Edwin Johnston Letter to Besse Wash
and Texas Triangle article
Date: Thu Apr 5, 2001 7:31pm
Subject: Johnston demands on-air retraction from Bessie Wash
Please circulate this widely.
On Monday, April 2, 2001, Edwin Johnston sent the following letter by certified, return receipt requested mail to Pacifica Foundation executive director Bessie Wash and the Pacifica Foundation attorney demanding an on-air retraction of her libelous statements, among other things.
Violence from KPFT webpage http://www.hal-pc.org/~edi/kpft.html
Text of letter:
Ms. Bessie Wash
April 2, 2001
Dear Ms. Wash,
This also holds true for comments that Pacifica National Board Chair David Acosta made in regards to the incident as it relates to the Pacifica struggle. As well, you must publish a retraction of the libelous statements published on the Pacifica.org website, both on the front page, meaning what was published there late Monday, March 26, 2001 and the blurb about it that remains on the front page and the specific comments on page: http://www.pacifica.org/info/releases/pfst_0326.html (Title: Protesters Attack Pacifica Foundation Employees)
This demand calls for immediate action on your part so as not to further damage my reputation and legal case and the reputations of my fellow protesters.
Fri Apr 6, 2001 1:19pm
No Peace at Pacifica
By Michael Baker
HOUSTON - A Montrose-area activist is facing what he calls trumped up charges after being arrested on March 23 during at protest at 90.1 KPFT-FM, Houston's Pacifica station.
Police charged Edwin Johnston with two counts of class C misdemeanor assault after an altercation involving KPFT employee Molly O'Brien and station manager Garland Ganter.
According to Johnston, the trouble began when O'Brien took fliers from a protester on the public sidewalk outside of the station where KPFT was holding an outdoor concert for major donors.
Johnston said he followed O'Brien to retrieve the fliers and grabbed for them, whereupon O'Brien spun around and screamed, "Rape!"
At this point, according to eyewitnesses, Ganter and another unidentified KPFT employee tackled Johnston, and a brief struggle ensued until a third KPFT employee broke up the fray.
Police arrived on the scene and arrested Johnston, who was released from jail when his girlfriend posted bond.
Ganter and O'Brien said that Johnston started the struggle, but Sheila Harris, the woman from whom O'Brien allegedly grabbed the fliers, recalls it differently. "The assault was not started by Edwin; it started when Molly took the fliers from me," Harris said.
Harris said police only listened to O'Brien and Ganter when they arrived despite assertions from herself and others that she was an eyewitness.
The case will go to court on April 18. Johnston said it's likely his accusers will let this go quietly, but he would be ready if they pressed forward with the accusations.
"I've been though the process before, and I know how to win," he said. "The ball is in my court now, and they're only making it worse."
Johnston has also considered counter suing on libel charges, since Pacifica broke in nationally during one of its programs and said that Johnston physically assaulted O'Brien.
Johnston said a damaged reputation could affect his work with CounterCoup, an organization Johnston formed to contest President Bush's victory over Al Gore.
O'Brien refused comment on the situation, and Ganter did not return calls from The Texas Triangle.
This incident is only a small chapter in an ongoing saga between protesters and Pacifica, originating with a massive change in programming and personnel at the station.
According to Rob Robinson, a Pacifica National Board Member from Washington, D.C., if the charges against Johnston are indeed exaggerated, it would not be the first time Ganter has aimed a false accusation at protesters.
In October of 1999, a garage at the station caught fire, and Ganter publicly said the protesters were involved, Robinson said. Reports later showed someone not involved in the protests started the fire, but Robinson said most remember Ganter's accusation, not the truth.
"Pacifica has the tendency to make these accusations which they know are not true," Robinson said. "People disagree vehemently with the Pacifica Board and management about what they're doing, but there's never been anything to suggest the opponents would resort to violence."
KPFT currently hosts two GLBT-themed shows, After Hours (airing each Saturday at midnight), and Lesbian and Gay Voices, (airing Mondays at 9 p.m.).
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