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Letter to Pacifica from Democracy Now

by Democracy Now! staff Thursday, Aug. 23, 2001 at 8:25 AM

On Saturday, the verbal harassment reached a peak, when producer Clayton Riley said on the air: "When you talk about the enemy, you find the enemy, you isolate the enemy and you destroy the enemy. These people have put themselves in the position of being the enemies. This conflict is not going to end, in my judgment and let me be clear about that, until the dissidents, until the so-called exile community is destroyed. Unequivocally."

TO: Pacifica National Board and Pacifica management

FROM: Democracy Now! Staff

DATE: 8/20/01

RE: Safety

As you know, the Democracy Now! staff spent last week negotiating with Pacifica management over how our safety could be guaranteed. The talks came after two attacks, one physical and one verbal.

On Friday, August 10, WBAI Station Manager Utrice Leid physically assaulted Amy Goodman. On Monday, August 13, the Operations Director Sidney Smith and morning show host Marjorie Moore began yelling at Amy as soon as she entered the station. They followed her to her office, and when Democracy Now! producer Brad Simpson closed the door after her, Smith used his master key to re-enter. They continued to yell at us as we tried to prepare for the morning's program, until the on-air host came out of master control to tell them to stop disturbing his broadcast.

We left after our broadcast, believing we could no longer safely work at WBAI. We waited for a response to our Friday e-mails to management about the first attack. When no response came, we wrote our second letter laying out why we felt we had no recourse, but to find an alternative space from which to broadcast and produce Democracy Now! It was only then that management responded.

For the next three days, the Democracy Now! staff negotiated in good faith, attempting to reach agreement with management on a minimum set of safety guarantees for our return. We agreed not to comment publicly during the negotiations.

Meanwhile, the situation at WBAI deteriorated. On Thursday morning before Democracy Now!, the newly installed morning show staff used the time to encourage listeners to attack Amy and Democracy Now! As further evidence of the increasingly unprofessional and hostile workplace, when people voiced their support, the hosts either mocked them or cut short their calls with the sound of a flushing toilet.

On Saturday, the verbal harassment reached a peak, when producer Clayton Riley said on the air: "When you talk about the enemy, you find the enemy, you isolate the enemy and you destroy the enemy. These people have put themselves in the position of being the enemies. This conflict is not going to end, in my judgment and let me be clear about that, until the dissidents, until the so-called exile community is destroyed. Unequivocally."

This echoes Station Manager Utrice Leid's own oft-repeated comments, some of which aired around the nation on NPR's Morning Edition of June 21st: "I need you stalwart soldiers out there. This is a call to arms. I told

you, it's a war." Leid said that some of those who she says were sabotaging the station are right here with us.

These inflammatory comments are not just words. Several months ago, Clayton physically moved in on WBAI reporter Robert Knight for coming to Amy's defense, shouting repeatedly "Stop kissing the ass of that white bitch." Minutes later, he assaulted Knight in Utrice Leid's office, while she looked on.

Riley has also threatened to pay a hitman 0 to break the legs of Democracy Now! engineer Anthony Sloan. He has screamed obscenities at former Democracy Now! producer Terry Allen. In each case, we informed WBAI and Pacifica management of these incidents. Management never responded.

Furthermore, Clayton was not disciplined, but rewarded: Utrice Leid has since doubled the air-time of his weekly program. The hate-filled, violent on and off-air harassment and intimidation only intensified after Leid's assault on Amy.

While Pacifica management has offered to post a statement asserting that WBAI is a nonviolent workplace, they refused to prohibit the on-air personal attacks, which gives a green light for the kind of assault and harassment we experienced last week.

They also have refused to give Amy a key to the station or even to her own office. She is locked out until she hands over her home and cell phone numbers to the very person who assaulted her.

We have an interim solution. As we have communicated, we have a safe and even technically superior studio from which to broadcast. Democracy Now! will continue to work at Downtown Community Television until our safety at WBAI can be guaranteed in a meaningful way.

This will:

- preclude further intimidation, harassment and assault

- de-escalate the situation

- provide us with a technically superior studio at no cost

- lessen Pacifica's liability

It also answers Leid's demand. On the air, she has said we will throw the unwanted tenants out. Off the air, she has stormed into our office, insisting that we find an alternative studio.

There is ample precedent for this arrangement. At least three men broadcast from offsite studios daily for Pacifica and WBAI: Gary Null (M-F, 12-1 pm), Armand DeMille (M-F, 1 to 2 pm), and Pacifica Network News correspondent Bob Hennelly (daily for PNN and weekly for WBAI).

For these men, broadcasting from an alternative site is a convenience. For us, it has become a necessary safety

precaution.

We feel it is our responsibility to continue to provide Democracy Now! to the Pacifica stations and affiliates, as we have for nearly six years. Because WBAI is presently an unsafe workplace, last week we broadcast from DCTV.

The programs were technically perfect, of higher broadcast quality than even WBAI provides. But most importantly, we are safe.

Until we feel our safety is guaranteed at WBAI, the incidents we described are adequately investigated and dealt with, and the on-air personal attacks stop, we see no other option but to continue to produce and broadcast Democracy Now! in this manner.

Our safety is non-negotiable. We hope you agree.

Signed,

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!

Kris Abrams, producer of Democracy Now!

Brad Simpson, producer of Democracy Now!

Anthony Sloan, engineer of Democracy Now!

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