Where were SaveKPFA's Grassroots Supporters?

The below article was written nearly two years ago, in the spring of 2014, during our occupation of the Pacifica office in Berkeley.

by Daniel Borgström
April 30, 2014

This month [April 2014] SaveKPFA sent out a call to their supporters to attend the Local Station Board (LSB) meeting of Saturday, April 12th. And, from an article afterwards appearing on their website, one might get the impression that an impressive number of SaveKPFA supporters attended that day.

Well, I attended that LSB on April 12th, arriving at 11:30 a.m., in time for Public Comments. There were 10 speakers: Max Blanchet, Dennis Bernstein, Daniel Borgström (me), Virginia Browning, Steve Gilmartin, Wanda Warkentin, Geneva Reese, Craig Williams, Aki Tanaka, Brian Geiser.

I don't know Craig Williams or where he stands; he spoke on a non-controversial topic. The other 9 were definitely NOT SaveKPFA people. Most were there to defend Summer Reese, the Executive Director of the Pacifica Radio network. None of the 10 speakers attacked Summer Reese or spoke in defense of SaveKPFA.

There were 16 people in the audience. I thought that 2 or 3 may possibly have been SaveKPFA supporters. However, others who were there said they saw nobody in the audience who looked like a SaveKPFA supporter. Anyway, it was a remarkable no-show for SaveKPFA, considering that on paper they present themselves as having a massive following, and further, that they'd asked their people to be there.

This leaves us to wonder how much active support SaveKPFA really has. My opinion is that if they had much, we'd be seeing it from time to time -- like, for example, on March 17th when we began our occupation of the Pacifica HQ, and Margy Wilkinson showed up with about 5 or 6 of her people and tried to push her way into the building. We were certain that within an hour she'd have 20 people there to back her up. But that didn't happen. Margy never had more than 5 or 6 all day long. But we did very soon have 20 of our people there that morning, putting their bodies on the line. In the course of the day we had something like 40 people coming and going, not all at the same time. Now, six weeks into the occupation, we're still holding the HQ, taking turns having people there 24/7. That's something we couldn't do without active, on-the-ground support.

Back to the LSB of April 12th. Our people on the board, representing United for Community Radio (UCR), raised questions during the treasurer's and the PNB reports. "Why hasn't KPFA closed its books for 14 months?" Andrea Prichett asked. "I'm asking a question. Why is it so difficult?"

Our board members also wanted to hear the as yet unexplained reason for attempting to fire Summer Reese, the Executive Director. The three SaveKPFA PNB members sat in silence. Finally Margy said she couldn't speak because it's a personnel issue and confidential, and because they're being sued and their attorneys had told them not to speak.

The SaveKPFA majority of the LSB then went through the formality of passing a resolution demanding that Summer Reese abandon the Pacifica National Office. Interestingly, the resolution targets only Summer Reese, saying nothing of the several dozen people taking an active part in the occupation and of the hundreds of Pacifica listeners and staff across the network who have expressed shock and dismay at the actions of the rogue PNB majority. Nor does it make any mention of the Pacifica office staff who continue to carry on their duties under the direction of Summer Reese. The SaveKPFA resolution wants to make it all about Summer Reese; it's not.

Despite such a twisting of reality, the resolution was passed by the SaveKPFA majority, voting in lockstep as always. The scene resembled those of so many city councils these days, where a corrupt majority of the council members pass a resolution and proclaim it to be the wishes of the people. SaveKPFA likewise felt a need to present this event in their article as though it were done in front of a cheering audience.

The April 12th LSB was not the only occasion that SaveKPFA supporters did a no-show.

There was the Sunday, April 6th KPFA Town Hall organized by the KPFA Community Advisory Board. I counted 64 people. I could identify only 4 or 5 from SaveKPFA, including Barbara Whipperman and Margy Wilkinson. Actually, they maintained a pretty low profile; Margy left early; Barbara Whipperman stayed the whole length, but didn't speak. I got the feeling that Margy & Co just didn't feel very comfortable. The atmosphere at that town hall was critical of SaveKPFA.

In court on April 9th, we had 20 or more supporters in the courtroom. Margy had her husband, her iED-in-waiting Bernard Duncan, and as far as I could tell, that was all.

This has been the consistent trend. About fifty people attended a
Speak Out on Issues at KPFA and Pacifica at the Unitarian Church in Berkeley on April 27th. The forum was emceed by Rev. Joy Atkinson and both sides, "United for Community Radio" and "SaveKPFA," were invited to present their views. SaveKPFA was represented by Carole Travis, chair of the Local Station Board, who defended the firing of Summer Reese.

After the presentations, about twenty of the audience spoke; and as has become the prevailing trend, most condemned the firing, several at the same time continued to express wishes (unrealistic in my opinion) that the factions resolve differences, none spoke in favor of the firing.

This lack of active support seems to explain why SaveKPFA hasn't attempted to hold mass demonstrations demanding that Summer Reese and the Occupiers leave the Pacifica HQ. Instead, Margy Wilkinson asked the Berkeley Police Department to evict us. The police didn't want to get involved, but told Margy that they would enforce a temporary restraining order if the Court were to issue one.

So at a court hearing on April 28th, Margy & Co asked for a TRO; and were outnumbered two to one in the audience. The case was presented by Attorney Dan Siegel who is running for mayor of Oakland, presenting himself in the race as a progressive candidate. Siegel has defended activists at Occupy Oakland and has built an image of himself as a champion of victims of police oppression. But now he's asking for the police to raid the Pacifica HQ. The judge continued the case to May 6th.

So back to the intriguing question: Where are SaveKPFA's grassroots supporters? SaveKPFA is well funded and well connected to the various bureaucracies of the establishment left. Is there some huge Nixon-type silent majority in the progressive community, a shadow army which massively backs SaveKPFA? Their rank-and-file supporters, whoever they may be, are obviously not attending, not paying close attention, not looking to see for themselves what's going on at KPFA/Pacifica.

updated April 30, 2014

for more information

VIDEO of Summer Reese on March 17, 2014 using a bolt clipper to break the padlock installed at Pacifica HQ to keep her and the entire Pacifica staff from going back to work.

SaveKPFA's Grover Norquist Solution -- The current situation at KPFA/Pacifica has been over a decade in the making. This essay from three years ago shows how the crisis developed.

Is the Pacifica Foundation Board Trying to Dissolve the Foundation's Five Station Union?
ESSAY by Eric C. Jacobson

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KPFA 94.1 FM is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.

Vote for the UCR -- United for Community Radio

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