As I had been threatened right there during the process and I was appealing to people to do what they can to make the space safe and 27% of the people refused to do so, I am no longer safe there.
As the vote went down and everybody was arguing, this man came near me, made and held eye contact, pointed at me and started saying that I was the "Queen Fascist Facilitator" and he would "take care of me." And he has a group of supporters. How could I ever feel safe there? This man has bashed someone's head into the sidewalk. Why would I subject myself to such hostility?
While some were disappointed in the process, I was disappointed in the people. The process only reflects the will of the people. In this case, it was the will of 27% of the people to keep a violent person around.
I find myself asking, "why?"
Some of these people tried to argue that we were stifling his speech by not letting him threaten violence against people. Or that we can't eject anybody if we claim to be the 99%. They may have had a couple of other excuses. I experienced them as disingenuous. If you believe that anytime you stop someone from speaking that you are stifling free speech, well, you can't then go around drowning out someone when they speak. If you believe that the movement has to include everyone or it is not really about the 99%, then you can't support someone who makes it an unsafe place for most people to participate.
Indeed, this group of supporters kept sharing what I would describe as devious smiles. They didn't actually seem upset at all about what might happen with this man. They were getting a kick out of subverting the will of others.
If that is the case, are they really in support of the movement? I don't think so. In fact, I had the distinct feeling that they are actively trying to cause the community to implode. They clearly don't care about the people. They lacked any compassion for people who had described frightening experiences. I spoke directly with one of them about how unsafe I felt. He just gave me a cold stare and told me that the man is a good guy. They didn't care at all that his behavior was stopping people from participating. And, when we discussed how we would enforce an expulsion, we stated that he would not be able to use an Occupy Boston tent. His supporters then said that they would go against the will of the community and have him sleep in their tents anyway. They have no interest in the movement.
So, why then? Are they agents provocateur? After all, they are willing to use this man as a weapon against other members of the community. How would you know if they are really just doing this to subvert the movement?
If they are agents provocateur what can you do about it? This man is a genuine threat to people. Is it worth risking yourself in order to thwart these agents?
I walked away from Dewey Square this evening knowing that I cannot return there or anywhere this man is present - or even his supporters, perhaps. Until the community is 100% behind making the place safe, I cannot support the camp itself. I can support the movement to generate public dialogue about the unjust and unsustainable system of governance we have, but i cannot support this particular location given how it operates right now.
Have the provocateurs won?
I don't know. I think stage two of encampment is on its way. We've learned a lot from stage one. The movement will survive without the camp. The camp will not survive without the movement.
I'm ready for Encampment 2.0. We have a lot of activists who now know one another and have some trust built. We need to try again, plan the space and who will occupy it so there are not openings to be filled by unknown players.
Maybe being forced to leave Dewey Square will actually be an opportunity to start from scratch and build something more powerful.