By Steve Klinger
At a meeting Sunday, several members of Occupy Santa Fe told The Light of New Mexico that attempts to portray a rift between rival factions of the group are no more than the distorted perceptions of one or two individuals. The five people who appeared at a meeting requested by LNM were unanimous in stating that there has thus far been no rival element aside from some unilateral actions by one member, Daniel Fisher, whom the General Assembly last week effectively expelled. Comments supporting Fisher and describing a “clique of seven or eight people” who were telling “egregious lies” and had issued a “thoroughly bogus press release” were submitted to LNM’s web site by journalist Judith Lawson.
On Friday, a “statement to the press” from Occupy Santa Fe, cited in an earlier article here and referred to in a front-page story in The New Mexican, said the group’s general assembly had agreed, with sadness and reluctance, that Fisher should be banned from further group activities because his behavior has been persistently intimidating and disruptive and included reference to firearms. Fisher told The New Mexican he is not dangerous.
“That’s just their little fabrication,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t have a gun. I’ve never owned a gun. That’s just them trying to make me look like a menacing character.”
The incident that appeared to precipitate the GA action and the press statement revolved around removal last Tuesday of the big heated tent at the Railyard Park, where the group was holding its general assemblies. Fisher has acknowledged he played a part in having it removed, though the Albuquerque rental company that owns the tent told The New Mexican the month-long lease for the tent had expired. Group members told LNM the tent’s use was paid for by an anonymous donor and that Fisher, unilaterally and without GA approval, had made the call to ask that it be taken down.
The five who spoke with LNM were careful to state that they did not speak for the entire group, but several stressed that the vote to exclude Fisher came after lengthy discussion and was well above a 90 percent consensus, which the group requires to pass proposals. They added that the tent incident may have been “the last straw,” but it was not the primary reason they were unhappy with Fisher.
According to a woman who identified herself as Adesina, in one memorable incident Fisher had been holding a hammer that he’d been using to drive tent stakes, and when a female member asked him during a conversation to stop waving it, he refused. All agreed there had been numerous incidents involving Fisher that other members, especially women, had found intimidating, and that he’d been gone for about a month, apparently visiting other Occupy communities, after the Santa Fe group suspended him. When he returned his behavior was even more disruptive, they said.
As for Lawson, she had been representing herself as media coordinator, according to Jeff Haas, but had never been given such a title, as Occupy groups do not use or confer titles. Those who spoke with LNM said she was told to stop referring to herself in that capacity and after that began to side with Fisher. Neither she nor Fisher was at the meeting in which the proposal to exclude Fisher was passed.
The members interviewed told LNM they felt the group was strengthened as a result of the difficulties with Fisher, and there is a new and greater resolve to focus on the actions and issues that brought them together.
Robert McCormick said, “Occupy is a social experiment with the common goal of changing the world for the better. But he [Fisher] was so negative. He wasn’t fitting in because he was so negative.”
Adesina said the disruptive incidents have been a drain on the group’s focus and should not be dwelled upon. “We’re ready to get work done,” she said.
For more details on the actions and initiatives of Occupy Santa Fe’s working groups see our Dec. 15 print edition.