An eyewitness account of the San Francisco Epstein, Becker and Green protest
January 23, 2001
This morning 11 followers of the democratic dream of an accountable Pacifica entered the offices of Epstein, Becker and Green at 2 Embarcadero, Suite 1650, in San Francisco.
The people who came to declare to Epstein, Becker and Green (EBG) today that the people's radio will not be destroyed by a union-busting, greedy capitalist gang rode the elevator to the 16th floor and then walked in to present to the scurrying secretaries and smug attorneys hiding behind their glassed in offices a Fax for them to send.
The Fax, printed on a pink slip of paper, was a letter of resignation by John Murdock from the Pacifica Board for the crimes of conflict of interest, illegal rewriting of Pacifica's bylaws and for the illegal and immoral firing and banning of workers at WBAI. The Fax had a line for John's signature.
We said we would not leave until they had faxed it to him, he had signed it and he had faxed it back to us. As the attorney who spoke to us and his henchwoman could not convince us to leave in the interim, first security and then the San Francisco police were called to quell the "occupation" by "65" protesters, as they were told. We all sat down, along with several observers and began to explain, in very loud song, chant and stomping that John Murdock has got to resign from the Pacifica Board.
We explained that though this may be the first time it won't be the last time that listeners would express this demand as we were doing today, and that they had better become used to it - or they could persuade John to quit the Pacifica National Board. It was very simple.
For an hour we made as much noise and attempts to convey our outrage to the huddled yuppies at the other end of the office as possible, overseen by at the moment jovial San Francisco police, one of whom complained that he couldn't get KPFA in well enough up in Sonoma where he lived. Aaron Glantz explained to him that Sonoma would already have its own KPFA News Bureau, if John Murdock and the PNB weren't stealing all our money for these scum-licking union-busting law firms like Epstein, and its conflict-of-interest-ridden John Murdock.
We placed a good number of our flyers inside obscure pages of the firm's law library, perhaps to be found again by some attorney in the year 2040 when Pacifica will have long been freed of the tyranny of these evil, grasping, greedy, filthy money-hugging vampires who at the moment have the veneer of legality covering their actions, but who will be defeated by our unified resistance.
The folks who came today to the EBG offices were Ben Clarke, Andrea Buffa, Rebekka Rodriguez, Mario Zap of Media Alliance, Paul G., Terry Messman of the American Friends Service Committee, Aaron Glantz of KPFA News, and John Sheridan of the CdP. Observing were Scott Fleming of the National Lawyers Guild and 2 other KPFA supporters.
We were not finally persuaded to leave and were removed to a waiting police wagon and taken to the North Beach station on Vallejo Street which the cops have wittily named the "Golf Club and Restaurant". We were cited for trespassing, with a court date of March 13 at the Hall of (In)justice, and walked back through North Beach and Chinatown in the rain.
At 4PM we returned to 2 Embarcadero for a planned protest and were joined by perhaps 50 other KPFA supporters and staff. We picketed outside and heard words of support from Susan Stone and Matt Martin of KPFA. Larry Bensky recorded portions of the event. Sherry Gendelman of the KPFA LAB told us that the LAB suit was in deposition in DC when a phone call came in telling the attorneys there that a number of people were sitting in at the offices of EBG in San Francisco. Attorneys working for Pacifica called Sherry and told her to "tell her people to get out of the EBG offices immediately". She did not order people there so and suggested they call the EBG offices in San Francisco and tell the people themselves. So the deposition of the toady Bill Lucy was temporarily interrupted by the sit in.
Fed up with being kept outside the mall area of 2 Embarcadero, it was decided to continue the protest through the lower floor of the building. This is when the police stepped up and said that any movement into the building area would be met with arrests. Several people including Mary Berg, Mario Zap and others argued that court decisions held that the "public area" of a mall was indeed a public area and not private property. The manager of the property told the police to move in and they walked into the midst of the protestors and began arresting people - Aaron Glantz and then Mario Zap both for the second time today. They also arrested Scott Fleming who was our legal observer in the morning sit-in, and another demonstrator named, I believe, Greg Gerity who didn't move out of the way fast enough and who was videotaping the demonstration. All four of these people were immediately, to a chorus of loud shouts, taken by police car to parts unknown where we think that at least Aaron and Mario are still being held this evening.
A marching picket line was formed and the protest continued for another 45 minutes or so. Pickets will continue at 2 Embarcadero next Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 -1 PM. Among our other fronts, there is a need to physically confront Epstein, Becker and Green by the grassroots listeners wherever they have their offices. They have rewritten the bylaws, are shutting listeners and staff out of WBAI, continue to pack the Board, continue to bust the unions and are setting up the network to be sold. Will we let this happen - and will we use the airwaves to keep the listeners informed and mobilized?
-- John Sheridan Coalition for a democratic Pacifica
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 23, 2001 Contact: Tracy Rosenberg, Media Alliance, 415-546-6334
KPFA RADIO ACTIVISTS ARRESTED AT SAN FRANCISCO LAW FIRM
SF BAY AREA RALLIES TO SUPPORT KPFA'S SISTER STATION IN NEW YORK, AND DEMAND THE RESIGNATION OF PACIFICA RADIO BOARD MEMBERS WHO SUPPORTED THE WBAI TAKEOVER
San Francisco, CA--In an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, eight free-speech activists entered the San Francisco offices of the law firm Epstein, Becker & Green and refused to leave until EBG attorney John Murdock resigns from the Pacifica Radio board of directors. The activists were arrested for trespassing. A rally in front of Epstein, Becker & Green is planned for 4 p.m. today at Two Embarcadero Center.
The protests at Epstein, Becker & Green, which were called by Media Alliance and the KPFA steering committee, coincide with the one-month anniversary of the Pacifica Foundation's hostile takeover of WBAI, its New York station. During the Christmas holidays, Pacifica Radio national managers changed the locks at the station, fired the program director, and banned several long-time producers. The crackdown at WBAI mirrors almost exactly Pacifica's 1999 attack on KPFA in Berkeley, which resulted in a lockout of journalists there, and a demonstration of 10,000 listeners to get the station back on the air.
"The same board members who locked out the journalists at KPFA are at it again at WBAI. People who censor and ban journalists at their stations have no place running the only progressive radio network in the United States" said Andrea Buffa, executive director of Media Alliance.
KPFA activists believe that the threat to the Pacifica Radio Network will be lifted only when the current board of directors is reconstituted by removing members like John Murdock. Murdock's law firm specializes in "maintaining a union-free workplace" and is representing the Pacifica Foundation in lawsuits that have been filed against the board by concerned listeners. Since Murdock joined the Pacifica board, he has taken a leadership role; it is rumored that he is being groomed to be the next board president.
Free-speech activists staged a protest at the Epstein, Becker offices in Washington, D.C.--where Murdock is based--on Friday, January 19th. New York activists have been holding regular pickets outside of the company's offices in Manhattan, urging Murdock's employers to press him to resign from the Pacifica board.
"Until John Murdock leaves the Pacifica Foundation board of directors, we plan to call, email and fax him and his colleagues at Epstein, Becker & Green to beseech them to get Murdock to move aside and make way for free speech," Buffa said.