A Call For Solidarity

Small Town White Supremacy & “Safe Spaces”: A Call for Solidarity Against the Silencing & Expulsion of Queer Women of Color in Ithaca Community Organizing


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CRITICAL UPDATE:  Joanne Cipolla-Dennis Informs Kat of Intentions to Have Kat Arrested and Imprisoned

Today, Friday, March 21, Joanne Cipolla-Dennis, a white woman and former FL corrections official and participant in the effort to stop the jail expansion in Tompkins county (Stop The Jail Expansion Coalition – Tompkins County), notified Kat that she called the sheriff on Kat in an e-mail with the subject line “warrant for your arrest.” Joanne is trying to get the IthacaPolice Department to arrest and imprison Kat for slander/libel.  This person is mentioned in this document for harassing Kat.  ::Click Here::. to see documentation of Joanne Cipolla-Dennis harassing and stalking Kat.  Here is the screenshot:

Joanne Cipolla-Dennis


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Contents:

1. Personal Statement from Kat Yang-Stevens

2. Introduction

3. Confronting White Supremacy in Local “Climate Justice” Organizing

4. Ghostcat: Ryan “Clover” Owens and “Friede” Lisa Sanders

5. Regarding Housing, Dispelling Lies and Misinformation about Ghostcat

6. In Regards to Chronic Houselessness & the Use of Strategic Alliances to Protect White Supremacy

7. “Environmental Movement”, “Safe Space” Rhetoric, Collusion with the State, Protecting and Reasserting White Supremacy and White Property

8. How you can support Kat

9. Appendix

 

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Basic premises to understand in reading this letter:

1. This document/letter may be shared and linked to but please do not print, re-publish, or otherwise use it without my (Kat Yang-Stevens’) explicit permission. Similarly if you begin reading this I ask that you please read it thoroughly and fully absorb the content before judging me or this situation.

2. This is not about “sides.”

3. The release of this letter/document is not a “power grab.”

4. Often white people experience property destruction as a form of oppression, but how many people of color are pushed into houselessness at the hands of white supremacy & racist actions?  More importantly, how often are stories like the latter heard despite how common they are?

5. Equating damage of a white man’s property with real violence and oppression of women of color is a false equivalency that has dangerous & marked racist historical referents.  Please consider this before equating the two.

6. When WOC challenge white men it is NOT asking for abuse, it is always legitimate, and does not require a “love voice”. See my piece, “On Anger, ‘Love Voices’, and ‘Divisiveness’ in Their Environmental Movement”.

7. Racism is real. I know that some outside observers reading this letter will be unable or unwilling to see how their own internalized -isms will allow for them to:

a. see me as violable

b. engage in various forms of respectability politics and other manifestations of internalized racism to attempt to discredit me

c. see white men (especially those who are already seen as “super activists”) as unquestionable

d. identify with and see themselves as a “victim” vicariously through the identities of people in this document whom they may share a common identity with, ie. white man, white woman, college educated, middle class, upper class, etc.

e. ignore the structural conditions directly involved in producing this situation and see all of this as nothing more than a “personality conflict” or “drama”

8. I did not ask for, nor am I willing to attend a “community forum” to defend Ryan’s reputation (or have my character discussed in a “community forum”) before I even managed to speak on my abusive experiences with him—especially one being called for by people who never contacted me or any of the other POC who have been abused by Ryan et al but went ahead and absolved him of wrongdoing while simultaneously declaring those who have and continue to support me are liars.  If others wish to hold him accountable for the actions I describe, or regarding other situations not involving me, that is their prerogative but I do not want to be involved or asked to sit across from him in any sort of mediation process.

9. I am not some detached person from the community who isn’t involved in meaningful work as the letter in defense of Ryan implied.  I’m disgusted that the assumption that I don’t participate in important, relevant community work–and thus, that my experiences aren’t valid—was a basic premise of this letter in support of Ryan.

10. Some have defended their actions or defended the actions of others in evicting me by saying they aren’t landlords, yet are not accounting for the realities of poor people who cannot meet all of the prerequisites for signing a lease and therefore experience even less protection as secondary tenants who do not legally have a claim to the original lease.

11. I know that those mentioned by name in this document will most likely try discredit what I am saying here or rebuttal with some other type of dehumanizing slander. I will not allow fear of continued and heightened persecution to silence my experiences and the experiences of other women of color. I will not engage in a back and forth battle and do not plan to respond to any responses written to this letter by my abusers. I have experienced a life threatening amount of degradation to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health in this past year as a result of what you are about to read (and many other traumatic and unrelated events not mentioned here). I will not allow my life to be consumed those who would seemingly do anything to continue to assert that they are without fault at the expense of my life. I do not have time to be in a perpetual state of responding to oppression whether it be through trying to educate others so they can “understand”, continuing to rip myself open to relay traumatic experiences so that others may attempt to believe me, or any other number of responses that people seem to demand from me endlessly. Please respect that I do not owe you or anyone else further explanations or elaborations of any incident described in this document.


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Personal Statement from Kat Yang-Stevens

Since the summer of 2013, a combination of personal attacks and smear campaigns waged by several prominent, white local organizers, especially Ryan “Clover” Owens, through their Ithaca + extended political networks against me, Kat Yang-Stevens, have snowballed into a crisis in which I have been successfully painted as a public target that it is permissible to publicly defame, discredit, abuse, and repeatedly force into situations of houselessness and housing insecurity. Last month, this political climate created a life-threatening situation for me, where I experienced racist and sexist harassment (and in one instance, stalking). Given the fact that I have suffered with  PTSD for years (unrelated to these events)—the layers of trauma surrounding the information contained in this document and the ongoing and non-stop attacks to my being and character—writing this document has been a very long and exhausting process. I have often been left crying and incapacitated for hours and even days at a time when attempting to work on this letter and recall these painful memories and events.

I now feel a greater sense of urgency to publish this document due to a letter I just read that has been signed by a group of people (many of which are people of color) in support of Ryan. It seems as though these people who have signed this letter in support of Ryan, none of whom I know or know me, believe that critiques of Ryan are coming solely from white anarchists. From what I read in the letter it seems as though these signatories have no knowledge of my existence or what has happened to me, as well as to several other young women of color and an indigenous woman, who have experienced direct oppression from Ryan and others mentioned below. I wanted to spend more time writing this document and clarifying both sequences of events and my analyses of several ongoing dynamics, but I feel forced to now release this letter immediately to prevent further slander and attacks upon me and other young women of color in my support network. Ithaca and Upstate NY’s organizing circles are small and it is clear to me just how far Ryan is willing to go to dominate the narratives around the events of the past year; I regularly feel as though Ryan and others would rather I be dead than to acknowledge the atrocious ways they have treated me and take basic steps towards accountability.

To be clear, what I have written below (a document I’ve spent over a month on) was never intended to be all about Ryan and most certainly is NOT all about Ryan. I wrote it in an effort to look critically at oppressive, pervasive, and ongoing social dynamics and other contributing factors that have enabled this crisis to reach life-­threatening proportions for me and to effectively push other WOC out of organizing spaces. Originally I was not going to publish this online, I had thought I would print copies and distribute it to directly involved people and e-mail this document privately to friends, fellow organizers, and loved ones who wanted to understand what I have been dealing with. However, now that Julian Drix (Ryan’s best friend) has been circulating a letter in support of Ryan all over the country to many people I know and do not know—a letter clearly devised to defend Ryan to try to secure his political and social standing in social and organizing circles—it is necessary to counteract his efforts in a public way as well.

In the letter that was written by Ryan and his supporters it states in regards to “accusations” of Ryan perpetuating white supremacy, “These accusations are untrue, have no foundation, and disrespect the realities of women of color who have been attacked within organizing circles.”  I literally cannot explain how disgusted I am that that particular sentence would be used in the letter and it is indicative of how much Ryan lied to everyone who participated in writing it and who signed it. I am a woman of color who has been—and still is being!— attacked by Ryan in organizing spaces and was pushed out of my own home and made homeless (3 times!). Continued support of Ryan without acknowledging my existence disrespects my lived experiences and the letter that was written in support of him completely invizibilizes and silences me from the narrative of WHY people are referring to Ryan as a white supremacist. Aside from the made up details “explained” in that letter that obviously come from Ryan, I do agree with some of the larger context framing of that letter. It is not my fault if white friends (who have also had their own experiences with Ryan around other oppressive dynamics), who have been actively working to try to be in solidarity with me and in reaction to behaviors they have witnessed Ryan display to both me and other POC, call Ryan a white supremacist without being able to clearly articulate HOW Ryan has perpetuated and reaffirmed white supremacy. Not everyone has a critical analysis around race and understanding the complex nuances of how white supremacy operates that they can reach to at any time. This document will help people to better articulate and understand the nuances of how dynamics that support and reinvest in white supremacy have manifested in this specific case.

The aforementioned letter also belittles the lived experiences of colonialism and oppression (directly perpetuated by Ryan and Friede) of the Native woman who asked for Ryan to leave the Earth First! organizers conference mentioned in the letter both for her own reasons and in solidarity with me. In response to reading Ryan’s support letter, the woman had this to say:

“If these folks wanna defend Ryan without even reaching out to me to see who I am and why I wanted him to leave, then they are jumping straight to defending a perpetrator and not taking seriously the fact that a neechie woman spoke up, in solidarity with another queer woman of color.”

In addition, the letter has a strong focus on the destruction of white property as if that could somehow be equated to the real violence that I and other WOC have been subjected to by Ryan. Throughout this document I will dispel many of the lies that Ryan has told these people he has found to support him.

The letter that has been released in support of Ryan is just another and renewed effort to silence me and push me out of my home and organizing spaces, as well as to assert Ryan’s dominance and absolve him of perpetuating systemic forms of oppression. It is obvious to me that Ryan has blatantly lied to people who are entirely removed from the context of the situation here in Ithaca since there is no possible way the signatories of that letter could know about the specifics and details of lease, rental, and other housing related disputes that led to making me houseless. Just because some POC have had positive experiences with Ryan does NOT negate my experiences with Ryan or the experiences of other POC who have not have these positive experiences others have talked about. Ryan has used his proximity to other POC (all but one who are outside the Ithaca community, and none who know me or my work) to try to cancel out the ways in which he is actively dehumanizing me and has contributed to making my life a living hell.

Many people, especially women of color, have explicitly expressed solidarity with me. Some of these POC (especially some of the WOC who have been directly involved in some of the situations this letter details) expressed hesitancy to publicly defend me for fear of backlash and having the abuse turned against themselves. I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON OF COLOR WHO HAS HAD THESE KIND OF EXPERIENCES WITH RYAN or others mentioned in this document. Just because people choose not to expose themselves and re-engage  with people who have harmed them does not mean that they don’t exist! Ryan has manipulated his supporters into creating a situation where if people of color or people with otherwise marginalized identities who have been affected by Ryan do not publicly stand up for themselves they do not exist or that they must go to the kind of lengths that I have to defend themselves. No person of color should have to be forced to expose themselves to more trauma in order to beg people in “radical” spaces to consider the fact that white supremacy is present in our organizing spaces.

Under current conditions of white supremacy, radical women of color are often silenced and pushed out of social justice-­oriented organizing for challenging racism and sexism. Please recognize that writing, editing and distributing this piece requires additional emotional labor by myself and other POC who have contributed their energy and efforts to contributing to this document or supporting me in writing it adding on to the normalized and invisibilized emotional labor already unjustly expected from all people of color daily in a white supremacist society. Writing this document has also been difficult as the events discussed below and the ongoing repercussions have culminated in leaving me frequently suicidal and often in bed for days to weeks at a time unable to partake in not only my organizing work but also basic self care.

Given the layers of trauma surrounding the information contained in this document for me, I have specifically turned to some friends and supporters to contribute to recalling specific details of events and to help organize this piece. Although I have provided the bulk of the narrative to this document and much of the analysis, I am choosing to keep it in third person both as a way to reflect the collective efforts of my supporters who worked on this and because it helps in reading and understanding the events more clearly.

I am calling on specific organizations, people, and coalitions to address the content of my letter. I am calling on all of the people of color who signed a letter in support of Ryan to read through this document and to publicly rescind their signatures of the support letter on behalf of Ryan which are helping to absolve Ryan of wrongdoing and allowing him to continue to avoid accountability for his actions as well as aiding in the continued character assassination of myself and invizibilizing and excusing the various ways that I and others have endured violence due to these situations.


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Introduction

notes:

  • this is where the letter transitions into the third person for previously stated reasons.
  • much of the following has been condensed because of the extremely long amount of time it would take to explain all of events that happened, particularly those surrounding Kat’s expulsion from their home at Ghostcat.
  • supporting documents, a series of e-mails exchanged between Ryan, “Mateo”, Hope, and Friede in an effort to discredit and gaslight Kat, as well as a calendar which shows the sequence of events, can be found in the appendix.
  • Kat uses gender neutral pronouns to define themselves and their identity. Those pronouns look like: they, them, their, themselves, etc. Please hold this in your consciousness while you are reading this document to avoid confusion.

Since the summer of 2013, a combination of personal attacks and smear campaigns waged by several prominent, white local organizers, especially Ryan “Clover” Owens, through their Ithaca + extended political networks against Kat Yang-Stevens, has snowballed into a crisis in which Kat has been successfully painted as a public target that it is permissible to publicly defame, discredit, abuse, and repeatedly force into situations of houselessness and housing insecurity. Last month, this political climate created a life-threatening situation in which Kat experienced racist and sexist harassment (and in one instance, stalking).

Some have interpreted Kat’s silence, or apparent lack of mounting a public defense on all of this, as an admission of wrongdoing. This document seeks to do the following:   1) provide a space for Kat to voice their own narrative about the events that have happened in the past year since the lack of Kat having a public narrative has been used to perpetuate further harm onto Kat, 2)  provide a thorough analysis of how the nuances of white supremacy are invisibilized, often ignored, and perpetuated in small towns and “radical” organizing spaces, 3) empower other WOC and POC in white dominated spaces to better recognize when these dynamics are being replicated in ways that are harmful to themselves and let them know they are not “crazy” or alone.

Part of what has allowed a snowball effect of events to take place is that there have been a number of issues that have gone unresolved in terms of creating and following through with accountability with several somewhat­-prominent local figures in social and environmental justice­-oriented organizing circles in Ithaca. In several situations, there was not only a lack of success in creating accountability for abuses of power & privilege, although some tried to create it; there were also subsequent public smear campaigns of Kat and excessive spreading of misinformation which occurred throughout these peoples’ local & political networks (and continues today). This has fueled a community­-wide phenomenon in which folks are compelled to insert rumors & misinformation on the streets into their own political disagreements with Kat, thus positioning Kat as a pariah. It has also resulted in increased marginalization and targeting of Kat, and has severely impeded their ability to secure affordable housing.

Additionally, some who frequently exhibit racist, patriarchal, homophobic, and/or otherwise abusive behaviors are able to openly manifest these tendencies against Kat without any effective intervention, due to people buying into this narrative about Kat and/or remaining silent as community members. To be fair, for some, this silence may be caused in part by already feeling silenced by larger community and organizationally­-based oppressive dynamics themselves. Regardless, this lack of effective intervention communicates to the broader community that Kat is violable and there will not be consequences for abuse against them, which leads to a critical point mentioned previously: that some express solidarity but hesitancy to publicly defend Kat for fear of backlash and having the abuse turned against themselves. Thus, this already has led to a chilling effect that has compromised the capacity for building coalitions and solidarities against manifestations of white supremacy including its oppressive institutions.


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Confronting White Supremacy in Local “Climate Justice” Organizing

Kat returned to their home community in the Ithaca area in April after spending the fall of ‘12 working in rural Texas with Tar Sands Blockade, where they challenged rampant patriarchal and white supremacist dynamics amongst others they shared organizing space with–and also engaged in extremely difficult work organizing alongside communities being affected by environmental genocide in Houston.

When Kat moved back into town (Ithaca) at the end of April ‘13 they were eager to get back involved with local anti-fracking organizing that was a large part of their life before leaving for Texas. A number of different anti-fracking organizers began meeting together to form a new group against resource extraction in the area. The first meeting was called for by (Jesse) Reed Steberger, who was spearheading a campaign called Summer of Solutions Ithaca [SOSI] under the umbrella of the non-profit organization, Grand Aspirations, and K.C. Alvey, who works for 350.org. Reed [footnote 1] and K.C., who are partners, actively excluded Kat from their group and attempted to persuade the young college students who worked for them not to associate or organize with Kat.

When pressured to know why Kat was being excluded from organizing spaces by a student with a 350.org “fellowship” that was friends with Kat, Reed stated that he didn’t like Kat because he had heard through a friend that Kat had been a “problem” at the Tar Sands Blockade. This “problematic behavior” Reed referred to is directly related to Kat’s persistent confrontations of manifestations of white supremacy, nationalism, classism, and patriarchy being presented by some (certainly not all) organizers who had been working with the Tar Sands Blockade. These harmful dynamics were so pervasive that some of the few other people of color at TSB had left the campaign.

Meanwhile, Reed’s intern, a queer white woman (and 350.org “fellow”), ended up quitting SOSI because of Reed’s patriarchal and racist leadership. The only two members of SOSI who identified as people of color quit and refused to support the program further, a program whose stated intentions were to, “place freedom from discrimination and equal access to decision making at the center of all solutions… by empowering young people from diverse experiences and perspectives to take leadership in the creation of an anti-oppressive movement for justice”.

In late July, all of these people and some other organizers in Ithaca met with Reed (K.C. whose presence was requested did not attend) to share their experiences of what had happened and open up a line of communication and accountability with Reed for his dominating, oppressive, and manipulative tactics. Specific incidents, events, and facts were detailed and Reed attempted to evade responsibility by making excuses and using empty phrases — saying repeatedly, for example, “I acknowledge you,” but then defending his actions, attempting to displace responsibility for what had happened, and refusing to explain what issues he had with Kat. The experience was an extremely painful one for the multiple people of color who were re-exposing themselves in order to educate him, and heard no acknowledgment that their experiences or ideas were taken seriously.

Despite hearing no apologies or acceptance of responsibility from Reed during this conversation, fellow white organizers volunteered at this time to continue having conversations with him to explain in more depth how his behavior had been racist and patriarchal, and to explore issues of white supremacy in environmentalist organizing more generally. Reed instead sought guidance from 350.org mentors who knew nothing about the Ithaca situation but already disliked Kat for Kat’s role in addressing intra-movement white supremacy, especially in the “Big Green” NGO’s like 350.org. Reed also ended up insisting that any attempts to engage him or hold him accountable on these issues, including this meeting, were intentionally punitive, focusing on his accounts of what happened and his own perceived victimhood (“people are ganging up on me”) rather than the seriousness of the oppression, marginalization, and manipulation that the people he worked with had experienced. When Reed left the conversation that day, he called the situation “uncomfortable and unsafe” for him. Reed continues to avoid accountability and reconciliation, instead using his visibility and privileged position to demonize Kat.

There has been no attempt from Reed or K.C. to have any further conversations regarding this behavior. In fact in another instance in October ‘13 at a conference in Philadelphia called “Power Shift” and organized by Energy Action Coalition, K.C. participated in publicly harassing and intimidating Kat and their co-facilitator, a queer Black WOC. The two were facilitating a workshop on Systemic Racism and Intersectionality of Oppression in which the two of them made statements regarding the presence of white supremacy in environmental justice organizing spaces. K.C. and other members of 350.org participated in the total derailment of their workshop to the point in which it could not continue. Kat and the other facilitator then held an unofficial-workshop-turned-teach-in in the hallway which went on for 10 hours, a workshop which resulted in the two facilitators still receiving thanks from participants to this day. Members from the broader Ithaca community who were already aware of ongoing dynamics between Kat and K.C. and Reed were present. To Kat’s knowledge there have been minimal to no efforts to address K.C.’s obscene abuse of power in that workshop space or address the implications of a dynamic in which white women participate in denying and sabotaging space for two queer women of color—a space that they applied to and were accepted to be in—to talk about systemic racism and intersectionality of oppression.

[footnote 1] TRIGGER WARNING: sexual coercion, sexual assault.  It should be noted that public allegations have been made against Reed—spanning years into the past—for his role in sexual harassment and violations of consent. Several college students working with Reed and K.C., including Tyler (Kat’s current partner) and some students who had fellowships through 350.org, have described situations in which young organizers were invited to Reed and K.C.’s apartment in Ithaca, NY under the guise of “hanging out”, and then offered and encouraged to drink alcohol, and then pressured into taking their clothes off and to participate in orgies with the couple. Return to Reading.


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Ghostcat: Ryan “Clover” Owens and “Friede” Lisa Sanders

Partners Ryan “Clover” Owens and “Friede” Lisa Sanders, previously close friends of Kat who had organized with Kat around environmental issues in the past, persuaded (and, at one point, begged to ease their own financial burdens) Kat to sublet a room and then to move into Ghostcat, known as a cooperative and collectively run house in downtown Ithaca for social/environmental justice organizers. Ryan and Friede presented living at Ghostcat as an opportunity to create a healing space with the support of the collective that they had repeatedly vocally asserted was an “anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-hierarchical, feminist” space.

Less than two weeks after moving in, Ryan informed Kat that it was not okay for Kat to use gender-neutral pronouns because “Kat is not trans” implying that only trans people are “allowed” to use gender-neutral pronouns, he also consistently refused to address Kat with the pronouns they use. Kat’s (polite) refusal to allow Ryan to dictate their gender pronouns was the first instance in which it became evident that, like many other of Ryan’s microaggressions, this was not about topic or content, but about Ryan’s consistent need to be the authority and most valid voice in the household. At first it had seemed as though Ryan and Friede were excited and happy to have Kat join the collective but this attitude quickly changed when it became apparent that Kat had their own viewpoints, opinions, and analyses, and would not rescind their self determination to allow specifically Ryan to control Kat’s actions, behaviours, and organizing work—including but not limited to dictating what roles Kat was capable of organizing in, who they should organize with, what kind of tools and tactics they should/should not use and the scope of what type of analyses and framework they should/should not incorporate into their environmental organizing.

During a house meeting when Kat expressed concerns about the unilateral decision (made by Ryan and Friede and a housemate no longer even living in the space) to incorporate Hope Rainbow into the Ghostcat Collective, Ryan and Friede immediately dispelled and minimized Kat’s concerns. Some of Kat’s concerns included wanting the house to work on becoming more vigilant about addressing racial dynamics within the house itself and Kat had doubts (founded on experience) that Hope would be capable of or willing to do that, and that Kat prefered that the house instead work to incorporate another POC into the collective. During this same meeting Ryan and Friede attempted to pressure Kat into calling and lying to a previous housemate, Atlas, in order to get him to more quickly pay back money that he owed them, money that he had already promised to pay back as soon as he received a new paycheck. When Kat refused to do so, they quickly moved on from the subject and later acted as though it never happened. This house meeting was one of the initial instances of what was to become a long and escalating pattern of near daily microaggressions of silencing and undermining Kat’s concerns regarding racial and otherwise oppressive dynamics not only in the house but in the broader mainstream environmental movement and the world at large.

Over the course of living with Ryan it became clear to Kat and many others that he was extremely strategic, i.e. manipulative, about how he engaged with people, including his own housemates. Those that experience microaggressions know that they can happen suddenly, frequently, and often go unnoticed by nearly everyone else aside from the person/group they marginalize and oppress. Because it is impossible to list every instance in which Ryan and others contributed to the overwhelmingly white supremacist, patriarchal, paternalistic, classist and colonialist atmosphere in the house some examples are listed below.

Ryan:

  • Would enthusiastically tell Kat about a “communication strategy” he had learned about from a business communications handbook and then proceed to use that same strategy on Kat during the same conversation.

  • Took it upon himself to schedule a meeting with Reed Steberger and informed Kat that his “strategy” would be to “pull rank” over Reed and to “treat him like he’d treat one of the interns.” (Ryan works as the Director of the Durland Alternatives Library at Cornell University and employs students as interns) Ryan behaved in a way that seemed to assert his own control over the situation instead of giving any validity or attention to concerns about oppression that Kat had previously worked to address with Reed.

  • Told Kat that they were not capable of co-facilitating (with another woman) a meeting of a group co-created by Kat specifically to incorporate an intersectional and anti-colonial framework into organizing work resisting industry, militarism, and corporate power—that Ryan had not been a part of working with—a meeting that Kat and Tatiana had been empowered by the group to build an agenda for and facilitate. Ryan then insisted that he was more capable and should facilitate the meeting and accused Kat of being wrong for not allowing him to do so. After Kat exited the conversation Ryan followed them into their room (without being invited in) and stood over Kat in a dominating way. Kat told Ryan that his stance over them made them uncomfortable and Ryan disregarded this concern continuing to argue that he should be allowed to take over the meeting that was to be had and asserting that Kat was being unreasonable.

  • Repeatedly claimed to be acting as an “ally” to Kat without Kat ever explicitly stating that Ryan was an ally or that Kat wanted Ryan to act on their behalf. Ryan also made it clear that he was approaching each situation in terms of his own self-interest and not once validated Kat’s experiences of marginalization and racism in an almost completely white organizing atmosphere against the hydraulic fracturing industry in Ithaca and the surrounding areas.

  • Regularly interrupted Kat during conversations regarding white supremacy and colonialism and attempted to soft-spokenly undermine what Kat was trying to say. In one of these conversations Ryan informed Kat that Kat was not giving him enough credit for his activist experience and that Ryan, as a white man “actually knows a lot about racism”, more than Kat, a queer woman of color.

  • Often recentered issues, in which Kat attempted to address specifically racial and class dynamics within the household, around himself (effectively recentering whiteness instead of making even the smallest attempt to equalize power within the house).

  • One night Ryan said to Kat’s current partner, Tyler, “What, Kat thinks I’m racist because I don’t have enough friends of color?”

  • In a message to a mutual friend of Kat’s Ryan said, “I have a few good friends in the area who I’ve worked with a long time on anti-oppression and more specifically anti-colonial organizing, who have offered to vouch for me in this situation.” Months later Ryan released a letter with signatures from supporters, almost all of whom live in Providence, RI, and NONE of whom even know who Kat Yang-Stevens is. Statements like this also imply that Kat’s articulation of their own experiences of lived oppression are somehow not valid or good enough.

  • Ryan also sent messages to several people saying that Kat had “refused to pay rent and bills”. Which is simply untrue. There was confusion on Kat’s part about whether they had paid rent for one of the months they were living there. Confusion that was made worse by the poor book keeping of Friede who had basically taken on the role, along with Ryan, as the “mini-landlords” of Ghostcat. This confusion was never made into an issue until Ryan decided to try to exploit it and expand upon it turning it into a lie to further his own attempts to try to demonize Kat and absolve himself of wrongdoing. Kat never refused to pay rent or bills.

Ryan’s subtle, contrived and fundamental manipulativeness is a primary reason that this series of events is so difficult to quickly summarize, and a large contributor to why attempts to confront Ryan have been so intimidating and impossible. Individually, Ryan is also currently the subject of a separate process and call for accountability by other Ithaca activists and friends whom Ryan has hurt, dismissed or drove out of town.

Friede:

  • Constantly diminished Kat’s concerns regarding house dynamics and racial tensions by saying, “it will all work out” and other dismissive statements while simultaneously centering her and Ryan’s experiences to suggest they were the ones being most affected by house dynamics.

  • Even after Kat repeatedly tried to explain that it was really difficult to address members of the collective about racial dynamics, Friede then made a big show in front of Kat’s friends to say that if anything racist was done or said all Kat had to do was let Friede know. Again reinforcing the idea that the onus was always on Kat to address racial dynamics and totally ignoring power dynamics to make it seem like it’s easy for oppressed people to confront their oppressors. One of Kat’s friends who was visiting town, a man of color, was present when Friede said this and e-mailed Kat about 2 weeks later to say at length how uncomfortable that had made him feel.

  • On a number of occasions Friede had confused a variety of different young Black women that were guests of Kat’s at the house as being the same person. Instead of apologizing Friede would insist that she already met them or that she didn’t know who they were.

  • Kat had said that they did NOT want to participate in any events with the organizing group Training for Change [TFC], even after hearing this Friede approached Kat and said that TFC was holding an all POC training and that Kat “should go” and that Friede would throw a benefit for Kat to raise the extremely high registration fees. This demonstrates that Friede was not listening when Kat had outlined before why they were not interested in going to a TFC training, that Friede thought she knew best about what Kat should/shouldn’t do, and in Kat’s words made them feel “tokenized and like a charity project”.

It soon became clear that Ryan and Friede couldn’t handle being challenged by or even sharing living or organizing space with a strong, loud, opinionated woman of color, and they began to abandon their promises of supporting Kat’s healing from racialized, gendered, political and psychological trauma, and instead began to characterize Kat as aggressive, manipulative, and eventually as having an “abusive” and “violent” personality, beginning to privately build a case with the rest of the housemates (who were, at this point, Friede, Hope and “Mateo”—all white, all middle class, all college educated) for kicking Kat out of the house. Ryan was able to do this by drawing on stereotypical, racist pathology of women of color as “scary,” irrational and violent, as well as by capitalizing on an overheard argument out front of the house between Kat and their partner (Tyler)—in which two mutual friends of Kat and Tyler’s were present and are adamant that the argument never escalated past loud back and forths and shouting—in order to label Kat as “abusive” and dangerous. Ryan also insisted that the argument between Kat and Tyler resulted in an ex-Ghostcat housemate and friend of Ryan’s who was visiting that night to become “triggered” by Kat’s “violent yelling”. Months later Kat had a phone conversation with that person who was shocked to hear that Ryan had said this and confirmed that Ryan’s statements were a lie. This person also told Kat that both Ryan and Hope had told him that the night of his visit to Ghostcat that the two of them wanted to confront Kat but couldn’t do it because of their (in their own words) “white guilt”. Ryan also told this person that Ryan wanted to kick Kat out of the house but didn’t know how to do it.

Instead of offering to support Kat in healing from past traumas and provide resources and reassurances about developing better relationship patterns, Ryan was quick to judge the relationship from the outside and then attempt to use it as leverage to label Kat as irreparably “violent” and “unsafe” and to push Kat out of the house. Never once did Ryan consider that the issues that Tyler and Kat had that night revolved around ways in which Tyler was unknowingly oppressing Kat in their relationship by nature of his identity as an affluent white male attending an ivy league university. Tyler has since written his own personal account of the incidents that happened regarding how he believes “Mateo”, Ryan, Friede, and Hope were using conversations they had with Tyler (in his own words), “as research material for dissecting what they labeled as Kat’s ‘abusive behavior’.”

Ryan made a number of phone calls to friends, associates, and fellow organizers of Kat’s (at least 5 different people that came forward saying they had received a call) in which Ryan insisted that Kat was abusive and that there was “something wrong” with Kat. This was an attempt to remove Kat’s support system by placing doubts in the minds of Kat’s friends about Kat and in some cases actively trying to get the people he contacted to “be on his side” in the words of one of the women he contacted.

Ryan also capitalized on “Mateo’s” [footnote 2] decision to break with Kat in early August, which resulted in “Mateo” immediately leaving town while remaining in touch with Ryan et al in order to build a profile of Kat as a fundamentally abusive and mentally ill personality. Ryan and Hope in particular began pushing a narrative that it was they who were “unsafe” in the house and that it was because of Kat’s “violent and aggressive nature” that “Mateo” (whom had just moved into the collective and whom Ryan, Hope, and Friede had known for a month or two) was “forced” to leave the house. Kat repeatedly attempted to ask them why Kat made them feel unsafe which they could give no other explanation other than that Kat is loud, “aggressive”, blunt, and direct, by their standards. Hope then stated that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing a living space with Kat, and when Kat asked what that meant Hope responded that she was “unsafe” in Kat’s presence. Kat told Hope and Ryan that they had nowhere to go and asked what they were to do if they couldn’t stay at the house, to which Ryan and Hope said nothing. When Kat pushed for either of them to point to a specific instance that they were referring to Hope made reference to how Kat had “treated two people she cared very much about” [footnote 3] meaning Hope’s boyfriend and his brother, two very rich white men who had repeatedly done racially offensive and insensitive things in Kat’s presence and whom Kat had decided to no longer share space with after realizing that neither of the men cared about changing their behavior.

Kat then tried to explain how unfair that was and how it’s actually racist to say that Kat was a threatening presence in the house simply because Kat is known for addressing dynamics of white supremacy. Ryan, who had claimed the he “actually knows a lot about racism” earlier in the conversation just stood there and did nothing when Kat asked him to try to help explain to Hope what was wrong with that line of thinking. Hope had been crying throughout the entire conversation. At this point Kat stormed away from the two of them and went into their room where they began crying and shouting to themselves that they never should have moved into Ghostcat while loudly opening/closing drawers to pack a night bag. That day Kat left Ghostcat and met up with a group of friends (all mutual friends of Ryan’s) asking them to help mediate the situation. One man agreed to be present while Kat talked to Ryan, informing him that Kat would be staying the night there since Kat had nowhere else to go. During that conversation Ryan assumed a very masculine dominant body position and began to speak in a soft way, as if the slower and softer he spoke the less oppressive his words would be. At one point a large smile took over Ryan’s face which he quickly tried to hide. When Kat asked him why he had just smirked he insisted that he didn’t and continued to try to manipulate the situation to somehow “prove” that Kat was being irrational and aggressive. After that Kat felt so uncomfortable they barely left their room for days in order to avoid Hope and Ryan (Friede was in Minnesota). A few days later Kat approached Ryan and Hope to suggest they have a mediated conversation through the Community Dispute Resolution Center in Ithaca [footnote 4]. Ryan declined saying he didn’t have time to before he left town to join Friede in Minnesota. Hope said she wouldn’t have the conversation without Ryan and Friede. No appointment was ever made for mediation. At the time of the publication of this document Kat had not seen or spoken to Ryan once since that conversation.

[footnote 2]“Mateo” whose real name is Matthew Kern, was a close friend and partner-like figure in Kat’s life whom Kat had had a tumultuous and unhealthy relationship with as far back as 7-8 months prior to any of these events in Ithaca. “Mateo” had repeatedly asserted that although he is white he doesn’t identify as white and sees his identity more closely aligned to that of “Latina culture”. “Mateo” had largely asserted that Ryan was manipulative and at one point even drafted a long document listing all of the ways that Ryan had been oppressive towards Kat. When Tyler (Kat’s current partner) entered the picture “Mateo” repeatedly told Kat that Tyler was “not good enough” for them and only going to “hold Kat back”. Simultaneously “Mateo” made repeated attempts to try to “scare” Tyler away from pursuing a relationship with Kat, by painting them as an abusive and burdensome partner. The day before “Mateo” left Ithaca and broke off relations with Kat, Kat and “Mateo” had taken a bike ride and swim and “Mateo” had stated how much he cared for and loved Kat. Without any in between conflict the following day “Mateo” unleashed a series of attacks on Kat’s character before forcibly using the front door to push Kat out of the house and hold the door shut leaving Kat crying on the front porch. Return to Reading.

[footnote 3]Regarding Hope’s boyfriend and his brother, Chris and Tom Moore for clarification purposes: Chris Moore and Hope had approached Kat and a friend of theirs (a queer Black woman) during an Earth First! Rendezvous in summer of “13 in which the two women were crying and yelling sharing experiences of marginalization in the “environmental movement” and specifically at that particular event. The two women explicitly stated to Chris and Hope that they were having “POC time and space” and asked for that to be respected. Chris continuously interrupted and policed their conversation trying to insert unwanted commentary onto the women’s personal experiences of lived oppression. Neither Kat or the other woman ever yelled at Chris, they did blunty ask him to leave their physical presence and tell him that he was not welcomed to be a part of the conversation. A couple months prior to that Tom Moore, brother to Chris, had interviewed Kat for an article he was writing about Tar Sands resistance. Kat had given the interview on the condition that Kat would be able to have the final edits on the piece since sensitive information regarding tactics and strategies had been discussed and Kat wanted to make sure nothing would be published that would put themselves or others in jeopardy. After agreeing to this Tom later revoked his statements saying that he wouldn’t accept Kat’s edits claiming it would be a compromise to his integrity as a journalist. A direct quote from an e-mail Tom sent Kat, “So I’m torn between, as an ally and a friend, wanting to give you the opportunity to present yourself as you see fit, and as a journalist, wanting to present what you said, as you said it.” Never once had Kat claimed Tom as an ally. There was never any argument, yelling, or shouting by Kat either over the phone or in person. Kat had not actually done anything to Tom. Despite all of this Tom decided to publish the article online against Kat’s wishes and only removed it after being asked again to do so by other white men. This is what Hope is referring to when she references how Kat “treated two people she loves very much”. Return to Reading.

[footnote 4] Never once did Ryan agree to any mediation when Kat and others had tried to get Ryan to participate in it back in August of ‘12. Conveniently right before this document was released Ryan contacted Kat and several others who have been impacted by the various manifestations of his oppressive behavior to request that they enter mediation with Ryan through the Community Dispute Resolution Center. Kat will not ever again knowingly enter a space with Ryan “Clover” Owens. Kat and others believe that not only is this an attempt to put further harm onto Kat and abuse them but also to try to provide some type of semblance that Ryan has been trying to be accountable in these situations and as a way to try to demonstrate to people he is trying to garner support from that he is “doing the right thing”.
Return to Reading.


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Regarding Housing, Dispelling Lies and Misinformation about Ghostcat

Before Ryan had declared outright conflict with Kat in the house, he and Friede had repeatedly pressured Kat to sign onto the lease. Kat declined due to financial instability, and in fact, one of the agreed upon conditions that Kat moved in under was that Kat would never be expected to sign the lease. Ryan and Friede began to indicate as far back as May ‘13 that they may move out at some point in the future but never said that they were actually moving. In the month of July they confided in a mutual friend of theirs and Kat’s that they were moving out weeks before they told Kat they were planning to move.

Hope then signed the lease for Ghostcat, allowing Ryan and Friede to leverage Hope’s greater access to financial resources (which had enabled her rather than Kat to sign) and a classist, capitalist logic of property ownership, to unilaterally dissolve Ghostcat as a collective. This information came to Kat in the form of a letter that Hope left for Kat (See Appendix) on the kitchen table saying that Kat had to get out of the house by the end of the month (less than 2 weeks away) and that Hope was effectively “in charge” now and there was suddenly no more collective. Since the house at which Ghostcat was located was and is the only affordable housing option in downtown Ithaca for political organizers, Kat was left with nowhere affordable to go, and certainly not in the short time frame of two weeks.

The ways in which Kat’s eviction was made possible were thus incredibly classist and hierarchical, violating some very basic values of the Ghostcat collective. Friede, who was in Minnesota at the time with Ryan, claimed in separate phone conversations with Kat and Kat’s friend Tatiana to not know that Hope had done this, which she later admitted to them was a lie. Actually, Ryan, Friede, Hope and Mateo had been privately discussing how to kick Kat out for weeks, and once Hope had signed the lease, Ryan sent an email saying that the collective was dissolved and that Ghostcat was “in transition.”(See Appendix) A few incidents are included below because it is impossible to document each and every microaggression.

Hope:

  • Hope, a white woman, had hair that she had fashioned into “dreadlocks”, which have a vile history that has been reappropriated in part as a symbol of Black power and to reject white culture.

  • Refused to speak to Kat claiming that she was not “safe” enough to have a conversation with Kat even though, at the time, they were the only two people in the house (“Mateo” had left, Ryan and Friede were in Minnesota).

  • Hope repeatedly lied saying that she had made this decision on her own since she had signed the lease and was now “taking over the house”. E-mails and documents obtained prove that Hope, Ryan, “Mateo”, and Friede had all been working on a plan to kick Kat out of the house without ever indicating to Kat that it was a possibility.

  • Kat asked Melanie (friend and previous housemate at Ghostcat) to help mediate a conversation with Hope so that Kat could ask basic questions they needed to know regarding their status at the house. Hope agreed to talk but as soon as she was asked why she was kicking Kat out, she became very angry and got up yelling and entered the shack in the backyard where she was staying and slammed the door– effectively shutting down any conversation.

  • Kat was hanging out with a friend in the house when Hope came home a few nights later visibly intoxicated. Hope then made a big deal about down talking Kat and indicating that she had to get some of her belongings out of the living room adjacent to Kat’s room because her items, specifically her fiddle, were not “safe” around Kat.

  • In the past, Hope had made many remarks about the food that Kat ate which often came from Loaves and Fishes, and the Food Bank. Hope worked on an organic farm and as a baker, and she turned up her nose at Kat’s food- particularly any meat items which were not organic, free range, and grass fed.

  • Hope had expressed extreme lack of interest in any of Kat’s organizing work which centers the needs of POC and Native communities often indicating that Hope’s work was more important with little to no understanding of issues around food justice and food sovereignty.

After multiple friends of Kat’s sat down and talked to Hope about why it was not okay to kick Kat out of the only living space that Kat could afford, Hope temporarily changed her mind and she, Kat, and Kenton (previous housemate at Ghostcat) made plans to live together and to negotiate with Ghostcat’s landlord about the lease (See Appendix) Once the meeting with the landlord went poorly, however, Hope blamed Kat and Kenton. Hope approached Kat 3 days after the meeting they had with the landlord, telling Kat that they had to get out of the house and it wouldn’t work out because Hope didn’t like Kat or want to live with them. Kat then asked for their rent and bill money back that they had given Hope just 3 days earlier during the meeting with the landlord since Kat would not be living in the house for the month. Hope indignantly refused to give Kat the money back.

Kat and Kenton had to immediately move their stuff out with the help of several friends. While they were doing so, some people acted out — in their long-term anger against Ryan’s history of manipulative and exclusionary behavior, and the dissolution of the only radical political collective in Ithaca — by damaging one item of furniture, messing up a spice rack, and writing messages on posters and mirrors that named Ryan, Friede, “Mateo”, and Hope as liars and questioned their “radical” credentials.

Ryan indicated on several occasions that people involved are “lucky” that he didn’t call the police. Ryan has been using this incident ever since to justify repeated attempts to make Kat houseless from other living spaces, to delegitimize Kat as an organizer, housemate and person, and promote his narrative that privileges his own “safety.” He has been able to spread this narrative, that is, by taking advantage of people’s unconscious capitalist assumption that property is more valuable than people, and of society’s racist tendency to automatically label those who act out of a place of ongoing, extreme marginalization and oppression as “dangerous” and “criminal.”


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In Regards to Chronic Houselessness and The Ways in Which Strategic Unifications Are Formed to Protect White Supremacy

The repeated attacks on Kat’s character (which involved previous housemates of Ghostcat spinning information in a misleading manner, lacking all relevant context, in order to avoid their own implication as perpetrators of white supremacist and otherwise oppressive behavior) led to the proliferation of third-hand rumors about what had occurred while Kat was living at Ghostcat. These third-hand rumors, passed on by Hope Rainbow, Ryan Clover, and their friends, corrupted Kat’s next housing situation at a co-op at Cornell. Having nowhere to go and as a last effort for housing, Kat moved into their partner (a Cornell student) Tyler’s room which was already paid for through the semester. Some folks living at the Cornell co-op, “Whitby”, made demands for Kat to provide explanations about Ghostcat and asking for monetary compensation for Kat’s presence (which would be in addition to the rent and bills Kat’s partner had already paid). This was/is an unreasonable demand to place on someone experiencing houselessness, and Kat repeatedly informed folks at the Cornell co-op that they could not afford to compensate the house in this way, especially for their mere presence. House officers then proposed that Kat perform labor for the house, mandating that they take on a servant-like position in the mostly white household. This issue, and the third-hand rumors about Ghostcat, remained latent until Kat was kicked out of this house as well; a decision led by two more white women (Liz Camuti, house President and Tessa Buono, house Food Steward), in which the house officers manipulated a house policy about “safe spaces” (a policy put in place to protect survivors of sexual assault). The house officers rallied around a conversation Tessa had with Kat the night before; where Tessa challenged Kat’s organizing work around white supremacy and racism, claiming it made her feel “uncomfortable” as well as using other “safe spaces” rhetoric, despite Kat’s repeated attempts to end the conversation due to the clear direction the conversation was moving towards. When Kat asserted valid information about privilege and power, three young white men stood behind Tessa with their arms folded in a threatening stance. When Kat attempted to define the term ‘privilege’ Tessa asserted that use of this term was a personal insult to her and at one point repeatedly yelled, “HALT!” and put her hand in Kat’s face to silence Kat.

After this conversation, Tessa demand that Kat be kicked out of the house because of her discomfort; in granting this request, this was the second time that Tessa and Liz had utilized and distorted the house’s “safe spaces” policy, and both times the women displaced were women of color in an otherwise 18-1 white dominated “social justice” living space.

Once Kat finally secured a subletting situation elsewhere, they were then again kicked out: this time, the person from whom they were subletting, Katie Lauck, had heard rumors about Kat from Hope. This led Katie to bring a policeman with her, when she entered Kat’s new apartment unannounced in the morning, in order to evict Kat and Tyler because they refused to be extorted for $300 that was NOT a part of the sublet agreement. When Tyler and Kat asked the Police officer why he was there he responded he was accompanying Katie in order to, “keep the peace” during our “conversation”. Kat then directly addressed Katie asking why she would feel the need to bring police into the house unannounced and with no apparent reason, Katie said she brought the police because of what Kat “did to people at Ghostcat”.

The “safe spaces” rhetoric that Ryan, Hope, “Mateo”, and Friede used at Ghostcat to legitimate Kat’s first eviction, then, was subsequently passed on as effective tools for white people involved with Kat’s next two living situations in order to justify two additional evictions that culminated in threats of police violence against Kat. This use of the rhetoric of criminality to legitimize a person of color’s disposability, and the unapologetic leveraging of middle­ class white privilege to marshal police force – and potential police violence – to enforce a completely biased eviction, is deeply racist.

Cultural and individual racism frequently hides behind institutionalized racism; where the individual excuses their oppressive actions under the guise of property leases, house policies, legal grievances around money (in which the unmistakable pattern in these grievances are that they are rooted in unreasonable requests for economically marginalized POC to mobilize resources they don’t have access to), etc. Importantly, the pattern of abusing “safe spaces” rhetoric are being used in a way that further protects individual, cultural, and institutionalized racism in that white individuals lack of “safety” is wholly rooted in the reality that POC are seen (still) as threats, especially to white people and their property.

Often complex and nuanced dynamics surrounding white supremacy and other forms of systematic oppression are reduced to personality conflicts by both observers and participants. Part of this is due to how these oppressive dynamics are so normalized and ubiquitous in our society, these dynamics MUST occur in order for privilege to persist. Thus when white folks in particular respond to hearing about patterns of microagressions revolving around white supremacy by saying things like, “they probably didn’t mean it that way”, “you’re overreacting”, “you’re too sensitive”, “well, I’ve never had any issues with…” etc. it serves to do many things, some of which are: protect the privileges of whiteness, reaffirm power differentials, and assert that white folks know and understand the oppressions of people of color in a white supremacist society better than people of color do and therefore white people can and should continue to set the rules for engagement. When people of color throw a wrench in that logic and refuse to center whiteness they are often seen as a threat to whiteness itself and therefore those with the structural privileges of whiteness can find themselves feeling “unsafe” around particular people of color who challenge and threaten their privileges and positions of dominance in society.

White folks and even people of color have been apt to believe Ryan, Reed, and others mentioned in this document are just ‘nice people’ trying to do ‘good work’, this is part of the myth of the white saviour. Teju Cole, who made poignant critiques of what he and many others refer to as the ‘White Saviour Industrial Complex’, wrote, “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.” This echoes here in Kat’s experiences in the fact that all of the people mentioned in this document openly claim to be working for social justice yet when they do not receive validations of their privilege when engaging in work they claim is being done with an “anti-racist” framework, they must find a way to invalidate the person or people who refuse to validate their white privilege—in this case Kat. Rather than recognize that their white privilege can not be validated and rather must be obliterated to truly engage in what they call an “anti-racist” framework, Ryan et al have worked to invalidate Kat and subsequently all of the people who have come out in support of Kat.

Historically speaking there have been many examples of strategic unifications that have been made specifically to protect white supremacy. One such well known example is how white women suffragists aligned themselves with the very white men who once denied them the vote to exclude Black people from participating in elections because Black people voting was—and still is—seen as a significant threat to white supremacy. In this case Kat has become the embodiment of a threat to the continuation of white supremacy to thrive almost completely unchecked in organizing spaces and housing collectives in Ithaca. Strategic unifications have been built between the different people mentioned in this document, such as Ryan attempting to at one point ‘school’ Reed Sterbeger at a point in time when Ryan was in competition with Reed for organizing legitimacy—but later the two found common ground in both having “issues” with Kat and are now friendly. Or how “Mateo” was initially disgusted by Ryan and Friede’s behavior—and at one point Ryan and “Mateo” almost physically fought—and then when “Mateo’s” ideas around whiteness and anti-colonialism were challenged by Kat, “Mateo” then suddenly found solidarity with Ryan and Ryan’s rhetoric that “Mateo” had previously found so disagreeable. Ryan welcomed him without exception and the two of them began drafting documents to criticize and delegitimize Kat to kick Kat out of Ghostcat. When it comes to Hope, Kenton (a previous housemate at Ghostcat) had candidly told Hope how Ryan and Friede had repeatedly and openly expressed that they didn’t even like Hope, didn’t want to live with her, and the couple was essentially using Hope to enable their own departure from the house. This seemed to usher in a brief skepticism of Ryan, and what seemed like a desire to work things out with Kat. The two had a short period of working towards reconciliation and relative calm and attempted understanding after so much difficulty. Kat thought that things were going to work out and that with enough encouragement from other white folks close to the situation Hope would actively work to be accountable to challenge her classist and white supremacist views. Ryan was not happy with this and made obvious attempts to sabotage this potential reconciliation between Kat and Hope for his and Friede’s personal benefit. The next time Hope was asked to be accountable to her supremacist behaviors by Kat, Hope made the predictable choice and allied with Ryan who had openly disrespected her and acted as oppressive patriarch. Hope’s alignment with Ryan shielded her from both Kat’s critique, and Hope’s own self-analysis and growth, in exchange for a false friendship and the extended benefits of privilege.

Many more connections can be drawn from this situation to provide examples of how white people make strategic unifications to protect white supremacy. Connections can also be observed between Ryan and others not mentioned here who maintain positions of authority and dominance in other organizing spaces and groups in Ithaca which Kat has been a part of—including white people that dominate and manipulate spaces that are supposed to center and reaffirm Black life. White people who may not even like each other or agree with each other are prone to consciously and unconsciously align with each other in ways that reinforce their positions of privilege and reaffirm power differentials. These kind of strategic alliances serve the White Savior Industrial Complex that Teju Cole talks about and reaffirm that when that dynamic is present in so called “anti-racist” and/or “anti-colonial” spaces the issue at hand shifts from actual justice to creating that “big emotional experience that validates privilege” even if the voices and experiences of people of color must be actively ignored and shut out—and in doing so white supremacy must be reaffirmed and protected.


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“Environmental Movement”, “Safe Space” Rhetoric, Collusion with the State, Protecting and Reasserting White Supremacy and White Property

Some have interpreted Kat’s silence, or apparent lack of mounting a public defense on all of this, as an admission of wrongdoing. This does not take into account that homelessness induces trauma, making one more vulnerable to sustaining yet more traumas due to being further marginalized by the combination of poverty and homelessness. Kat should not be expected to defend themselves under these conditions; particularly as some have found it easier to believe prominent white local figures in organizing circles than to check in with Kat, or otherwise step back to observe the development of a clear pattern. Kat’s apparent lag in response time is justifiable and part of taking radical steps towards self preservation.

We consider it significant to mention that the majority of the people mentioned in this letter by name focus primarily on environmental issues. Importantly, the “environmental movement” is notorious for its racism and we see the current crisis as being fueled by some of the racist practices of those spaces. Historically and to this day, the voices most heard are those of a white liberal elite who perpetuate racism and justify ongoing colonialism and genocide of Native peoples in their political agendas, priorities and organizational practices that are concerned primarily with white elite interests, despite persistent protests of this by people of color. Indigenous and primarily impacted communities of color organize much more effectively around these groups, and consistently critique the white elite liberal groups who have, in effect, formed an establishment that, in the words of Lionel Lepine of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, essentially “profits off our death.”

An overall theme in the situations concerning Ghostcat, summer of solutions, and local 350.org organizers, is that the marked racism and white supremacist norms of the environmental movement have been carried through by some of these figures in ways where it served to strengthen white supremacy in political organizing circles and dynamics within Ithaca/upstate NY. Though clearly white supremacy and racism already existed in Ithaca, local de facto or self-­styled “leaders” of struggles against resource extraction gained a more significant foothold in local politics/organizing circles to the point where their willful engagement in spreading harmful rumors and actions can now deny Kat housing, and work to destroy Kat’s reputation. Unlike most of those involved in the previously mentioned behaviors, Kat doesn’t have any formal education or degrees beyond a GED. Their livelihood and “work” depends on their reputation as an organizer and educator.

As Kat is widely known as someone who works tirelessly on building a movement base with others capable of dismantling white supremacy, and who pushes for re­centering the movement around support of self determination for and solidarity between communities of color including Indigenous land defense struggles­­, the actions of Ryan/Reed/KC/Friede/Hope and others can be interpreted as trying to compete for political recognition and dominance in these circles–in which they already occupy dominant social positions as white people–by leveraging the privileges they do have. More broadly, these are the same circles that, because of the nature of heteropatriarchy and white supremacy, will not see the majority of political work Kat engages in (for example work that addresses intra movement racism that prevents barriers to meaningful multi-racial alliance building) as work, precisely because it is a queer woman of color doing it. It is feminized and racialized labor, thus it is made twice invisible–and people will ­­simultaneously feel both entitled to that labor and contempt if it isn’t done.

To add insult to injury, it is often the case that more relatively ­privileged and/or prominent people take credit for and capitalize off of the work of radical women of color, and Kat describes this as a part of their experience within Ithaca and other national organizing circles. Unfortunately this practice of capitalizing off the backs of women of color in political struggles has a long and storied history within the United States’ colonial borders. So, while folks aren’t necessarily organizing for accolades, failing to attribute work done to their actual sources—particularly when those sources are women of color—compounds racist/sexist oppression and demonization.

Some have explicitly attributed the way in which Kat has been publicly demonized as being Kat’s own fault by virtue of Kat seemingly always being in the middle of some “drama” or an otherwise “created crisis.” This is extremely offensive, it undermines experiences and also alleviates others from the “burden” of holding other people and themselves accountable, and it fails to acknowledge that what is seen by people of privilege as “drama” is often the direct consequence of an individual’s efforts to deal with or defend themselves against oppression. This serves to reduce unique issues and oppressions experienced specifically by poor & homeless queer women of color to nothing significant while simultaneously belittling and blaming them. At the same time, voicing this perspective–­­especially in group/coalition settings–works to isolate Kat’s support & render Kat an easy target.

For example, one white lesbian from the Stop the Jail Expansion Coalition, Joanne Cippola-Dennis, who used to attend Kat’s workshops went so far as to stalk Kat, with little to no intervention from other members in the coalition—many of whom claim to be prison abolitionists, some of whom are white and make livings off “anti-racism”—who were made aware of some of the online manifestations of the racist harassment. Joanne used their offers of housing & food (with strings attached), to discredit any criticism of her own blatant racism and fetishization of Kat as a queer woman of color.

It is certainly easy to flip the terms of someone’s marginality and attribute specific problems, stressors, and barriers that oppression creates to an individual’s own personal failings, because this is exactly the logic that keeps structural racism intact in community, state, and national institutions. It is also a core racist logic that prisons exploit to leverage the criminal (in)justice system in order to warehouse Black, Native, and other peoples of color & poor people for corporate profiteering. This is significantly relevant in this situation, as the abuses against Kat have also taken place in a coalition to prevent the prison industrial complex from expanding in Ithaca.

Asian American prison abolitionist and writer Tamara Nopper stresses the importance of understanding that some elements of coalition­-building are compulsory: an idea that coalitions aren’t a problem­ free choice but a practice undertaken within a web of oppressive social & structural relations, and are often used by oppressed peoples in order to survive and access resources critical for survival. Accounting for this reality pushes us to have a conversation about the ways in which groups/people with more relative resources and social capital can choose to withhold those when relatively less privileged groups/people do not comply with the preferences of their more privileged counterparts. Of course, this can take many forms. Journalist and creator of the website Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall has observed how privilege and power are leveraged by white feminists to expel feminists/womanists of color from political circles due to cultural differences in self­-expression. She traces how it becomes another site at which white supremacist norms of culture and communication are retrenched within group settings, often using “safe space” rhetoric to set the terms of engagement.

Another manifestation of re­asserting white supremacy & protecting privileges when challenged often takes place in uses of “safe space” language in group settings. Andrea Smith, Indigenous liberationist, prison abolitionist, and co­founder of INCITE! women of color against violence, writes of assertions of “safe space” as foundationally problematic because we haven’t yet ended white supremacy/plantation culture/continued occupation of Indigenous ancestral territories/heteropatriarchy, etc. Thus, failure to account for these facts while claiming that oppression doesn’t taint a given space and social relations within are a fallacy. See also, “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy” by Andrea Smith. 

Relevant to this conversation is that the social construction & performance of white womanhood continues to carry deadly relevance, underpinning racist and sexist ideas of criminality. All racist sexist myths in the US revolving around racial and sexual deviance are based on protecting white womanhood. Because of current historical conditions of life under white supremacy, victimization of white womanhood is ingrained as a racial posture. (herbeck & watanabe, “scarcity is a lie!”) The effects of this in larger society as well as in group/coalition settings is that potential or perceived injury against white women (and by extension, also white men and otherwise­-gendered white people) is taken more seriously than real injury to women of color: a reinforcement of the fact that violence against women of color was and remains legally & socially sanctioned.

Thus, when violations of “safe space” are invoked in group settings, not for responding to actual violence but to white people feeling threatened by having white supremacist, etc. practices and attitudes in the space being challenged, for many, the situation still registers as white people being victimized. People who are being challenged will say they feel “unsafe” to stand in for feeling uncomfortable, and the focus becomes the now criminalized person being deemed unsafe rather than working to identify and challenge the racist/sexist/homophobic etc. behaviors that this newly criminalized person tried to identify initially. This is a common practice used to sanction and expel people, especially women of color, from political organizing circles. This mirrors how the State keeps ideas of ‘safety’ fluid enough to criminalize new populations and actions in order to pump people into the prison industrial complex. It is just one way in which white power is leveraged in group settings by using the historical weight of racist and sexualized violence as a crutch to claim women of color’s challenges to the status quo = violence. (herbeck & watanabe, “scarcity is a lie!”) And it is one way to put radical women of color who challenge oppressive practices within movement spaces “in their place.”

All of these complex layers call into question what’s really at stake in what is meant by “safety,” “safe space,” and particularly “emotional safety” in social justice circles.  Certainly no one deserves abuse.  However, the irony in all of this is what many people of color, particularly women/queer/trans people of color already know intimately:  that violence against peoples of color has been and remains largely historically/socially/legally permissible, dismissed and invisibilized.  As prison abolitionist Dylan Rodriguez notes, the entire idea of safety in a white supremacist society relies upon defining “community” and “safety” through “the effectiveness of its ability to wage racial genocides.”  Thus, it is critical to consider assertions of “safe space” and “emotional safety” in group settings as having roots in white entitlement and supremacy. (herbeck & watanabe, “scarcity is a lie!”)

One way to avoid this is to not invoke “safe space” and related rhetoric/framing at all.  Instead, it is crucial to structure the assumption that the true nature of oppression “encourages us to exercise the privileges we do have” into our organizing work and spaces, as Smith says. This allows space for accountability to be foregrounded as a responsibility for engaging in organizing, rather than it being viewed as punishment when someone inevitably acts out of privilege. Importantly, these points are not to excuse abuses of power and their very real effects for those on the receiving end, particularly in cases as severe as the one we are working to address with what has transpired against Kat.  They are meant to point to more honest, sustainable, alternative organizing practices in which this situation could have been addressed much earlier.  This is about cultivating a healthy relationship with accountability, in ways that it cannot be leveraged for further domination where prominent leaders or those with more relative privilege can leverage relationships in abuses of white power & other forms of relative power.

Much has been said recently in larger political debates about the tendency to isolate women of color targeted unjustly from their support in the face of abuses of power using a number of means.  One thing we’ve noticed/experienced in trying to create some accountability for the ghostcat situation, is that folks involved in Kat’s eviction appear unable to grasp how anyone could be independently outraged over Kat’s treatment.  To some of us, when calling upon Ryan to recognize the outright racism he — along with Friede, “Mateo”, and Hope– expressed during this process, Ryan offered for us to talk to his friends that could “vouch” for his anti-racist and anti-colonial work. Not only was this beside the point; it was also inappropriate and racist for a number of reasons. It communicated that Kat’s articulation of their experience was not to be trusted, even though several people (including some of the contributors to this document) were present throughout Kat’s eviction and witnessed with our own eyes the abusive process and racist inversions of ‘safe space’ rhetoric meant to expel Kat from the house.  It also participated in an unfortunate & time-honored tradition in which white people pit people of color against one another in order to cover for white supremacist attitudes and actions and affirm their narrative. It tokenizes people of color in the same way that the logic “I can’t be racist, I have friends who are people of color” or “I can’t be racist, I’ve told you I’m committed to anti-racist work” does. This is not a good faith practice.

Another related pattern evident in this snowball effect against Kat is a racist tendency for whites to trust each other rather than the primarily impacted people of color, which is a fundamental characteristic of how white supremacy is protected and re­asserted on a larger scale. By the same coin, there is also a pattern and an assumption on the part of some that white people can hear and respond to criticism better from other whites. While this may be true for some, it needs to be seen as an expression of flagrant racism when white people are never able to hear or respond to first­hand experiences of racism from people of color. Allowing these attitudes to persist unchecked perpetuates racism, as it reinforces marginalization & invisibility & positions white voices parroting the experiences of people of color as more important than the actual people of color having said experiences (a la Tim Wise). This also relates directly to problems with prioritizing education of an offending party when that person just caused pain/offense because of their racist/sexist actions or comments. It normalizes education at the expense of others, and is often expected from women of color to either educate or be okay with someone ‘educating.’ This becomes a way to punish/sanction people of color who cannot or refuse to attend to the supposed educational needs of the very person who hurt them. Women of color who don’t pick up this task are often accused of not really being committed to some vague iteration of a political “struggle” which apparently sees them as inhuman.

Under these conditions combined with lack of recognition for women of color’s political work through appropriation and mis­attribution, it becomes easy for people to think Kat and other women of color ­­who are not compliant with white supremacist & patriarchal norms ­­don’t contribute anything anyway and therefore are disposable.

Lastly, this is not a condemnation of particular individuals mentioned within these pages; this is about the racist/sexist tendencies and abusive behaviors that they and many others have exhibited to create a situation so severe as to drive someone to suicidality ­­directly caused by a climate in which many have felt validated in targeting Kat & inserting rumors into their political disagreements. If people care about women of color being pushed out of political organizing circles and are being prevented from doing critical work, then this demands meaningful discussion, acknowledgement and response.

signed,

kat yang-stevens


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How You Can Support Kat

  • Instead of contacting me directly with questions, concerns, criticisms, etc. please instead contact the e-mail address afewpublicstatements@gmail.com. That way I may be able to self determine whether or not I have the energy to engage with conversations regarding these traumatic events.

  • Share this document with others that you think should read it. Encourage the people that you share living and organizing spaces with to have open and honest dialogues about the implication of oppressive dynamics, especially white supremacy, in the spaces where we are trying to grow and build. Be vigilant to detect the differences between “personality conflicts” and when complicated and nuanced dynamics that support white supremacy and other forms of systemically supported oppressions that can be identified and challenged are present.

  • Please do not pressure me to talk more about the specific details of any of the events mentioned above. That doesn’t mean that I am not willing to share any more than what I already have. Respect that I need some time and space to process and heal, just writing this has been extremely exhaustive and retraumatizing.

  • Consider sharing with me: cute images of animals (i love pandas and elephants especially), a favorite song, a poem, an article, anything that you think could help to cheer me up. If you can be physically present: a hug (ask first!), a massage, a walk, home made food (i love savory comfort foods with lots of flavors and i like deserts). If I share my mailing address with you: tinctures (sea anemone helps me with panic attacks), salves (THC salves help my muscles, i have chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain), books, stones (obsidian is really helpful to me), other items which promote healing.

  • As mentioned in the letter above, I do not have any formalized education and my livelihood and the support I am able to offer to other grassroots and frontline organizers depends on me being able to secure “work”. My paid work looks like working with grassroots organizations, youth and student groups across the country providing workshops, lectures, and presentations addressing issues such as environmental racism, intersectionality of oppressions, settler colonialism, and mass incarceration. Often I use half or more of my honorariums to support other grassroots (especially POC and Native) organizers and initiatives as well as to pay my own travel to give workshops/speak for free to groups organizing ground up resistance to social and environmental injustice. If you work with an organization or attend a school or university which allows you access to resources please consider organizing to bring me for a paid event. Please visit my website, Groundwork for Praxis, for information on how you can book me (also if you are a badass grassroots organizer, feel free to contact me for free workshops, etc. or just to connect!)

  • If you have benefited from—or simply enjoy and agree with the work that I do and you have the resources please consider making a donation to my paypal account via my website, I am trying to save money to start a spinal wellness program to try to relieve some of the excruciating pain I experience on a regular basis.

  • Send me a nice message! About a fun time that we shared together, something positive that you enjoy about me in general, or something positive from an experience or interaction we shared.

  • Please be gentle with me. I am in need of healing and self care. Please allow me the space to do that without judgement or pressure.

concentric%20circles%20of%20support%20diagram-7.jpg


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Appendix Table of Contents

Appendix 1: Letter in Support of Ryan

Appendix 2: Transcript of Handwritten Note from Hope to Ryan 8/6/2013

Appendix 3: Google Document Began By Ryan and “Mateo” 8/6/2013

Appendix 4: E-mail Written By Ryan and “Mateo” entitled “You Need To Leave” 8/7/2013

Appendix 5: E-mail Written By “Mateo” To Kat CC’d to Ryan, Hope, Friede, Tatiana, “An Explanation of My Silence and Absence” 8/8/2013

Appendix 6: E-mail from Hope to Ryan, Friede, and “Mateo” 8/11/2013

Appendix 7: Friede’s Response to Hope’s E-mail (Appendix 7) 8/11/2013

Appendix 8: Google Document by Ryan with Edits from “Mateo”, “Letter to Kat From Ryan” 8/12/2013

Appendix 9: Transcript of Printed Letter from Hope to Kat Informing Kat to Get Out of Ghostcat with 2 Weeks Notice 8/12/13

Appendix 10: Facebook message from Hope to Tyler 8/17/2013

Appendix 11: E-mail from Friede to Kat, CC’d by Friede to Melanie, Hope, “Mateo”, and Tatiana entitled, “House” 8/17/2013

Appendix 12: E-mail from Ryan to Kat, CC’d by Ryan to Hope, “Mateo”, Tatiana, Melanie entitled, “House Transition” 8/17/2013

Appendix 13: E-mail from Ryan to Kat, CC’d by Ryan to Hope, Melanie, and Friede, entitled, “Intentions and Boundaries” 8/18/2013

Appendix 14: E-mail from Ryan to Hope, Friede, “Mateo”, entitled, “My Final Letter To Kat” 8/18/2013

Appendix 15: E-mail from Ryan to Hope, entitled, “Tyler” 8/18/2013

Appendix 16: Transcript of Handwritten Letter Left By Hope For Kat 9/3/2013

Appendix 17: Facebook Message from Ryan to Kristin (Kat’s friend who had messaged Ryan 8/16 asking him why Kat was being kicked out of their home ) 9/5/2013

Appendix 18: Comment Left on a Press Release by “Mateo” (possibly also Ryan) 9/15/2013

Appendix 19: Statement From Tyler (Kat’s Partner) Regarding Incidents at Ghostcat


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Appendix 1: Letter in Support of Ryan

To view fullscreen click the “Scribd” icon in the bottom left corner.

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Appendix 2: Transcript of Handwritten Note from Hope to Ryan 8/6/2013

I feel unsafe with Kat because
I have observed manipulative & abusive behavior patterns in them, and they have been unwilling to hear any concerns about their behavior or to take any responsibility for the consequences. When confronted, even in a non-aggressive, caring way about their abusive behavior, Kat has become even more abusive, yelling, insulting, denying and ultimately turning the problem back around so that it is us, her housemates, and anyone else they have conflict with, who is to blame.

Specific manipulative behavior I have witnessed:
putting words in someone’s mouth to hear them agree with them (Tyler)
putting themself in the role of the victim/martyr, shifting blame. Blaming.
guilt-tripping. [Playing on the political guilt of people with privilege to get what they want.] <—(leave this out probably…)
Specific abusive behavior/dynamics I have observed:
requiring that her partner ask before going out, seeing friends, or doing anything.
screaming, yelling, insulting, & self-victimizing when their partner doesn’t.
ignoring the emotional needs of their housemates & community
refusal to respect personal physical & emotional boundaries (Mateo, Tyler)
Because Kat will not listen to any criticisms of their behavior and becomes violently angry at any attempt to “interfere”, I feel unsafe & afraid to try to resolve these conflicts with them, and feel as though I can’t continue to share space with them until they will listen to my concerns and respect the emotional safety needs of our house.

8/06/2013
Hope Rainbow

Ryan –
Hope this is helpful. let’s talk this evening.
Hope

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Appendix 3: Google Document By Ryan and “Mateo” 8/6/2013

ROUGH DRAFT : Brainstorm mode (just getting some stuff out there)

We (Ryan, Hope, Friede, and Mateo) are delivering you this message to communicate a number of changes regarding the status of Ghostcat, as well as our wishes for a healthy and safe transition out of our current collective living situation.

Specifically, we do not feel emotionally safe occupying the same house with you any longer. Our collective experiences have validated to one another that you are not interested in listening to others and that we are not safe in bringing behavioral concerns to your attention.

 We understand that no conflict is one-sided and we approach this with a commitment to care and responsibility to each other. Through discussion of our individual experiences we recognize a pattern which amounts to abusive and manipulative behavior.

  • Manipulation/Coercion

    • Encouraging others to participate in “shit talk” of others in order to receive affirmation for their intelligence or political analysis

    • Reframing issues to be at the center, disregarding the importance of others’ needs

    • Threatening anger for non-compliance with requests

    • Consistent exaggeration of details in regards to conflict

    • Using values and political orientation as a tool for

      • Labeling anyone with which there is a personal conflict as sexist, racist, white supremacist, classist, etc.

      • Using strong politically charged accusations as a defense in personal conflicts

  • Emotional and verbal partner abuse

    • Manipulating emotional and political sensitivities

      • Using guilt to control behaviors, choices, and day to day activities

    • Put downs, devaluing and shaming in front of mutual friends or peers

      • At meetings, social events, and around the house

      • One instance included shouting horrible insults at Tyler late at night at full volume in front of three friends for 30 minutes

      • Verbal assaults on a friend of his after he saw her without permission

    • Unwillingness to respect boundaries and needs

      • Blaming partner for having emotional needs or needing space

      • Declaring their partner’s boundaries or needs as selfish, privileged, or “fucked up”

      • Personal boundaries are responded to with aggression and reversing the blame

    • Consistent monitoring of activities

      • Demanding regular check-ins

      • Expecting and sometimes demanding permission before seeing or contacting others

      • Punishment for reaching out to friends for basic activities, such as work or socializing

    • Interrogating for information about others

      • Who, how, and why they spend time with others

      • Demanding explanations of personal choices

    • Assigning tasks, work, and demanding service

      • often with consequences if challenged or let down

      • Disguised as the only way that people could contribute anything “of value”

  • Explicit disregard for other people’s feelings and emotional well-being

    • Scoffing at personal boundaries and emotional needs when brought up

    • Talking excessive shit

      • Using political analysis to devalue someone as a person

      • Monitoring and judging how others choices and use of time

    • Making broad and hasty judgments without even knowing a person and repeating these judgments as facts

      • …’s life is meaningless”

      • … isn’t at the same level

      • … doesn’t get it

      • … is a horrible person

      • … is fucked up

    • Passive aggression to house guests, people feel unwelcome at our house

    • Valuing own work as infinitely more important than anything anyone else could be working on

      • explicitly devaluing skilled trades such as farming, cooking, and caretaking as unsophisticated and politically irrelevant

  • Refusing to address conflict with people directly

    • Actively avoiding opportunities to resolve conflict

    • Aggressive responses to being challenged

      • On political analysis

      • On judgments of others

    • Deconstructive character attacks of almost everyone

We understand that abusive behavior is learned over time through often traumatic experiences. We are not bringing up all of these instances in order to shame you, but rather to bring to your attention our collective experiences and analysis of a pattern of abuse that you are perpetuating. We do not want to minimize the pain and suffering that you are currently experiencing, nor the pain and suffering that you have gone through in the past. It is almost impossible to end abusive patterns of behavior without being aware that you are perpetuating them, they will only become more ingrained and habitual.

Though this  may seem harsh and this is bringing up painful feelings we really care about you and ultimately want to support your recovery and well being.

 This document represents our collective experience and witnessing of this behavior around the house.

 *some kinds of closing message to clarify that our reason for bringing this up is ultimately from a place of caring.

“When it feels like the whole world is poised to destroy you it’s easy to mistake your friends for enemies. “

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Appendix 4: E-mail Written By Ryan and “Mateo” entitled, “You Need To Leave” 8/7/2013

We have three issues to discuss.

We (Friede, Mateo, Hope, and Ryan) are delivering you this message to communicate a number of changes regarding the status of Ghostcat, as well as our wishes for a healthy and safe transition out of our current collective living situation.

1.   None of us (Friede, Mateo, Hope, and Ryan) feel safe (emotionally and sometimes physically) sharing space with you. We all agree that you need to move out now.

2.            Our interactions lately have clearly left us all hurt and confused. We have time to work that through. We are more than willing to meet and talk about it with whoever you’d like to support this conversation.

3.            Household logistics:

a.            Furthering the complication is that the house is in transition and the landlord insists that everyone who is living here be on the lease. Since Friede & Ryan are moving out, this means the landlord is expecting a new lease, and will be inspecting the house as well as making repairs. Mateo understands this and agrees to leave this weekend. You also need to leave this weekend.

b.            As decided at the previous house meeting, Hope has signed the lease, and plans on staying.

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Appendix 5: E-mail Written By “Mateo” To Kat CC’d to Ryan, Hope, Friede, Tatiana, “An Explanation of My Silence and Absence” 8/8/2013

Due to the recent events that have caused me to feel unsafe (emotionally and physically) in your presence I have decided that I will be moving away from Ithaca. I understand that this may come as a huge shock. I apologize for the pain it may cause. I no longer think that it is healthy for either of us to remain in close contact, live, or work together. It may seem unfair, but I am not comfortable talking about this in person. I want my decision to be respected, and to leave without further confrontation.

Observing the dynamics between you and Tyler has caused me to more closely examine the dynamics between us. I know that I am not alone in believing that we have some very unhealthy dynamics that have formed between us. I also have started to see some behavioral patterns that we’re exhibiting that are intensely troubling to me. I have noticed myself shutting off to others and being far colder and judgmental than ever before. I have noticed both of us talking enormous amounts of shit about people (even our friends) as a means to cope with insecurities. I have noticed you panicking and becoming angry when you hear me talk about future plans that you don’t see yourself fitting into. I have felt very controlled and managed by you, with threats of anger for non-compliance.

I have noticed you carrying out a slanderous campaign against Ryan as a white supremacist patriarch, for what I think amounts to the mishandling of a few minor conflicts and some awkward micro-aggressions. A campaign that is disturbingly similar to what Rede did to you (carried out through excessive shit-talking, speaking with key people about Ryan’s behavior, finding all of the time in the world to talk to others about an issue that you never had the time to talk with Ryan about). Frankly, I am ashamed that I participated in the campaign of shit talking, and think that had we only tried to communicate early on that all of the other conflicts could have been avoided. At this point, I think that the mishandling and refusal to communicate has been infinitely more damaging than Ryan’s interruptions and subsequent awkward behavior.

I have noticed both of us hastily using the language of anti-oppression politics to devalue and discredit people that we barely even know, conflating interpersonal issues as large politically charged systems of oppression with the opponent clearly being a “fucked up” racist, sexist, etc. pig. And when asked why, the answer normally is nothing more than “because I fucking say that they are.” Maybe I’m actually the one that’s fucked up…

I don’t like who I am becoming. I feel that I’ve become a far less kind person in the past year. And, it strikes me as odd that kindness, understanding, and patience have never come up in any of our discussions of being anti-oppressive. I think that these characteristics might be some of the most important things about being anti-oppressive toward one another. Who cares how much someone knows about the dynamics of oppression if they are a fucking asshole and impossible to be around?

I have a lot of questions floating around in my head, questions about how to ensure that I can evolve into someone that is truly anti-oppressive and revolutionary; someone who can actually love and be loved; someone who knows themselves and where they come from; someone that doesn’t allow minor conflicts with friends escalate into giant balls of stress for everyone; someone that is compassionate and kind. I have a lot of searching and thinking to do, and I think that I must do it on my own for now.

 I realize that this letter does not explain exactly why I feel compelled to take such a drastic move, and I want to give you that explanation. But, I have been trying to formulate that explanation for days, and it simply won’t come out in any way worth communicating. I think that I have a lot of processing to do.

I know that we both scoffed at Friede’s suggestion of hugging and making up after the conflict that occurred, between Ryan and us, but I really wish would have at this point; it would have resolved a lot more than we were able to in a month and a half of conflict avoidance.

 When it seems like the whole world is poised to destroy you it’s easy to mistake your friends for enemies.

 Mateo

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Appendix 6: E-mail from Hope to Ryan, Friede, and “Mateo” 8/11/2013

Hey y’all,  This is a letter I want to give to Kat. I don’t feel like I would be able to say any of this without being interrupted if I were to try to say it directly and verbally.   There really isn’t any nice way to deal with this anymore–at this point I’m delivering the unpleasant reality that Kat needs to move out. I’m trying to be firm but not nasty. I understand that no matter how delicate the message, I can’t expect Kat’s response to be positive. I still want to try for delicacy. But, thoughts? suggestions? Is this even worth giving to her?

 August 12, 2013

Kat,

I’ve written all this down because I have trouble articulating myself when I’m nervous, emotional, or put on the spot. This situation makes me feel all three.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I will just say it:

I met with the landlord almost two weeks ago, after our last house meeting in which we agreed that I would be signing the lease for all of us to continue living at Ghostcat. The landlord had communicated that she needed a third person on the lease by August 1, or with the next month’s rent. I signed the lease on August 2, two days before our next scheduled house meeting, expecting that we would continue to talk at that time about the situation, including finding new housemates. I also expected to open up communication about some of the tensions in the house which were, for me, just beginning to develop in earnest–namely concerns about your behavior toward Tyler.

We scheduled our next house meeting on Sunday, August 4. That morning, Mateo left the house after the two of you had a conflict. We did not have a house meeting on that day.

Now, almost two weeks later, we still have not been able to talk openly about the concerns that Ryan, Friede, Mateo and I have all had regarding house dynamics. We have not been able to reach any resolution. You and I have both acknowledged that neither of us wants to live with the other, and we have likewise both acknowledged that this is no longer a collective house with a collective decision-making process. In light of this fact, any decisions about the house must be made by those who are legally responsible for the house. In this case, that is the three people whose names are on the lease: Ryan, Friede, and myself.

At this point, I have no intention of leaving Ghostcat. I have signed a one-year lease on the house, and there are others interested in moving in and signing it with me.

I feel that it is not safe or healthy–for either of us–for us to live together. We have been unable to communicate. We have very different priorities and lifestyles. You have expressed specific criteria by which you would choose a housemate, which I feel I do not meet. You have expressed a lack of respect for the ways that I choose to spend my time. I feel that I am emotionally unequipped to meet your needs.

While I understand that this puts you in an uncomfortable position, I do not see any other alternative, as I have already signed the lease and cannot continue to live with you. You are welcome to stay until the end of August, but you need to start looking for another place to live. I expect you to move out by September 1.

Because I don’t feel safe sharing this space with you, and because I want to allow you space to process this, I’ll be staying at a friend’s house for the next few days. I will be available by phone if you need to contact me. I will be returning to the house to take care of Reuben.

Hope

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Appendix 7: Friede’s Response to Hope’s E-mail (Appendix 7) 8/11/2013

It sounds clear and honest. I’m not sure what else you can do. We are leaving and it really is your responsibility to take care of the house.

I’m sorry this is so shitty.

Xo friede

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Appendix 8: Google Document by Ryan with Edits from “Mateo” entitled, “Letter to Kat From Ryan” 8/12/2013

Kat,

I’m writing you this email because I do not feel emotionally safe talking to you in person. There are many instances which lead me to this conclusion, and bring me to the decision to step away. As for the house, what we’ve all known Ghostcat to be is coming to a close, and you need to move out by the end of the month.

You are correct in saying the current transitions at Ghostcat are not operating on consensus and you are not included in decisions about who is going to live there. This certainly deserves an explanation.

You’ve only recently moved in, explicitly did not want to share responsibility on the lease, and didn’t even commit to living at the house through the next 6 months.

Friede and I reluctantly renewed the lease in June, with the understanding that we would find 3 new people to be on the lease as soon as possible. We brought this up at numerous house meetings, inviting you and others to take on responsibility of the house.  You did not communicate questions or concerns with us about the lease, nor communicate your desire to continue living here as we moved forward with plans of transition.

After we decided Hope was willing to make a year commitment and add her name to the lease, I introduced her to the landlord to sign on. We had a house meeting scheduled later that week to work through details of who else would join the lease. Unfortunately, our meeting was cancelled due to your conflict with Mateo–which resulted in him leaving Ithaca in fear of his emotional and physical safety.

This is not my house, nor is it Friede’s, or yours. It’s a rental property. Hope is on the lease (we decided this at a house meeting) and she is staying for at least a year. Hope will decide who she wants to live with and two new people are moving in this Fall. There will be a house inspection, a new lease, a security deposit, and new tenants. You need to move out by the end of this month.

-Ryan

…other thoughts…

Unfortunately, our house meeting was cancelled as dynamics around the house reached climax. Your conflict with Mateo resulted in him moving out of Ithaca in fear of his safety. Earlier that week, you violently shouted at Tyler, shaming and insulting him for having plans with a friend. Hope, Mateo, and I all witnessed this event and it confirmed our individual observations of your abusive and controlling behavior patterns.

The subsequent conflicts between you, Hope, and I revealed even deeper issues, specifically your capacity to blame anyone who challenges your choice of behavior. After Mateo left, you immediately began blaming and interrogating us about our communication with him.

When you and I have conflict it’s clear that you are not able to hear my experience, and I have learned that even responding to you when we’re talking carries a consequence–hardly grounds for communication, or even friendship. This is just one of the reasons I do not feel emotionally safe sharing space, or even making decisions with you.

Your lack of communication with me and Friede, your abusive behavior toward Tyler and Mateo, your hasty judgements of people, the consistent threat of escalation, and your politically manipulative accusations all amount to a conflict that I will not engage in. I’m choosing to walk away. As for the house, it’s out of my hands. You had opportunities to make it yours and those options no longer exist. You need to move out by the end of the month.

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Appendix 9: Transcript of Printed Letter from Hope to Kat Informing Kat to Get Out of Ghostcat with 2 Weeks Notice 8/12/13

note: this is the exact same as Appendix 6 just without the preface from Hope to Ryan, Friede, and Mateo.

 August 12, 2013

Kat,

I’ve written all this down because I have trouble articulating myself when I’m nervous, emotional, or put on the spot. This situation makes me feel all three.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I will just say it:

I met with the landlord almost two weeks ago, after our last house meeting in which we agreed that I would be signing the lease for all of us to continue living at Ghostcat. The landlord had communicated that she needed a third person on the lease by August 1, or with the next month’s rent. I signed the lease on August 2, two days before our next scheduled house meeting, expecting that we would continue to talk at that time about the situation, including finding new housemates. I also expected to open up communication about some of the tensions in the house which were, for me, just beginning to develop in earnest–namely concerns about your behavior toward Tyler.

We scheduled our next house meeting on Sunday, August 4. That morning, Mateo left the house after the two of you had a conflict. We did not have a house meeting on that day.

Now, almost two weeks later, we still have not been able to talk openly about the concerns that Ryan, Friede, Mateo and I have all had regarding house dynamics. We have not been able to reach any resolution. You and I have both acknowledged that neither of us wants to live with the other, and we have likewise both acknowledged that this is no longer a collective house with a collective decision-making process. In light of this fact, any decisions about the house must be made by those who are legally responsible for the house. In this case, that is the three people whose names are on the lease: Ryan, Friede, and myself.

At this point, I have no intention of leaving Ghostcat. I have signed a one-year lease on the house, and there are others interested in moving in and signing it with me.

I feel that it is not safe or healthy–for either of us–for us to live together. We have been unable to communicate. We have very different priorities and lifestyles. You have expressed specific criteria by which you would choose a housemate, which I feel I do not meet. You have expressed a lack of respect for the ways that I choose to spend my time. I feel that I am emotionally unequipped to meet your needs.

While I understand that this puts you in an uncomfortable position, I do not see any other alternative, as I have already signed the lease and cannot continue to live with you. You are welcome to stay until the end of August, but you need to start looking for another place to live. I expect you to move out by September 1.

Because I don’t feel safe sharing this space with you, and because I want to allow you space to process this, I’ll be staying at a friend’s house for the next few days. I will be available by phone if you need to contact me. I will be returning to the house to take care of Reuben.

Hope

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Appendix 10: Facebook message from Hope to Tyler 8/17/2013

8/17, 4:32pm
Hope Rainbow

Hey Tyler,
Things at Ghostcat have been getting more and more complicated. Mateo left town after ta conflict with Kat in which hey attempted to talk to Kat about the dynamics in their relationship with you. Kat screamed at Mateo, ignored their expressed need for personal space (“Please don’t follow me, please leave me alone, I feel unsafe, please stop following me”), told them that it was none of their business, called them a “backstabber” and “fucked up”. The same day, within the hour even, Mateo packed a bag of their basic belongings and moved out of the house, staying with a friend until they were able to leave town (last Sunday).
Kat refused to have a house meeting or any kind of conversation about their behavior—except for on one occasion, at the time scheduled for our house meeting. They insisted they were too emotional to come to a house meeting, but simultaneously continued to talk to me and Ryan, blame us for the situation, and solicit information from us (about Mateo’s behavior, whether or not we’d seen them, about our own issues). Ryan and I both consistently checked in as to whether it was okay for us to respond BEFORE we responded to anything Kat said, yet after our fairly one-sided “conversation” Kat claimed that we had “forced” them to talk to us. Kat cut off the conversation when I tried to respond to their question of why I felt unsafe in the house. Along with the way they weren’t respecting personal boundaries and were yellingviolently  at our housemates and at you, I mentioned the way they had treated Chris (told him at the Rondy that they couldn’t even talk to him because of Tom, without giving him any chance to engage about it or listen to Kat’s experience) Kat told me I was being racist and fucked-up and stormed out of the conversation.
After that, Ryan, Mateo, and I all felt that we couldn’t be in the house with Kat, and we all found somewhere else to stay for nearly a week. Ryan and I, with Friede’s support, had planned on asking Kat to move out. But it’s become clear that Kat is essentially putting Ryan on trial for being a controlling, patriarchal white supremacist, involving people who are on the advisory board of the Alternatives Library. Because of this we’ve been extremely cautious of confronting Kat in any way that might be possibly construed as aggressive or escalatory, because Kat is putting Ryan’s job at stake. Ryan, Friede, and Sandra are all in Minnesota right now, and Mateo has gone back to Michigan, with no plan to return. Kat and I are alone in the house.
After a conversation in which we both determined that neither of us wanted to live with the other, I left Kat a letter explaining that I had already signed the lease (as we had all decided at a house meeting—i can send you that letter if you want to read it) and that since we had been unable to resolve conflicts, and because I felt unsafe in the house with them, they should start looking for another place to live. I don’t see any other option. We absolutely cannot continue to live together, and my name is already on the lease. I am legally obliged to be responsible for the house for the next 12 months. They are refusing to leave. Kat has since accused me of
1)Lying about signing the lease (true I didn’t mention it, as we never had the house meeting at which we were going to talk about it—because Kat refused to have the meeting. However, I did not lie about it.)
2)“hiding behind safer-space language” to avoid conflict, using safe-space language to derail our conversations (refering to me saying I feel unsafe sharing space with them…which showed that they don’t respect the legitimacy of my also real emotional needs, even though I’m expected to respect theirs)
3)“being racist” and “making racist comments” SPECIFICALLY in regard to saying that I didn’t like the way they had treated Chris.
4)Making a unilateral decision to kick them out of the house (though it has in fact been a group decision)
Furthermore, they have resorted to direct personal attacks in order to make me feel that none of my friends are actually my friends, including:
1)“Nobody wanted you to move here in the first place. They were just using you so you would sign the lease.”
2)“You don’t know [Mateo, Ryan, Tyler, Friede] at all. You don’t know the kinds of things they say about you…” or “I could tell you the kinds of things they say about you…”
3)“You don’t know anything about [anti-oppresion, activism, Ghostcat, safe space]”
as well as the usual accusations of being a white supremacist, enforcing patriarchy, being classist, etc.
I don’t want to make you in any way uncomfortable, but I’m feeling extremely muddled, scared, and confused, and through everything I am beginning to question the legitimacy of my insistence that Kat move out. Speaking with Kat is EXTREMELY CONFUSING, because they are very manipulative and find “fucked-up” dynamics in everything that I say…as well you know.
Some clarification about your relationship with Kat would be helpful, but obviously don’t feel like you have to say anything. I felt that when we talked the day before you left, you told me that you felt emotionally abused and like you had no voice or autonomy in your relationship. I thought you expressed frustration, hurt, and helplessness in your relationship with them. Is that true?
Did you feel that Kat was being abusive toward you at any time?
Did you have to ask permission (“check in”)  before seeing friends, and were they angry if you didn’t? Did you feel that they manipulated your sensitivities about being privileged in order to control you?
Did they assign you work, tasks or services to them? (I know they made you wash a hell of a lot of dishes)
Again, I understand if you don’t want to get involved. I don’t need to tell Kat that you told me any of this, but it would be helpful to know how you feel about all this, to take that into consideration.
This situation is getting really scary, and difficult to navigate, especially since it coincides with Ryan and Friede’s time in Minnesota. Without their presence and support I’m feeling really vulnerable and alone. I’m really intimidated by Kat and having a hard time just maintaining. I haven’t been able to feel comfortable spending time at home. I don’t feel comfortable getting the landlord involved, as that would essentially amount to getting the cops involved…I’m quietly beginning to look for other places to live, just in case, but I’m not prepared to give up on Ghostcat just yet.
Even if you can’t respond right away, can you just drop me a note telling me you got this letter? I’m not going to ask you not to tell Kat that I contacted you, but if you DO tell them that I contacted you, please consider carefully how you go about doing that, and what the consequences of that might be.
uh…..All that aside, I hope you’re enjoying your time in Scotland. When are you back?

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Appendix 11: E-mail from Friede to Kat, CC’d by Friede to Melanie, Hope, “Mateo”, and Tatiana entitled, “House” 8/17/2013

Hi Kat,

I hope that you are feeling better today. I’m glad that we finally got to talk yesterday and I’m sorry that I didn’t try to call you sooner.

As for our conversation yesterday, yes we (me, Mateo, hope and ryan) have been in communication and collectively decided that it would be best for us all to stop living together. Its obviously not working. No one feels comfortable.

I’m not sure how I would have wanted all of this to go if we were to do it over again. Definately not the way it has with so many hurt feelings and feeling so out of control.

The situation with the house feels truly out of my hands at this point with the landlord wanting to be much more involved then I had expected in this transition, insisting that there needs to only be three people living at the house and very skeptical that there are more then three people here now and wanting to inspect the house and be around much more. ghost cat can not stay the same house that we have all known. Ryanand I took on a big risk in resigning the lease so that we all wouldn’t have to leave by aug1, if we hadn’t done that we would all be out by now. After we repeatedly asked for some one to take over the lease, hope stepped up and to my expience no one countered her taking on that responsibility. The house is now legally hers and the landlord is looking to her now. I really don’t see another way out of this situation, you can’t stay. I agree that two weeks is not enough time to find a place. I am willing to give you one more week but I cannot speak for the others. We need to clean and purge and Sarah, the landlord, will be coming over often. We have made this house a home but it is a rental property and we all need to remember that. It may feel like ours but its not, and that sucks. That’s capital and private property and all that bullshit that we don’t want in our lives. It’s also the situation that we are in.

As for hope, she is young and inexperienced, that is true, she has said so herself, and I am more then willing and have already started those conversations about racism and class and how that plays into ours lives and the lives of those around us. It takes time for people to learn and I agree that the ones is not on you, which is why I have been talking with her. Hope is not a bad person, she is scared right now and I have compassion for her AND i have compassion for YOU too and your experience.

Kat, you are one of the most powerful people I have ever met and yes that power can be frightening, there were times where I felt nervous around you and in the house, I even cancelled being on call when things were especially hard for you because i wasn’t sure if I could guarantee a peaceful house to answer the crisis line. In retrospect I wish I had just talked with you about it but because of my past experiences with loud anger and rage in my home life growing up, I felt scared to talk with you at the time. I think now that this was wrong and that it would have been better to bring it up.

I have also seen you use this same power to move people in huge ways that leave them changed, through you organizing work, while giving speeches and leading workshops, opening up spaces for people to be truly vulnerable. These experiences were  amazing and powerful to be a part of. You have a gift, one that I am constantly amazed and inspired by. I know I have told you this a million times but I will tell you it a million more because I really really mean it.

I have a lot of thoughts and questions about what happened while i was gone that resulted in Mateo leaving and you, hope and Ryan having what sounds like very serious and hurtful conflict. As well as questions about what has been going on this summer that I have not been privy to. I have tried to be nothing but a kind, generous and  supportive friend to you and it’s shocking to hear from mateo, that you and Him and whoever else were talking shit behind my back, all the while I was defending you and your experience to people at the rondi and at home. Mateo has apologized to me about this and acknowledged his role in shaping the messed up dynamics at home. it was hard when he moved in, things changed, i wasn’t sure why. I would like to have a very open conversation about this as well as the issues that you have raised to me about hurtful dynamics in our household And relationship. I am very willing to go there, get through it, grow and move on. I care about you and I care about our relationship. That is why i am bringing this up.

I’m not sure what else to say. I have included tat, melanie and the rest of our household on this email because I feel that too much has been said privately. I am heading into the woods for a week and will be unreachable. If you or any one else wants to reply to my email I will get it when I am able and be back in Ithaca by the 27th.  –Friede

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Appendix 12: E-mail from Ryan to Kat, CC’d by Ryan to Hope, “Mateo”, Tatiana, Melanie entitled, “House Transition” 8/17/2013

Kat,

 I tried to send you this email on Tuesday, at greencircleas@riseup.net and the email was rejected by the server. I’m sending it again now. This letter is specifically about the house, whereas I’ve sent you another letter in regards to conflict between you and I, in hopes to communicate my intentions and boundaries. I know Friede has also just sent you a letter, and similarly, I am adding everyone involved to this email.

-Ryan

 ——

 Kat,

What we’ve all known as Ghostcat is coming to a close with Mateo leaving, Friede & I moving out, and Hope signing the lease and taking on responsibilities for the house. These responsibilities include the lease, paying the rent, water bill, mowing the lawn, pruning trees and vines, $1,100.00 deposit, and maintaining the utilities. These are things that until now, Friede & I have been doing–only asking others to pitch in on their share of costs. You did not pay rent for this month of August, so I had to pay on your behalf, without an explicit agreement to do so–simply because I am bound by the lease to pay rent.

The lease includes 3 people–and when Matt Gordon moved out in January, Friede & I requested other room mates take on the lease by June, as we planned to move out before the following winter. We have both been generous and flexible with everyone about varying levels of commitment in regards to the lease, even though it placed us in a precarious legal and financial dynamic. In considerations for new roommates, we needed to find people willing to make long-term commitment.

Hope had been invited to live at Ghostcat by Friede, Kenton, and I after much consideration. Part of this was her ability to commit to staying through the winter and our need to bring the lease up to 3 people as Kenton was leaving for the summer and unsure about the following winter. The decision for Hope to join the house was made in May when you moved in for a month, and before you decided you to stay longer.

 Friede and I reluctantly renewed the lease in June–knowing that if we didn’t, we all would have needed to leave in August. We brought up the lease at numerous house meetings, inviting you and Mateo to take on responsibility of the house. You were explicitly not interested in sharing responsibility on the lease, and until very recently, you were not sure how long you would be living in Ithaca.

In July, Hope moved in, graciously accepting a smaller room so that Mateo could move in as well. Again Friede & I brought up the lease, our wishes to move out before the winter, and invited folks to take on the house.

After we all decided at a house meeting for Hope to join the lease, I introduced her to the landlord to sign on. We had a house meeting scheduled later that week to work through details of who else would add their names. Unfortunately, our meeting was cancelled due to your conflict with Mateo–which resulted in him moving out and leaving Ithaca. The subsequent conflicts between you, Hope, and I revealed deeper issues which I do not believe we can resolve as a house in transition.

I know Ghostcat isn’t turning out the way any of us wanted it to. What further complicates matters is that it’s ultimately not our house. It’s a rental property. Hope is on the lease (as we all decided at a house meeting) and she is staying for at least a year. This means she will decide who she wants to live with. There is going to be a house inspection with the landlord, a new lease, a security deposit, and completely different tenants than even a few months ago. We’ve all had opportunities to work this out, and these options no longer exist. You need to move out by the end of this month.

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Appendix 13: E-mail from Ryan to Kat, CC’d by Ryan to Hope, Melanie, and Friede, entitled, “Intentions and Boundaries” 8/18/2013

Kat, I understand we have personal disagreements between us. It’s important to me to work through this in a constructive way, as we live and work in the same community with common goals for larger social change.

Right now, I don’t believe we can resolve this while living together. Also, I think recent events at home must be addressed first because it involves more people than you and I.

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Appendix 14: E-mail from Ryan to Hope, Friede, “Mateo”, entitled, “My Final Letter To Kat” 8/18/2013

Hi Hope, Friede, and Mateo,

After talking with another person who has experience with this type of conflict, I’d like to have really firm boundaries with Kat from now on, and repeat the following bullet points until she understands. I think Melanie & Tatiana’s involvement has made this more complicated because it’s eliciting more and more ways for Kat to argue with us. In every letter we’ve delivered to Kat so far, we’ve opened the conversation further. I think now that the only way out of this dynamic is to repeat our boundaries like a broken record.

I want to check in with you before I send this–as I’ve said “behavior we’ve all experienced” and “our emotional and physical boundaries”.

Do you support me in delivering this message to Kat?

-Ryan

———-

Hi Kat,

Because of the explosive, threatening, and controlling behavior we’ve all experienced while living with you, I don’t believe I can engage in any conversation or resolve any pre-existing conflicts until you have moved out. I would like to share with you how I feel, but in light of recent events I do not believe this is possible, or even constructive. I do not want to talk to you, or see you.

·    You have responded to our emotional and physical boundaries with hostility, disrespect, and blaming

·    Mateo suddenly moved out in fear of his safety

·    This is Hope’s house now, she’s on the lease

·    You have not paid rent this month

·    You need to move out

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Appendix 15: E-mail from Ryan to Hope, entitled, “Tyler” 8/18/2013

Have you reached out to tyler ? I haven’t yet, but would like to let him know he has support.

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Appendix 16: Transcript of Handwritten Letter Left By Hope For Kat 9/3/2013

Hey Kat,

 I’m working early & late tomorrow (what’s new, eh?) but we should talk ASAP about house stuff.

Sarah is coming over THURSDAY morning at 8:30AM to meet with me, Ryan, & Friede about the lease. It’d be good to talk with you before then. Also, please be somewhere else at that time. We’ll be done by 11AM but we’re not sure how much of the house she’ll want to see, so it’d be best if you’re not around.

My phone is almost out of $$$, so I can’t talk on the phone. Please only text if you need to, otherwise I’ll be home 8:30-9:00 tomorrow night & we can talk then.

 Nighty-night,

Hope

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Appendix 17: Facebook Message from Ryan to Kristin (Kat’s friend who had messaged Ryan 8/16 asking him why Kat was being kicked out of their home ) 9/5/2013

Ryan Clover-Owens

 Hey Kristin, I don’t use FB much so just got this message. I’ve been in the process of moving out and finding new roommates for the past few months. I’m so sorry to hear this about Hope, I didn’t know. She joined the collective before Kat moved into the house, and has been the only one willing to sign on the lease

At any rate, yes I did ask Kat to leave Ghostcat after various incidences in which Kat’s behavior was violent, bullying, and deeply hurtful.

 Ryan Clover-Owens

 I know there are pre-existing racial dynamics in our house–and that I’ve been inappropriate at times with interrupting, offering unsolicited advice to Kat, and possibly other things like this. I’m committed to reflect on these things.

What options do I have, when my roommate refuses to pay rent or bills (and because I’m on the lease legally forcing me to pay them), and then threatens to escalate a community wide conflict when I try to have basic boundaries about these things?

If you’d like to talk about this, please feel free to call me. Also, I have a few good friends in the area who I’ve worked with a long time on anti-oppression and more specifically anti-colonial organizing, who have offered to vouch for me in this situation

Ryan Clover-Owens

Also, out of respect to everyone involved, I’d prefer to keep this fb conversation private for the time being

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Appendix 18: Comment Left on a Press Release by “Mateo” with contributions from Ryan 9/15/2013

note: No one ever told anyone the “Abenaki Creation Myth”. What was told was the story of a wampum, “The Dish With Two Spoons” between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnaabe (Anishnabek) and it was told by a Haudenosaunee woman. Nice try though.

Booopdeedoop

September 15, 2013 at 7:43 AM

I know one of the folks involved, and have worked with many close to her. What I have found in my interactions with her and her ilk is that they are wounded people who are much more concerned with spewing bile from their wounds than on doing any real healing and reconciliation. When someone is abused one can understand how that abused person can then in turn become an abuser, this does not however erase their duty to stop the cycle of abuse with them. I hear the same refrain over and over when working with these folks “It’s not my duty to educate you on white supremacy!” and they would be correct, but this would be a much easier pill to swallow if right after saying that they did not go into bigoted tirades. You are telling me you dont have the time and energy to sit down with someone who was attempting to confront their own complicity in colonialism, but you have the time and energy to yell, harass, assume, point fingers, and generally bitch and participate in unproductive actions like this one? They have set it up so that any criticism can be met with the cry “racist!” and “Its not my job to inform you!” and in doing so have created a bubble around themselves and removed themselves from having to engage in the critical thinking process. This creates a wind tunnel of rhetoric which allows only sanctioned ideas and thoughts in. This is a very dangerous game. In this way their minds are more hopelessly colonized than many of those they like to call “settlers” or “whitey” not taking into account some ones personal agency, they are doing the work of the colonizer and of the oppressor and have served to do little but get one portion of the population fighting another.

Takeynea, put it well “I honestly feel like this group of protestors tried to take cultural appropriation to a whole new level and it makes me sick.” This is not the first time either. For a person so sensitive to Abenaki culture how does Amanda account for her telling of the Abenaki creation myth last summer with a woman who is ethnically Taiwanese/Italian? The issue is not the other woman’s ethnicity but the fact that people so “sensitive” to oppressed cultures could forget the one most important thing while telling the Abenaki creation myth; You dont tell it during the summer! Since the creation myth deals a lot with the symbolism of man overcoming the state of nature, the Abenaki to my understanding find it uncouth to speak the myth while nature is in full swing. They equate it to talking shit about those you have bested in front of them. Not classy, so they refrain. But this cadre seem to pick and choose.

 My advice to them, which I am sure they wont take (my interactions with Amanda Lickers usually consisted of her using vulgarities to shock and shut people up, then retreating behind rhetoric): When fighting monsters watch that you dont become one.

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Appendix 19: Statement From Tyler (Kat’s Partner) Regarding Incidents at Ghostcat 

           I have been dating Kat since late April of 2013 and have been living with them since late June when I moved into their room at Ghostcat. I came to Ghostcat as an unofficial housemate, planning to work on a number of summer campaigns and leave in the fall. Since this early time in my relationship with Kat, I have witnessed them endure the onslaught of small town white supremacy, articulated in their released letter. Anyone who knows Kat and I knows that we come from two entirely different worlds. Our attempts at building a mutually supportive relationship across that deep void, however, have been continually assaulted by white supremacists trying to strip Kat of their support network and align me against them. During my time at Ghostcat, I began learning the best ways to support Kat through their PTSD. This required modes of communication where, Kat could directly articulate their needs and boundaries while I often needed to play a support role. I learned some of these rolls through the help of Kat’s “support” people at Ghostcat, but also soon began to see the limitations of how their “support” was a cover for oceans of white supremacist logic that emerged through escalating micro-aggressions against Kat. Yet while Kat’s need for support grew, their aggressors increasingly tried to manipulate me against them. This was a tactic that I did not see for what it was at the time, but became clear after seeing their more overt aggressions against Kat and even clearer after recovering documents of their internal communications.

As Kat needed more support, I naively reached out to these members of Ghostcat who were older than me and presented themselves as allies who I could look up to.  They manipulated my trust as I looked for guidance in how to be a better listener and support person for Kat. For example, “Mateo” seemed to take on two personalities. When around Kat, he was completely in support of them. However in private, he would try to scare me away from Kat, telling me about their personal conflicts, painting Kat as an abusive person who was always imposing their trauma onto him. He tried to discourage me from committing my support to their healing process by saying “they always have been and always will be in crisis mode.” Asking me not to tell Kat, he proceeded to offer me zines written by white men that attacked “privileged politics” and other theories which have been essential to Kat’s self preservation and healing. Meanwhile, he tokenized his affinity with Kat so that us younger folks would look up to him as the ideal ally.

Ryan, too, held himself as a supreme, unquestionable ally to people of color, a role that he still often plays for young minds at Cornell’s Durland Alternatives Library where he serves as the Director and other places in the community where he operates as a gatekeeper to radicalism, environmentalism, and anarchism such as Silent City Distro, Shaleshock, and the Ithaca Free School. I was deceived by his facade as well, as he often made space to talk about my personal development and “feelings.” In retrospect, however, there were certain feelings and developmental directions that he was willing to foster more than others. After Kat would clearly articulate their needs and boundaries he would encourage my thoughts of defensiveness and retaliation rather than thoughts of listening and accountability. One night when Kat and I got into an argument, I entered my friend’s car and Ryan was sitting in the back seat, waiting for me to tell him what the problem was. When I clearly refused, Ryan asked why Kat has “an issue” with him. I remember him asking “What, Kat thinks I’m racist because I don’t have enough friends of color?” I tried explaining it was more about his general behavior and specific actions, but he seemed more intent on interrogating me about Kat’s behavior and actions during the argument we just had.

        Little did I know, however, during this time Ryan, Friede, Hope, and “Mateo” were compiling a 20 page plus character assassination on Kat and using their talks with me as research material for dissecting what they labeled as Kat’s “abusive behavior.” For example, in talking with me they put heavy scrutiny on all of the house chores I was doing. The main reason why I was doing these chores, however, was that while I was absent, the housemates had a house meeting where they told Kat that I needed to contribute more to the house by doing chores and buying staple items. They put a lot of pressure on Kat, Hope even saying “I do not farm to feed Tyler.” Despite this pressure on Kat to request more house labor from me, my talks with Ryan, Friede, Hope, and “Mateo”, often centered around the different types of labor we performed. They ignored kat’s racialized and feminized labor, labor that is far more emotionally draining and was essential to the foundations of our relationship as well as much of the political work we were engaged in. While centering my more visible contributions around the house. I also didn’t mind cleaning because I was trying to help free up some of Kat’s time since Kat was working on several major projects and their PTSD is often triggered by chaotic and messy environments. Through this, they tried to paint me as some kind of servant for Kat, drawing connections with abusive relationships and telling me that survivors of abuse (Kat is a survivor of extreme physical domestic abuse) are more likely to perpetuate similar modes of abuse onto future partners.

During these conversations, they would pressure me for info about my relationship with Kat. In an email I received from Hope towards the end of the summer, she says “Some clarification about your relationship with Kat would be helpful.” She then proceeds to re-articulate my conversations with her, superimposing a rhetoric of abuse, and then pries further in an attempt to have me engage this language:

“Did you feel that Kat was being abusive toward you at any time?

Did you have to ask permission (‘check in’) before seeing friends, and were they angry if you didn’t?

Did you feel that they manipulated your sensitivities about being privileged in order to control you?

Did they assign you work, tasks or services to them? (I know they made you wash a hell of a lot of dishes)”

I did not answer these questions, however the members of Ghostcat wrote about our relationship in their character assasination as if I had answered these questions. From this, they spread rumors about our relationship and Kat, expressing “concern” about Kat’s “abusive” behaviors, setting the stage for kicking Kat out of the house.

This barrage of white supremacist perspectives, from people whom I thought I could trust, were detrimental to the early stages of my developing relationship with Kat. While Kat and I were working hard to bridge the void between us, their housemates were colluding with each other against our relationship and Kat as a whole. Each of Hope’s questions were also asked of me at different times by different housemates. For example “Mateo” told me to be cautious about how kat might manipulate my “sensitivities about being privileged” since he’s only seen Kat—an openly queer woman—date white men (making it seem like there were other men Kat had loving relationships with that I didn’t know about but truly only talking about himself and me). He continued to assert that this must be due to Kat’s need for power in relationships. This is clear white supremacist logic as it flips the way privilege and power actually play out. This is the same logic responsible for antagonizing affirmative action practices today, believing that the more oppressed person “pulls the race card.” Furthermore, “Mateo” used this language to paint Kat as a sociopath, addicted to power in relationships. This only contributes to the crazy-making and delegitimizing of women of color, a typical tactic for maintaining both patriarchy and white supremacy that has roots in painting women as “hysterical” and people of color as “dangerous.” The power of this character assassination was not just isolated to this summer, however. After Kat was kicked out of Ghostcat, rumors from this character assassination spread throughout Ithaca and the Cornell campus. These rumors painted Kat as the stereotyped “angry woman of color” who is seen as crazy, abusive, violent, and untrustworthy.

        Thus, when Kat was forced from Ghostcat and had no choice but to move in with me at my Co-op on campus, these rumors preceded them through Hope and Ryan’s connections at Cornell, establishing  an environment of fear and distrust of Kat before they even moved in. White Cornell alumni had lived at the Whitby Co-op with their partners in the past, Kat did not have the same welcome.This house had 18 white students out of 19 and all of the house officers were white. They also had prevented a woman of color from re-entering the house that same semester, also because of racialized communication differences. Kat’s presence at the Whitby house as an older, queer woman of color without class or academic privilege meant that these rumors were enough to create months of passive-aggressive behaviors, micro-invalidations, and micro-aggressions that eventually escalated, yet again, to expulsion. During this second eviction, the threat of police violence was used as Kat was given 10 hours notice to move out “or else further action will be taken” by the university.

In those 10 hours, I made an agreement with the woman who was already planning to move into my room next month, Katie (aka Cat) Lauck, that we could trade rooms immediately and just finish paying our original rents and utilities for December. It was not until later that I learned she was a good friend of Hope Rainbow and had heard the rumors and character assassination narrative from Luke Jones, a friend of Hope’s and the same man who spread the rumors to Whitby. Within a few days of our housing swap, Cat changed her mind and via text message, tried to extort Kat and I for $300 that was not part of the sublet agreement. The conversation continued over text message late that night but did not reach a conclusion. The next morning, however, Kat and I woke up to banging at the door and by the time we got out of bed, there was a police officer in our living room accompanying Cat. We asked why the police officer was present and he said Cat called for an officer to accompany her during our “conversation” to “keep the peace.” When Kat asked Cat Lauck why she deemed this necessary and she said “because of the what you did to people at Ghostcat.” The police officer looked around at the barren walls and asked Cat what property was hers. She did not have an answer, but still seemed content at watching Kat suffer a clear episode of retraumatization.

Here we see both the threat of police and actual police being used to protect white women’s assaults on women of color. All of this was permitted because of the character assassination that occurred in the summer. I am working to be accountable to the ways I contributed to the building and perpetuation of this assassination by setting the record straight. I did not nip it in the bud when I first felt probed for information and I continued to not take a strong enough stance in defense of Kat after the fact, which was used against Kat. But I have learned, and I hope to share, some of the subtle ways that white supremacy manifests and escalates, resulting in life-threatening situations for women of color.

Signed,

Tyler Lurie-Spicer

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Joanne Cipolla-Dennis

Kat and Joanne have had a very distant acquaintanceship over the past couple of years, the two saw each other very infrequently at public events and had attended a handful of community organizing meetings together. Joanne and her wife attended two workshops of Kat’s in which they praised Kat for their work. Then Kat and Joanne became part of the Stop the Jail Expansion Coalition – Tompkins County and interacted a couple times in person, always friendly. During the time that the following interactions happened between Joanne and Kat the two did not see each other in person or talk to each other on the phone at all. The extent of their interactions can be seen below happening entirely over e-mail and Facebook. Use the magnifying glasses to zoom in and out to read content from screenshots.

note: some names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers have been redacted.


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