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Pacifica Campaign Update

July 3, 2001

To: Pacifica Campaign Supporters
From: Juan Gonzalez

Update on:
1) The pressure campaign against the Pacifica Board
2) Recent agent provocateur-type break-ins
3) Status of a possible negotiated settlement

Our campaign to take back Pacifica continues to move forward.

Since my last update to you three weeks ago, we have kept up the pressure on the group of hijackers who remain on the board, while we wait to see the results of any negotiations between them and representatives of the three California lawsuits.

In New York City, we have worked with Concerned Friends of WBAI (http://www.wbaiaction.org/) and Community for Progressive Radio (CPR) to organize weekly pickets outside the office/home of board member Andrea Cisco, and some of us have talked with Cisco and urged her to resign. In Houston, free speech activists are picketing and protesting renegade Pacifica board member Valrie Chambers. Pacifica reform activists in Los Angeles, San Francisco and throughout the country have kept up enormous pressure on the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to get Pacifica board vice-chair and NAHB official Ken Ford to resign.

We are planning a National Day of Action on the NAHB for July 10, 2001. Since there are 800 chapters of NAHB around the country, there is probably one in your area where you can organize a protest. To get more information, call our office at 1-800-797-6229.

This is an important day of action in defense of free speech. The NAHB has threatened legal action against a web site through which listeners have sent more than 800,000 protest emails and faxes. "This is one more case of the people who took over our free-speech radio network trying to stifle the speech of others," said Steve Freedkin, operator of the Progressive Portal web site (http://www.progressiveportal.org/) which has coordinated the letter writing campaign. Previously, Pacifica threatened several other protest sites with lawsuits, but it relented in the face of nationwide outrage.

NAHB pressure against Progressive Portal's web hosting service temporarily forced Freedkin to stop the letters. But he idenfitied an alternative host and the letter-writing has resumed without interruption. Meanwhile, Freedkin is supported by the Public Citizen Litigation Group of Washington, DC. "Public Citizen is concerned that the attempts by Pacifica and NAHB to silence their critics could have a chilling effect on Internet activism," said Paul Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen.

The NAHB's Ken Ford is especially important now because he is acting chairman of the board since the resignation of Pacifica Chair David Acosta. Ford is also the one who has threatened to bring in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate Pacifica activists who utilize their constitutional rights of free speech to complain to board members about their policies. Any of you who have received such threats from Ford, should not worry. Merely calling a board member or sending an e-mail to someone whose actions you oppose is not an illegal act in the United States -- at least not yet. As we have repeatedly said, you should be polite and respectful in all communications to Ford and his crew, and should refrain from any threats in any form. We abhor and condemn racial, ethnic or sexist slurs of any kind.

We urge you to join efforts in your city to keep pressure on the remaining hijackers, including Bob Farrell in Los Angeles and Wendell Johns, Bert Lee and John Murdock in Washington, DC. Since they hold a bare 7-5 majority on the board now, the resignation of three more would signal an outright victory for our movement. For information on these board members, visit http://pacificacampaign.org/www.pacificacampaign.org/getinvolved.asp.

Agent Provocateur Activities

In a bizarre and disturbing development, vandals and thieves trashed a non-profit arts center in Long Island, New York, just hours after it hosted a Free Pacifica event on June 30. The burglars stole both the box office safe and a larger upstairs safe that contained approximately $2,500 in cash. Luckily, neither safe contained the proceeds raised by Saturday's event, according to cinema co-founder Vic Skolnick. But the burglars caused extensive damage to the theater's walls, locks, and new computer equipment. The culprits, whom police suspect hid in the building until after closing, also destroyed the reel of "Himalaya," a Tibetan-language film, worth more than $4,000.

Clearly, this was no ordinary burglary. The culprits also left behind spray-painted slogans on the walls saying: "Stop Supporting WBAI," "No More WBAI $," and "No More WBAI Broadcasting Here." The obvious intent of this act was to discredit our movement and to sow confusion and division among the ranks of our supporters. For more info, see The New York Times article at http://pacificacampaign.org/www.pacificacampaign.org/nty703.asp

Amazingly, over the same weekend WBAI producer Gary Null, who is in the midst of broadcasting a series of interviews on the Pacifica crisis that for the first time presents both sides of the conflict, also reported a break-in at his residence. Nothing of value was apparently stolen, but Gary reports that some files were taken. Could these attacks just be a coincidence? Or could they be the beginning of an agent provocateur campaign aimed at subverting our movement? Many of us who are old enough to remember the FBIıs COINTELPRO can hazard an educated guess.

The Pacifica Campaign extends our solidarity to both the Cinema Arts Center and Gary Null. At the same time we urge the Pacifica reform community to be on the lookout for disruptive or irrational acts that might tarnish the movement's image. Make sure that your demonstrations or protest activities have a legal observer and be sure to have a video recorder present.

Despite these acts, our movement is gaining strength with each day that passes. Last week, for example, the 11-member executive committee of the National Writers Union (NWU) voted to support both the stringer strike against the Pacifica Network News (PNN) and the Pacifica Campaign's nationwide boycott of the network. The NWU, the only labor union in the country for freelance writers, has more than 7,000 members in 17 local chapters nationwide.

Weıve also been getting important media coverage in the national press. National Public Radio (NPR) reported on the race baiting at Pacifica station WBAI in New York. You can listen for yourselves by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

"Weıre talking here today about the European psychological warfare against Africans. And thatıs what the whole thing is about," WBAI interim general manager Utrice Leid was heard saying on NPR. "I need you stalwart soldiers out there Š This is a call to arms. I told you itıs a war." This kind of poisonous rhetoric has come to define the "new" WBAI where race baiting, misogyny, rightwing militia propaganda, and anti-Semitism now rear their ugly heads.

What Happened to Settlement Talks with Pacifica?

We are hopeful that the board "majority" has finally recognized it cannot win and is serious about a possible negotiated settlement. From what we understand, Pacifica attorney Daly Temchine made an initial offer on Monday, June 18, to lawyers for the three lawsuits -- the listeners' lawsuit, the dissident board members' lawsuit, and the local advisory boards' lawsuit. That offer involved a power-sharing structure between both sides that was immediately rejected. But that was only a starting offer from Pacifica.

Since then, the principals in the three lawsuits have been seeking input from the overall Pacifica reform movement and reportedly have been preparing a counter-offer. At the same time, they have requested answers to specific questions about the financial state of the network before agreeing to enter any full-scale discussions. They want to be sure that the hijackers have not looted the assets of the network on their way out the door.

As you might expect, the pace of these preparations for negotiations have been slow. Litigants are scattered around the country, and each group of litigants has a different idea of how they should proceed. On top of that, various Pacifica reform groups who are not involved in the lawsuits, such as the Pacifica Campaign, Concerned Friends of WBAI, the Coalition for a Democratic Pacifica (CDP), the Pacifica Listeners Unions, etc., have all been offering their own "settlement ideas" to the litigants. It is a complex process and our movement needs to be patient. But we should not become so patient that we allow the Pacifica Board to get a "second wind" so that it decides to keep fighting. There are some clear indications that the current board majority has had enough and that more of its members want "out."

It is my opinion -- and this is only an individual opinion -- that the sooner the litigants themselves (not just their lawyers) move toward round-the-clock talks, the better off our movement will be. Preferably, that should occur within the next few weeks. No one can know for sure how serious the board is about relinquishing its power until there are face-to-face talks. Remember, we are now heading into the dog days of summer. By the end of July and beginning of August, activity on all sides will diminish considerably. Many people will be forced to take vacations or fulfill family commitments, which is only natural.

If the litigants do not make an all-out attempt at settlement talks soon, they may find themselves dragging into September and October before any talks begin. That will mean several more months of the network being in disarray, several more months for the network's managers to reconfigure the five stations in their own image, several more months of continued harassment of Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, of more bannings and firings -- in short, several more months of horrendous damage to the network we all love..

This past weekend, for example, the station managers and top staff met secretly in a New York City hotel. With the board in disarray and the network racking up huge financial losses from the boycott, the hijackers dare not even call an official board meeting for fear of the massive listener protests that will greet them. Still, free speech activists managed to raid the Pacifica execs meeting in the swank Millenium Hilton Hotel in downtown Manhattan on June 28, calling for WBAI manager Utrice Leidıs removal.

In this climate, however, executive director Bessie Wash and station managers Utrice Leid, Mark Schubb in Los Angeles, and Garland Ganter in Houston have a freer hand than normal to act as an autonomous coalition of warlords over their individual stations. Each day that passes, they make more programming changes and become more emboldened in their determination to resist democratic reform.

We in the mass movement must redouble our pressure on the board members while we wait for the litigants to act on Pacifica's offer of negotiations. Even one more resignation prior to the start of any talks would be an enormous psychological boost to our side. Let's work to get that one. Finally, thanks again for your enormous participation in this historic movement. We are closer to victory than we have ever been.

Hasta La Victoria,

Juan Gonzalez