I've worked with Thadeaus on-and-off for a little over a year. He's followed through on every commitment he's ever made to me and every group we've worked with. I've watched him put in hundreds of volunteer hours doing data entry and web-based outreach for Time's Up! and others. He's been an invaluable resource of information and networking for me and my groups, and I've seen him be the same for other activists and groups who were trying to get more involved. I've never seen him intimidate, exclude, or offend anyone. To the contrary, I've
seen him draw people into the movement and support and encourage them. I strongly believe that some of the people who have gotten involved in activism in New York City because of Thadeaus would not have done so otherwise. I've seen people join the fold because of him, who others, including myself, simply could not inspire. The negative accusations that people make about Thadeaus always shock me, because in my experience with him, he has been one of the meekest and gentlest people I have met.
After the Brooklyn Free Store and his house were burnt to the ground, I brought him and several of his housemates to my home. We washed their clothes and cooked dinner. The mood was somber and morose. Hardly anyone spoke. Those who did were angry or discouraged. The
kitchen felt like a vacuum of hope, that is, until Thadeaus stood up and said, "Well, we should still do it, we should still have Grub this Sunday." Out of despair, most everyone objected. They reminded him that they had lost all the food for their community dinner in the fire that took their home and possessions. He said there was time to collect more food, that they could begin that night. This suggestion opened the door of possibility that life could go on, that they could
rebuild, and that they could begin doing so that night. And they did. Before the night was over Thadeaus had researched on-line and found three new homes for them to look at, one of which they moved into less than a month later.
I have seen Thadeus nearly assaulted on two occasions. One was at a fundraising concert. I was working the bar and several people came up to me to tell me there was a situation where someone was being threatened with physical abuse. I talked to several of the organizers for the event who were panicked. They said the situation was horrible, subversive to their cause, and absolutely not condoned. I tried to deescalate the situation, and literally had to stand between Thadeaus and people who were threatening violence, some of them armed.
The other time I saw Thadeaus threatened was during the first week of Occupy Wall Street. A representative from the newly formed Safer Spaces Committee stood in front of the GA (General Assembly) and said that Thadeaus should be banned from Zuccotti Park. Dozens of hands went up in small triangles representing a point of process, but the Safer Spaces rep ran off without addressing any of their concerns. She handed out fliers that depicted angry mobs marching through streets, and calling Thadeaus an abuser. She and several others approached Thadeaus and demanded that he leave the park. Again, I had to physically stand between them. Eventually they left, but then they went to several other working groups and aggressively tried to get them to join their campaign to ban Thadeaus. Every single one refused.
In both these instances, process was subverted. Individuals acted without consent from the group and refused to engage in dialogue. In the cases I have heard where Thadeaus has been banned, process was also subverted. He has been banned by a minority of individuals in groups
that are usually consensus-based, in closed-door meetings when these groups normally have open meetings, and the individuals who made those decisions have refused to explain themselves. I have tried to talk to several of these individuals and almost all have refused. I believe this has been because these groups have not had the necessary bylaws and processes in place for banning people. I am a member of several collectives, and all of them have strict rules about banning people because we realize how serious and divisive this issue is. We also have processes by which bans can be lifted, by which individuals can heal themselves and regain trust. Without these processes we are no better than the dominant culture. Thadeaus has not been offered these processes by many of the groups that have banned him.
Thadeaus was not banned from Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park. I believe this was because our process was too strong. I see the same strength in other groups that continue to support him, and I encourage every group to draft thorough bylaws on bans and conflict resolution so they cannot be subverted and divided. We must stay strong, especially at this important moment in history.
Lastly, I would like to say that I am deeply sympathetic to the reasons that Thadeaus has been slandered and banned from several spaces. Sexual abuse is all too rampant in both mainstream culture and our own. I, like many of us, are disgusted with an activist history filled with patriarchal men who have been accused of sexual abuse and worse. Many of us are eager to address this issue and stop it from being perpetuated in our time, in our movement, and I encourage us to do so. But we must do so justly. We must not judge people without giving them due-process. I know too many people who have judged Thadeaus without even meeting him, just because they are eager to end sexual abuse in our time and have heard rumors. But this is not the way to grow.
Whatever Thadeaus did or did not do, he has not been dealt with justly. He has been threatened, ostracized, and worse. He has not been given the opportunity to heal himself (if that needs to happen) and regain trust. The only way to prevent this from happening to other people in the future, and the only way to properly deal with sexual abuse in our movement, is to develop the proper processes. Real justice will not nourish one party and destroy the other, it will heal the whole community.