and they could take anything they wanted, and there was particular fondness for violence toward women."
* Direct quote from Maxine Ventura in support of police raid, arrest of members of #Occupy Berkeley and #OO:
"We had to make it clear we were not a front for those people...”
* Other quotes from Venutra:
"[Occupy Oakland] reeks of whining." "[#OO] reckless vandals." "[#OO] entitled, bratty, but also distinctly violent."
These types of statements are not reflective of Occupy Berkeley, and are the antithesis of solidarity. While debating tactics is part of the Occupy experience, it is clear that Maxina Ventura was not merely expressing an opinion. A standard internet search reveals far more of these types of statements seeded over a good number of news interviews and blog posts. Ventura's actions were largely responsible for isolating Occupy Berkeley, and creating feelings of distrust towards the Berkeley Occupy Movement. These posts also created a rift in Occupy Berkeley itself, as Ventura was not working within process to evolve Occupy Berkeley, but was airing grievances on online posts and local newspaper interviews.
Christina Tuccillo, Maxina Ventura and Phoebe Sorgen have been the primary source of dissent, division, and neutralization of action in the Berkeley Occupy Community. The three only act to block progress and community building in Berkeley, disrupting communication, spreading misinformation, and generating a confusion which has hindered the community. Through fake accusations of sexism and fake claims of perpetual victimization, these three attempt to silence opposition to their selfish agenda, alienating disability advocates, queer activists, youth protesters, homeless advocates and even other women themselves. A group of 3 claim a sense of entitlement over a public service and civil liberties community coalition.
Despite the efforts of a small group of people to disrupt Occupy Berkeley, some humble accomplishments have been made by a fairly sized coalition of community members working both in groups and autonomously towards common goals:
* For its short existence, the camp housed and feed the poor. Provided sleeping materials, clothes, books, first aid.
* Persuaded many people in the community to Move Their Money into credit unions.
* Successfully protested to keep Berkeley police from further aiding Oakland PD against Occupy Oakland.
* Successfully protested to keep Berkeley police off of UC campus, away from Gill Tract.
* Successfully protested against Berkeley police's involvement in acquiring a BearCat with the UC Police; ending the acquisition.
* Helped expose civil rights abuses in Berkeley police mutual aid agreements with Federal Agencies.
* Provided mutual aid to People's Park.
* Provided outreach support to the No On S coalition.
* Registered Alameda County voters.
* Supports saving the downtown library.
As well, Occupy Berkeley coalition members continue to support Occupy SF, Oakland, Cal/Gill Tract by attending marches, rallies, sharing outreach for events, and expressing solidarity in the public civic forum. Berkeley Occupiers will stay engaged in local issues such as police drones, sidewalk/public space regulations, ecological issues, and so forth. In the nearing future, Berkeley Occupiers are looking ahead towards supporting the Occupy Chevron event, showing civic engagement as the election approaches, and adding support to the Nov 8th walkout.
It is regretful that such clarifications and cleaning up was necessary, but hopefully this lessened some of the confusion caused by certain individuals acting for their own self-interests instead of towards greater collective achievements.
We may not get the press, and may not have the larger numbers, but Occupy Berkeley is still around.
In Occupy We Trust
Dear readers: As you read the above statement, the sentence "Supports saving the downtown library" should read "Supports saving the downtown post-office". An error in word choice.
Thank you for your time in reading. And may the schwartz be with you.