Safer Spaces Meeting Wednesday 27/03/13
Date: Wednesday 27th Marcy 2013
Present: Andria, Obi, Caroline, Julie, Tina, Harj, Tammy, ukwatching (remotely), Mrs (remotely)
Proposals that achieved consensus:
People who have committed an act of violence will be banned from Occupy London structures (groupspaces, working groups, assemblies) for a period of at least 6 months with the possibility of a review after 3 months by a liaison. (Friday 22nd March)
We are resolved that Tom did assault Mark by cutting his hair off and therefore we now resolve to ban him for 6 months with a 3 month review.
Tom’s 6-month ban starts counting from today (27th March).
The decision will be posted on the Occupy London website. Tom and Mark will be notified of this decision in writing.
Items still to be discussed:
- description of all acts of violence that merit a ban of 6-months or more; possibility of graded sanctions for acts of violence of different severity; possibility of immediate (automatic?) suspension followed by case-by-case review.
- what constitutes sufficient proof that an act of violence has taken place.
- liaison (formation, remit).
Items to be worked on:
- provide resources on the website for dealing with abuse at all its stages: training for prevention, intervention and steps for dealing with abuse post event
Obi: Council housing is on a 60-year mortgage, i.e. they’re paid up now. Only maintenance required. So when people tell you they’re subsidised that’s bullshit.
Julie: Not only is council housing not subsidised. Actually, council rent payers put more in and subsidise council housing. We put more in than we take out. Generally, after the maintenance and administration has been paid, there is money left over that goes to the central government. So we are subsidising the UK government. The idea that council housing is subsidised is completely untrue. It’s the exact opposite.
Obi: So now we have debunked the myth. I was listening to LBC and their presenter kept saying “social housing”. Too much americanism.=
Julie: I think we should start. Shall we just go around and introduce ourselves? [people go round and introduce themselves] How do we feel about the livestreaming?
Obi: I like the fact that we’re having a matriarchal meeting, I’m just the guy behind the camera.
Caroline: People who don’t want to be recognised and heard, I can understand.
Julie: I’ll give a recap on what we think we agreed on the same place so we have a common start. Tina suggests we go with the Pirate Pad. My suggestion would be to focus first on what do we do with Tom, and then go on to more of the process stuff.
Tina: [reads out Friday's proposal]
Julie: What do we do with Tom in general. Do people agree with discussing that?
Harj: We did reach consensus that he was banned.
Julie: My view is that what we agreed was what we would do when we had collectively agreed that someone had committed an act of violence.
Tina: We agreed that Tom had committed an act of violence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Caroline: I was under the impression that that was what would happen anyway at the beginning when we were talking about SSP.
Julie: I think there are two issues here. The issue of whether the ban is automatic whether someone has
Andria: Tom isn’t even interested in what we decide. How much more time are we going to spend waffling on?
Julie: My understanding was that we were agreeing on the principle, not that it was applying to Tom. My point of view is that we need to come to an actual formal consensus that Tom did do that, that we’ve agreed it and this needs to be conveyed to Tom. I think that we need a really clear proposal that last Friday’s proposal applies to Tom.
Tammy: I propose that we ban Tom for ever.
Tina: Can Julie clarify what she considers to be the due process for banning Tom?
Julie: The proposal is that we are resolved that Tom did assault Mark by cutting his hair off and therefore we now resolve to ban him for 6 months with 3 month review.
Caroline: Can I just say that if you’re in any political group, if someone accuses you of being a cop, that puts you in a very vulnerable situation with other activists. And I really do think that things like that need to be flagged up much sooner because that’s an act of violence.
Julie: My feeling on this is that is another debate that we might put aside for that, and just stick to a really clear act of violence.
Tammy: I see where you’re going with the really obvious. But emotional violence is not recognised, it’s like minimising the second type of violence that’s been done.
Harj: I’m wondering whether it would be clearer to say in the proposal that we confirm that the automatic ban applies to Tom due to his act of violence.
Tina: Having been moderator groupspaces, I think it’s hard to determine all possibilities of emotional abuse, to define all possible interpretations to our SSP policy. For example you have cases of subtle sarcasm or people can get offended because you have used a complicated word that means you’re trying to put them down by your education and so on. It’s not straightforward.
Julie: We’ll take consensus on this.
CONSENSUS REACHED. Friday’s proposal applies to Tom as follows: Tom did assault Mark by cutting his hair off. He is now banned from Occupy London structures for a minimum of 6 months with the possibility of a review after 3.
Harj: So does this mean the ban applies from today?
Julie: It applies from today because I never agreed to that on Friday.
Tina: What has changed since last week?
Julie: I’m no more convinced now than I was then, that was never the issue. I think a due process is really, really important. The moment was last week, it didn’t happen and it’s gone.
Harj: But Julie you’re still talking about the person has a chance to speak and all that. I thought what was decided was, there’s a ban. Maybe we need to change it to automatically suspended until a declaration is reached.
Julie: People get suspended and only later have a right to say their piece.
Caroline: Anyone can say someone has done something. If it’s my word against yours, then maybe some sort of due process can come in. But in a clear case, I think there should be an automatic ban.
Julie: Now we’re going into the third part of the agenda but we haven’t decided what to do with Tom. I think we now need to write to Tom and convey the decision.
Harj: We’re fudging what we’re saying to Tom based on the discussion now.
Caroline: The fudging will be taken out if we agree now.
Andrea: I’m quite happy to write the letter.
Harj: I think it’s very important because Tom does add to Occupy London and is valued in many ways.
Tammy: We have to be very careful with the language we use. It can be inflammatory.
Tina: I’ll be putting the minutes up on the website as they are, with the consensus items on top. So this will be public.
Julie: You can only institute the ban from the moment the ban has been clearly made. I’d say either the date today or the day we send the letter to him.
Tina: That’s how it works with restraining orders. It goes into effect from the moment someone receives it.
Caroline: Say it was rape. If I was raped at Occupy, I won’t come and listen to whether someone is guilty or not. I don’t think we can behave the same way as we do legally out there.
Tammy: It’s interesting that we’re using this very strong language and we’re looking at this very corrupt system for ideas on how to deal with our alternative. The victim suffers from the very instant that the act of violence occurred.
Andria: I don’t really care what day, I just want the ban to begin and him to state his case at 3 months.
Harj: It could be that we treat such violence differently than the rest of SSP violations. I think with such clear cut acts, the ban needs to apply straight away to protect the victim. Not until we convene, whenever that is.
Julie: Tom has already turned up at assemblies. So you can’t really pretend that something [a ban] happened when it didn’t happen.
Caroline: I should have just left at the last assembly. For me, it’s from the moment it happens. You just feel safer knowing that they’re going to go. That hasn’t happened.
Julie: I think we’re making this more complicated than it needs to be. Can we just decide to send Tom a letter and decide it’s 6 months from when he committed it or when he receives the letter.
Andria: Basically dude, you’re banned for 6 months.
Tina: Let’s do it from today.
Andria: Somebody from Mrs. “Can you please move on from this? It’s as simple as you want to make it.”
Consensus reached: Tom’s 6-month ban starts counting from today.
Julie: Andria, are you happy to write the letter and circulate it between us?
Harj: Can we livestream off for a second? And off minutes?
Julie: Just first names on in the minutes.
ukwatching: Will mediation be tried, dependent on individual cases?
Tina: What about the welfare group?
Caroline: It’s really focusing more on benefits, benefit cuts, housing. Also on issues like child abuse, just generally anything to do with health and non health.
Tammy: Process all sorted out, perfect SSP, can I just ask what we’re going to have after that? I’ve taken it upon myself to make a banner that says Occupy London opposes the bedroom tax. Trafalgar square Saturday 30th.
Obi: The Facebook page mysteriously vanished. There are now all these accusations of Labour co-opting this.
Tammy: The proposal is that there’s an anti-bedroom tax protest at Trafalgar Square at 1pm. It’s time we did some action as Occupy London. If anybody opposes that, feel free to have a new meeting that says that you support it.
Julie: We’re back on the agenda that’s looking at – what constitutes an act of violence?
Caroline: Anything that’s on the SSP list, is an act of violence. We need to scale it [the sanctions].
Tammy: Emotional violence can kill people.
Harj: Do they generally build up? Would it initially be an SSP violation?
[Someone from livestream comments that sovereign space is at arm's length]
Andria: An assault is when you don’t ask. If you want to touch someone, you have to ask.
[Someone from livestream individual circumstances need to be considered, it should also be made clear to a person that they will be banned if they continue what they are doing]
Caroline: It is important how the victim feels.
Julie: It seems to me that it should be a case-by-case. Remember Saskia? They were doing things that were psychologically, emotionally and physically abusive. They all harmed her. You could categorically say an act of violence in how the criminal justice thinks should lead to a 6-month ban.
Julie: But don’t we need different ways of responding to things? Some things you may want a moderator or facilitator to step in but sometimes you may want, like with Saskia, we have to start a process and say
Caroline: I do think the victim’s views are paramount. The victim’s safety is paramount. It does need to be flagged up in some way or discussed openly.
Harj: We haven’t graded the violence in that statement. Do we need to say an extreme, a severe act of violence or do we need to break down
Tammy: I hate to talk about what the system does but courts often will make their decisions based also on the severity of the distress caused. What if we had a tiered thing, like severe or moderate distress?
Andria: UK watching. “Blanket system with the proviso that people can ask to appeal it. It’s good to feel supported as a victim of abuse. Victim support.”
Harj: I’m talking about grading the level of violence. At the moment as the statement stands, it’s anything that qualifies as violence.
Julie: I’m a bit confused about this appealing. We didn’t say the ban is automatic. Establishing if it happened is really important, then a group of people need to make a decision about the severity.
Andria: I think that business case-by-case has to be taken on board because everybody is different. That can be the only way to clarify things.
Tammy: Bullied children often kill themselves. Emotional bullying causes death literally. If you don’t jump on that
Julie: My experience is that, I got assaulted recently and the police officer told me the context didn’t matter, it didn’t matter how it made me feel, I was hardly told who was charged, the court date, I did ring up and find the information, I had to hassle them. It was a random guy just hit me in the street. It just mattered that he hit me. I think we want to be better than the system.
Tammy: I had a very different experience when I went to court at the City of London when someone grabbed my breasts so hard he bruised them. In theory, in the legal land, it very much comes down to whether the judge is sympathetic and enforces it.
Harj: I think what we want from what we’re trying to put in place is something that has structure but also something that’s flexible enough to allow for individual cases.
Caroline: What about an immediate ban/suspension but until we’ve discussed it, we don’t know how long this ban will be.
Tina: How long after the immediate ban do we meet to decide how long it will last?
Julie: We need to have a group of people that’s willing to take responsibility for that. We would immediately meet and decide. You are immediately suspended while we investigate. Somebody would have to decide that
Ukwatching – Leaving incidents unchallenged is a mistake, people should be told if their behaviour isn’t acceptable. Then they have chance to fix.
Obi: What happens if people see it [witnesses] and the victim doesn’t do anything? In some cases yes, you do have to empower people. The bystander effect.
Tammy: They were unable to deal with it.
Julie: Are we at the point where we’re saying that a suspension is good and that we’d encourage other people, not just the victim, to do something?
Caroline: Go, as a witness, and report something. Try to flag it up.
Harj: I think that’s really important. There’s something wrong in the dynamics, if you’re watching as an outsider. Let’s try and address this.
Obi: It’s why people go for first aid training. You tell them the exact details of what to do. You don’t just say, you do this. You go step by step on what you have to do. Make sure the area is safe, make sure you’re safe as well, that you can actually intervene. I have walked away from too many a situation. Abuse continues. Not me.
One time in the tube, somebody beside me suddenly collapsed. I was shocked. Then someone came around and assisted her. You do actually need training.
Continuation from last Assembly.
What is a violation of Safer Spaces.
Bedroom Tax Protest Announcement and second part of the meeting.