Houston Pacifica protests

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Mar 7 16:35:01 MST 2001


Our movement is now fully national, and we're on a roll! Houston
represented a quantum leap. Please distribute the following widely to
activist email lists and to alternative media. If you would like a
formatted version on Microsoft Word, please email me. Thanks.

- Bob Lederer ledererbob at usa.net

**************************************************************************

NATIONAL ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact Ursula Ruedenberg, 646-230-9588 Rafael
Renteria, renteria22 at aol.com

Bob Lederer, ledererbob at usa.net

ACTIVISTS CONVERGE IN HOUSTON TO DEMAND RESIGNATION OF RULING MAJORITY ON
PACIFICA RADIO'S NATIONAL BOARD

Listener groups from five cities forge foundation for nationwide organizing

HOUSTON, March 6 - More than 200 listeners and staff members of
noncommercial Pacifica Radio converged from around the country this weekend
for four days of actions, teach-ins and discussions to protest the
network's corporate-dominated board of directors while they met in Houston,
Texas. In the most dramatic protest, on March 4th nearly the entire
audience turned their backs on the board, chanted "Resign Now!" and
"Democracy Now!" for 20 minutes and then walked out, forcing a recess.
Later that day, about 100 activists from the five Pacifica station areas
forged the foundation for a nationally coordinated movement to free Pacifica.

The focus of the protests was an alarming pattern in recent years of
repression, censorship and subversion of local autonomy and programming by
the Pacifica National Board and its hired top management. Activists
emphasized the major destructive role played by key board members who are
affiliated with corporate interests, including John Murdock, an HMO
attorney with the union-busting firm of Epstein, Becker and Green; Micheal
Palmer, a broker with the commercial real estate firm of CB Richard Ellis;
Ken Ford, a manager with the National Association of Home Builders; and
Bertram Lee, the former Denver Nuggets owner who buys and sells TV and
radio stations. Another target has been board chair David Acosta, a Houston
accountant who has spearheaded many of the board's recent actions,
including the recent assault on New York City stati on WBAI. The protesters
issued a joint statement, read at the board meeting by banned WBAI producer
Janice K. Bryant, denouncing a list of specific actions of the board, and
stating, "Pacifica's National Board and the bureaucracy it has spawned have
violated the trust of hundreds of thousands of loyal listener-sponsors
across the country...Our differences are irreconcilable. The only thing we
will negotiate with you are the terms of your departure."

Actions in Houston included the following:

- Activists picketed and held a press conference on Friday, March 2, in
front of the office of David Acosta, where listeners, staff and dissident
Pacifica board member Leslie Cagan denounced repression at the network and
called for Acosta's and other board members' resignations.

- On Saturday morning and afternoon, picketers protested in front of the
Doubletree Hotel where the board meeting was held.

- When the board unexpectedly closed its meeting to the public on Saturday
morning, a group of 25 protesters inside the hotel advanced towards the
room where the meeting was in progress, demanding entry, but were turned
back by police. Meanwhile, two WBAI listeners slipped into the meeting,
confronted the board about its secrecy, refused to leave and were expelled
by police.

- On Saturday afternoon, after the board opened its proceedings and added
on a public comment session, protesters packed the room, festooned with
placards denouncing the board, and delivered countless testimonies of
outrage and demands for board members’ resignations, including a joint
statement of protest by local advisory board members from the network's
stations. Many other people--including some local board members--were
denied entry by hotel security, citing fire regulations.

- On Sunday, at the insistence of dissident board members, the board added
to its agenda a discussion and public comment session on the recent
firings, bannings, lockouts and censorship at WBAI. Pacifica Executive
Director Bessie Wash evaded answering specific questions about her
decisions on those matters. Wash and WBAI Interim Station Manager Utrice
Leid left the meeting as a parade of listeners, staff and Local Advisory
Board members made passionate denunciations of the "Christmas coup" by
Pacifica management at the station. Then, protesters brought the meeting to
a halt for 20 minutes, chanting "Resign now!"and "Democracy now!" and
singing "Sha-na-na-na, hey, hey, good-bye" as police escorted them out of
the hotel.

- On Friday and Saturday evenings, teach-ins organized by the Houston
Committee for People's Radio were each attended by about 400 people, most
of them Houstonians. Among the speakers were Amy Goodman, host of Democracy
Now!, Pacifica's popular award-winning grassroots national news magazine,
currently under attack by Pacifica management; Juan Gonzalez, Goodman's
former co-host, an award-winning columnist at the New York Daily News and
recent co-founder of the Pacifica Campaign, which seeks to drive out the
corporate-dominated board; Northern California Pacifica listener-activist
Carol Spooner, lead plaintiff in a suit against t he Pacifica board; former
staff and managers of KPFT, Houston's Pacifica station; fired and banned
staff from Pacifica stations, and other prominent media historians and
activists.

- On Monday, March 5, a group of activists picketed and leafleted in front
of the CB Richard Ellis building, the workplace of Pacifica Board member
Micheal Palmer, and then went into the office and left a message demanding
his resignation.

While in Houston, the activists also convened a national meeting attended
by over 100 people where they crafted initiatives for the rapidly growing
national movement for democratization of the Pacifica Radio Network.
Adopted resolutions:

- Authorized the establishment of a national steering committee composed of
elected representatives from each of the free-Pacifica listener groups
across the country.

- Authorized a committee to develop a week of national actions against the
board, possibly in conjunction with May Day; called for demonstrations at
the next board meeting, wherever and whenever it occurs; and encouraged
listener groups to cooperate with the Pacifica Campaign initiated by Juan
Gonzalez in its listener-sponsor boycott and direct action campaign against
board members.

- Set up a committee to help local activists re-establish Pacifica’s
original mission at each station.

- Established a committee to develop a blueprint for national Pacifica
programs that would fulfill the network's original mission.

In another important development, on Saturday, members of Local Advisory
Boards at the Pacifica stations, joined by concerned listeners, met to
develop a common agenda and unified positions on the Pacifica crisis. They
issued a statement calling for the resignation of illegally-seated national
board members, the reversal of all firings and bannings, the lifting of all
"gag rules" (which bar on-air discussion of Pacifica's policies), and the
democratization of the network. The group also established a communications
network to develop closer coordination of their work on Pacifica issues.

Also on Saturday, the Pacifica Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover,
initiated by Juan Gonzalez, held its first national meeting to introduce
its strategies to activists from around the country, invite their input and
involvement, and report its successes thus far.

The Pacifica network, broadcasting on five stations in Houston, Washington
DC, New York City, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, and many affiliate stations,
has traditionally been a bastion of free speech independent community
radio, funded by listeners, with a history of 50 years of dynamic,
progressive coverage of national and local issues.

###

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Louis Proyect
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