Occupy Wall Street has no owners, no single founder and no official singular leader. OWS is an organic body made up of concerned citizens of the world who work towards wresting power from the ruling elites and putting it back into the hands of the People.
Throughout our brief history there have been opportunists who would use the name to build their personal careers and benefit financially from their association with Occupy Wall Street. Often, these people have taken advantage of their access to online resources that act as megaphones to spread our movement's message. Such abuse of power takes away from the solidarity and unity that needs to exist in order to do the necessary work at hand.
These people operate much like disaster capitalists, preying on the poor and disenfranchised who are deep in their struggles for self determination. A community's struggle becomes sheerly a platform to amplify their own voices and build their personal brands. Those of us on the inside have watched this play out over and over and have tried to maintain the integrity of our messaging and in some cases have failed. Addressing these abuses of power always takes away energy from the more important and urgent work at hand. The ensuing controversy sometimes spills out over the public domain (like right now) and appears to the outside world as petty infighting that does more damage to our reputation and therefore our ability to be effective activists. These abuses of power and the ensuing fallout ultimately damages the name of Occupy Wall Street, which many of us have worked very hard to create.
It is our wish with this letter to send a warning to activists and organizers across the globe about a certain individual who is claiming to represent Occupy Wall Street: Justin Wedes.
Justin's mode of operation repeats, much as the aforementioned disaster capitalists. He aligns himself with communities in crisis and then dominates the messaging by procuring media space and crowd source funding sites with no accountability. He is doing damage to people already in crisis and channeling much needed resources away from those he claims to be representing. All the while relentlessly promoting himself as some kind of white savior. It is our wish that this person be stopped and not allowed to exploit any more people in his path.
Justin Wedes has taken advantage of his access to the 174,000 follower strong Twitter account, @OccupyWallStNYC to build support for various pet projects over the years and make a name for himself.
When Justin was called to account for abusing this movement megaphone, he chose to silence dissent by kicking everyone who disagreed with him off the account, which as it turned out was everyone else on the team. Late last Friday night, August 8th—without cause or warning—Justin bypassed various levels of security and changed a series of passwords to hijack this historic account, unceremoniously stealing access from 14 fellow team members.
This occurred after tensions arose related to the messaging around the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid when he attempted to censor a co-curator's voice who was using the word "genocide" to describe what is being done to the people in Gaza. Instead of bringing his concerns about messaging to the group for discussion, Justin privately contacted the editor in question and attempted to manipulate him. This goes against our consensus model.
Recently collective members became concerned after being directly contacted by community groups in Detroit expressing serious issues around Justin's behavior there that reportedly put residents at risk. Instead of listening to what the people there wanted and amplifying their voices, he imposed upon them what he thought they needed (such as bottled water from Multi National Corporations), and channeled contributions towards a crowd source fundraising page that he controls with no community oversight. The fundraising for community based groups suffered because of Justin's superior access to social media resources. After this issue was brought to our attention, we attempted to hold Justin accountable for disproportionately promoting his personal project the Detroit Water Brigade over community led efforts such as the People's Water Board.
When Justin realized that he might become even minimally constrained in his ability to use the movement to benefit his personal projects, such as the DWB, he was set off to steal the account. Instead of embracing dissent and working through the unanimous objection to his tactics, he chose to pull a power grab. Many of us feel deeply disrespected.
Our collective of diverse voices called the “Tweetboat” has been working together since the beginning of the occupation of Wall Street and throughout the years since. This was the account people tweeted directly to from an open laptop set up in Zuccotti Park. A few of us have been here since then but as individuals came and went, those who stayed worked diligently to improve the democratic structure of decision making and it had become honed to a bad ass machine by the time Justin started complaining that it was "broken" and "toxic". Nothing was as toxic as one person deciding that they were the un-elected CEO of an anti-corporate social media account and behaving as though they were entitled to control a movement resource with no accountability whatsoever.
We'd like it to be known that we are not an expendable workforce to be replaced as one member sees fit. We'd like it to be known that we are the heart and soul of the account, our voices are the voices you've come to know and trust to bring you news from diverse topics. We are that anonymous voice, collectively. We are the people that tweet about Indigenous issues, Palestine, Worker’s Rights, Police Brutality, Pipeline Explosions, Wall Street Corruption, Climate Change, Union Victories, Disaster Relief. Most of us live in NYC, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street.
Justin has violated our basic principles of organizing within Occupy, and betrayed our basic sense of integrity and decency. We disavow any connection between this individual and the movement at large. We believe he means to dominate the media presence of Occupy to build his personal brand and reputation at the expense of people's movements wherever they spontaneously arise, from NYC to Detroit to Tunisia to Egypt to Turkey and beyond.
We write this open letter to the global activist community to inform you of what has taken place. We seek to discredit any claims he has made in the past or in the future to be a mouthpiece for OWS. He has violated our basic principles of horizontal organizing and group integrity. We disavow any connection between this individual and the movement at large.
We are working to restore the twitter account to the collective. You can help by tweeting @support and @twitter and tell them to give the account back to Occupy Wall Street!
In the meantime, let it be known that Justin Wedes does not speak for Occupy Wall Street.
Rather let his actions speak for themselves.
In closing, we refer back to one of the founding documents of Occupy Wall Street, The Statement of Autonomy:
Those seeking to capitalize on this movement or undermine it by appropriating its message or symbols are not a part of Occupy Wall Street.
— The team members of the @OccupyWallStNYC Tweetboat collective
- Share Wolf of Occupy Wall Street: Statement on Justin Wedes's hijacking of @OccupyWallStNYC on Facebook
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- Reddit Wolf of Occupy Wall Street: Statement on Justin Wedes's hijacking of @OccupyWallStNYC!