How Many Sexual Assaults Happened at #OccupyLA?

[trigger warning]

I just got back from having dinner with a friend of mine who spent many nights at OccupyLA. This is a person who I think has a good understanding of gender politics and of what happened at OccupyLA. I was shocked to hear him tell me that there were probably over 10 or over 20 or more cases of sexual assault at OccupyLA. As someone who has been following the tweets, articles, blog posts and when I can the live feed for OccupyLA very closely since it began, I was incredibly disheartened to hear these numbers. My understanding was that there was one case. This says to me that people have been keeping these incidents out of public discussion to protect the movement, which is incredibly upsetting because if the Occupy movement thinks that sexual assault is tolerable in any way than I will be so ashamed that I ever supported them in any way. Clearly, a movement that is so multiplicitous and with such fuzzy boundaries as the Occupy movement can’t be said to hold many or possibly any opinions or priorities, but I would say that it seems like there may have been an effort by many Occupy organizers to keep the number of sexual assaults a secret.

Why is this such a problem? Don’t the people experiencing assault have the right to their privacy? Yes, of course they do, but as a woman and a trans person, I feel like I would have not been safe sleeping at OccupyLA and I wouldn’t have known it until I was there, possibly until it was too late because the issue was kept so well under wraps that someone following the news every day and talking to everyone they knew, including participants, organizers and scholars following the occupations didn’t know at all how prevalent the issue was.

I felt unsafe from my first time at Occupy LA, the first march to City Hall. That day, I was with my girlfriend and two men tried to hit on us and one even grabbed her arm with no invitation at all to do so. I knew from that first moment in the bright daylight that this was not a safe place for me to sleep.

I was so sad to hear these words come from my friend’s mouth, he said that every night you could hear someone yelling “get out! get the fuck out of my tent!” and that there was so much booze and drugs. He also said that the claim that there were many assaults was being used as a right wing “troll” tactic, but that is no excuse for hiding the problem if it exists. He also said that even at the General Assembly, where the issue of assault was discussed two nights, that while many people came to the mic to say that the issue should be discussed (for 10 minutes) that still many others came to the mic to say that the camp is about wall street and not about this issue. Additionally, my friend said that very few women were staying in the camp towards the end near the eviction.

I have also had numerous people ask me, when I bring up the issue of sexual assault at occupations, if this is above the usual number of assaults that happen. As if it mattered? That response is clearly a way of minimalizing and normalizing the issue of sexual assault instead of taking responsibility for the fact that as people who support this movement, even by writing and tweeting about it, we may be supporting the creation of a space where people are sexually assaulted. Now we have to certainly distinguish between different occupations, but if organizers are keeping this issue a secret how can people even know?

I am so incredibly disheartened by this news and I think that as participants in this movement, which I consider myself having been to many rallies and events, and as supporters, we need to understand the extent of this problem. Perhaps this is something that the #OccupyData hackers can try to find, a number of cases of sexual assault at different occupations? How can people accept this? I refuse to participate in a movement which would attempt to create intentional space to envision a new world in which sexual assault is acceptable and should be kept quiet.

 To those who would say this is a peripheral issue, I absolutely disagree. I propose that the question as to whether we can create spaces which challenging existing institutions of violence, such as economic inequality, without reproducing and even worsening other institutions of violence, such as a patriarchal rape culture, must be central to the occupation movement. Whose liberation and equality is this movement about?

UPDATE: 1:49pm: I want to add, to be clear, that I am fully in support of prison abolitionist and community based strategies for responding to and preventing sexual violence which increase community autonomy and do not depend on police. That is precisely why the handling of this issue in these autonomous spaces is so important to me, because we need to develop strategies collectively that do not cause more harm. Additionally, I want to add that I am in no way trying to reproduce a gender binary, white centered, class privileged analysis, I fully acknowledge that people of all genders are affected by sexual violence and the most affected groups are transgender women of color and sex workers.


Brown Cuts UC Budget by 500 Million

From Jerry Brown’s Website:

Governor Jerry Brown will release a balanced state budget today that slashes spending by $12.5 billion, including an eight to 10 percent cut in take-home pay for most state employees, and proposes a “vast and historic” restructuring of government operations…

Major spending reductions include $1.7 billion to Medi-Cal, $1.5 billion to California’s welfare-to-work program (CalWORKs), $750 million to the Department of Developmental Services, $500 million to the University of California, $500 million to California State University, and $308 million for a 10 percent reduction in take-home pay for state employees not currently covered under collective bargaining agreements. Brown also plans to trim state government operations by $200 million through a variety of actions, including reorganizations, consolidations and other efficiencies.


Spring 2011 Statement: Lines of Demarcation


From Lines of Demarcation [PDF here]:

Many of us are looking back right now at the sets of actions that trace student/worker/faculty opposition to the programmatic final neoliberalizing of the university. We have engaged in various actions over the course of the last two years, some of which we have seen the immediate effects of and some whose effects we have not been able to see or anticipate. Those actions in the second group are the source of much anxiety; we wonder if they have been a waste since they appear not to have advanced anything. We should remember that actions have a dispersed life and bear on our moment in many ways. One way that we can understand this is by the effects that we can see in the actions of our enemies. The administration is shaken. This is evident by the unprecedented police presence on our campuses after the Regents’ meeting. They are trying to forcibly enter our meetings, scare us with heavy handed legal consequences. Collectively, we are students, faculty, student-workers, and service workers, we are the classes that make the university, we provide the labor that it uses as capital and cache in its attempt to sell the university as a commodity. They hold us in precarious positions and divide us from one another through bureaucratic distinctions like job titles and degree designations. They pit us against each other, making us think that we have to fight each other for resources. This is a lie. They know that we produce, collectively, the product that they sell and profit from. They keep our wages down and our ability to determine the university by keeping us from aligning with one another. We have learned in the history of our actions that we are already aligned. When we act together, as we have, they cannot stop us. The problem emerges when we are again divided by our fear: fear of sanctions, fear of violence, fear of future retribution. We must not let this be the case. We must remain in solidarity.

It may be easy to feel depressed about the lack of apparent wins, but our actions have had consequences. Now is the time to push those consequences to the conclusions that we want. Let’s not let the round of repression from the university, the police, and their allies keep us from reconfiguring the spaces that we live and work in. We are angry at the wave of arrests, home ‘visits’, police standing guard on our campuses, sending students to jail, and charging them with ‘serious’ crimes.

The convention of looking backward as one begins something new only reveals what is normally concealed; the past can only exist in the present. We look to the past to get a sense of what to do in the present, but the present is opaque to us too. The present is the name that we give to what has just happened. To be concerned with the present in this way is to think ideologically about what is possible. We can and must thinkwith the conjuncture, not about it. The present that we occupy is under construction at every moment in the sense that we produce the narratives of our actions that give them meaning. We live here. We live now. We act in the relations that we live in if we do this, we move against ideological separation and we move in solidarity. This is to say: they are afraid; if we were not threatening, they would not push back with this force; however, their fear alone isn’t a win and it doesn’t mean that they can’t hurt us. Let’s push the situation further. We should begin to disrupt every aspect of business as usual. Engage in every tactic that brings the university to a halt. Solidarity means that we act in concert but not in unification. We should have one demand: the control of the place that we both produce and are produced by. We must do everything we can to disrupt every process that forces us to produce our own debt and hold us accountable for it. Shut down the processes that are mobilized to keep students and workers from controlling the university. Let’s realize the relations that capital tries to conceal from us. Categories of hierarchy (graduate students, lecturers, adjuncts, undergraduates, faculty, staff, service workers) though material, conceal the ways in which we are all precariously situated in the institution that we make.



Creative Militancy, Militant Creativity and the New British Student Movement

By Sarah Amsler, Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University (Birmingham, UK), Posted: December 10, 2010 10:55 AM

Under what might now need to be termed comparatively normal circumstances, I have often agonised over helping my students understand the practical significance of critical theory. They ask, but what can one actually do with Herbert Marcuse today? In a scheduled class, it all feels so remote.

Now I can say, look: his work is a defense against injustice. Or in the more eloquent words of the London Book Bloc, inspired by its Italian counterpart, “books are our tools — we teach with them, we learn with them, we play with them, we create with them, we make love with them and, sometimes, we must fight with them.” In today’s fourth, most passionate and most ungoverned national demonstration against the British government’s wholesale privatization of higher education, books-as-shields replaced pens-as-swords. Creative militancy meets militant creativity, and this may be one of the most defining characteristics of the emerging student movement.

Read the rest at Huffington Post


It Gets Worse…

By Jack Halberstam on November 20, 2010

At bullybloggers, the blogging site that Lisa Duggan, Jose Munoz and Tavia Nyong’o and I sometimes call our internet home, we believe in bullies. No, not those kinds of bullies, not Tennessee Williams’ no-necked monsters, the brutish boys who make it their business to keep everyone else in line. We believe in a queer breed of bullies, bullies who bash back.  In actual fact, lots of queer girls (and I speak from experience) do begin their lives as bullying types as they fight their way out of the restrictions of femininity. Some find queerness to be a refuge from the ravages of teenage heterosexuality. And their queerness, especially if it comes with certain forms of social rejection from boys, while sometimes putting them in the way of violence, also shelters them from many of the treacherous dangers of teenage girlhood – teen pregnancy, recruitment to the role of feminine dependent, plummeting sense of self-worth, eating disorders and so on. While being a lesbian is no silver bullet, and while lots of lesbians also have body image issues and suffer through the indignity of being seen as essentially unattractive, there are advantages and liabilities to checking out of toxic heterosexual sociality….

Read the rest at Social Text / Periscope