Pacifica board entraps disabled activist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Mar 27 17:41:11 MST 2001


Contact: Ursula Ruedenberg, Pacifica Campaign to Stop the Corporate
Takeover, (646) 230-9588; Background:


Representatives from the Pacifica Radio Foundation, including its Executive
Director Bessie Wash and board chair David Acosta, interrupted network
programming throughout the day yesterday to denounce what they claim is a
campaign of violence against the network by those trying to save Pacifica.
Some commentary was pre-taped; some of it was live. Some of it was played
nationally, while WBAI's air alone was interrupted five times.

The interruptions began during the network's award-winning national
program, Democracy Now!. Wash and others made what activists say are
shockingly false charges, including allegations that a Houston activist and
known pacifist, Edwin Johnston, who was distributing leaflets this past
Friday, violently attacked a Houston- station KPFT staff member, Molly
O'Brian, who is reported to have cried "rape." Wash alleged that Johnston
"jumped on her back and tried to throw her on the ground." Activists say
Pacifica manufactured these charges after an altercation initiated by
O'Brian when she grabbed a stack of leaflets from another activist who was
present. When Johnston tried to retrieve theleaflets, Station Manager
Garland Ganter and another man violently pushed Johnston, who is disabled
and visually impaired. Johnston was subsequently arrested.

Sheila Harris, a witness to the incident, stated, "Edwin absolutely did not
jump on O'Brian's back. He never touched her.Ganter and the other men were
the attackers." Johnston said, "I have scrapes on my arms and legs and I
was punched. I am also now suffering injuries in connection with my
scoliosis. They are having trouble, and so they are resorting to violence."

The "trouble" Johnston referred to is an exploding national movement
involving thousands, to save the network from what many say is a small,
corporate cabal at the top attempting to water down Pacifica's historic
political mission. Last week, 1200 people filled a church in Los Angeles to
discuss this issue and listeners in Houston have been attending meetings at
KPFT to voice dissastifaction with Ganter's administration. A national
boycott of the network has also been launched by the Pacifica Campaign to
Stop the Corporate Takeover.

Juan Gonzalez, founder of the Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover,
states, "We in the Pacifica Campaign have always said that we condemn any
acts of violence or ilegal harrassment of any individuals employed by or
connected to the Pacifica Foundation. Ours is a peaceful campaign of legal
civic engagement aimed at getting certain members of the Pacifica board to

Allegations made yesterday by Pacifica executives also touched on a recent
incident at New York station WBAI when interim general manager Utrice Leid
barged into the studios during the Building Bridges labor program, censored
guest Congressman Major Owens, and cancelled the program. Leid now claims
she was assaulted by a "supporter of the Pacifica Campaign"- presumably
host Ken Nash, who left the studio shortly after Leid took the mic. Nash
said, "Leid's allegation of violence took me completely by surprise, of
course, because it never happened. Ms. Leid never mentioned it in the
studio, nor in two subsequent telephone conversations I had with her."

Many Pacifica Board members, including Tomas Moran from San Fransisco Bay
area, and Leslie Cagan from New York City, say they have repeatedly asked
for information about the allegations but have received none. "As a board
member, I was not provided with the full facts about these serious
allegations," said Beth Lyons, another Pacifica board member from NewYork,
"I cannot join in these representations nor in any actions of the
Foundation based on these representations."

Louis Proyect
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