FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 27, 2001
Contact: Ursula Ruedenberg, Pacifica Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover, (646) 230-9588; Background: www.pacificacampaign.org
PACIFICA FOUNDATION FALSELY ACCUSES ACTIVISTS OF VIOLENCE NEW YORK:
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 the leaflets, 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 geting certain members of the Pacifica board to resign.”
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.”