[Noisebridge-discuss] Advisory about recent thefts at Noisebridge.
liz at bookmaniac.org
Sat Jul 9 23:16:53 PDT 2011
On 7/9/11 9:31 AM, Quinn Norton wrote:
> I'm confused. Did they actually do anything wrong besides make you uncomfortable?
Good question and thanks for asking. I'll try to answer thoroughly,
though it is a bit tl;dr. It was my personal judgment from fairly brief
contact, and yet I had a fairly sharp worry about the person's being in
Noisebridge. It's important to discuss in public how we might form that
kind of judgment and expose our possibly wrong/biased standards for
The guy I thought should not be allowed in wasn't the main guy who later
that night got into the fight though I think he was involved. I was
worried about leaving the space as he arrived, from my conversation with
him and the drunk girl who brought him in. He was drunk or high and also
seemed a bit incoherent, hard to understand, and out of touch with
reality. He explained that people call him The Angel Gabriel and then
began talking about the Bible. He refused a tour or explanation of the
space. He was not particularly clean and was dressed in camo. I had a
further snap reaction to him that was kind of like "Okay... you're a
person who has been in prison... more than once." So a sketchy dude who
on first sight I think has been in jail or prison, crazy, babbling about
the Bible, drunk, etc.
None of those things alone would lead me to be uncomfortable enough with
a person to say "You should not come in and in fact you should leave"
but all in combination, along with it being late at night when there
were not many people in the building to keep an eye on the situation,
and the drunk girl much younger than him who I didn't think had very
good judgment, concerned me. What I said was not anything reasonable but
was a huge eyeroll and sarcastic "Oh fuck... GREAT...." I came back
with Danny after about an hour to make sure things were calm, and they
seemed to be. So I did nothing and left. Not my finest moment.
That afternoon I had just had encounters with several homeless and
apparently mentally ill people in Noisebridge whose situations worried
me, one of them Philip who could not manage to respect boundaries and
who Danny escorted out. Another of them was the lady with white hair
who is running for mayor and believes the FBI put her in SF General
psych ward, erased her tape recorder, and is following her; she
desperately asked me for help that I didn't know how to provide. So I
also didn't say anything to The Angel Gabriel because I worried I was
being overly uptight and freaked out from my earlier stressful encounters.
I'm not sure, but it seems like part of what was going on that night
(and over the last few days) was that Philip looks for homeless people
in difficulty to take back to his place so that he can provide them
"therapy", and kind of hangs out in other open or community spaces to do
that, and has added NB to his list of hangouts. You might need to talk
with Philip for a while yourself in order to decide whether you think
that's a praiseworthy thing on his part or whether it is kind of disturbing.
I think at NB we have many people who might be called non-neurotypical
in various ways and we might all vary also in our level of comfort with
that. So for example when someone has a bit of delusions of grandeur,
fine and dandy as long as they aren't harming anyone. If they think the
FBI reads their email because of their theories about economics, fine, a
bit tin foil hat IMHO but also not doing much harm. I'm not talking
about people who might be a little rambly or awkward or annoying. I
guess it is when people seem really unpredictable, or predatory,
incoherent, and plus are not already part of our community, then I
think, why let them in the door at all?
The bit about it being late at night and not many people in the space, I
also have some worries that the very people who were left in the space
who might be the ones who did not feel safe because of their own life
situations and who have been turning to others in the space to ask them
to behave as "authorities". During the day more people are around to
decide together what to do. That's part of why in retrospect I wish I'd
just asked The Angel Gabriel to leave immediately. He seemed like a risk
that people there might not be able to cope with. So it was not just
about my personal comfort level or some abstract idea of safe space or
politeness or bourgeois respectability. I'm not sure what actually
happened that night later on, but it sounds like there was a fight, the
guy sleeping on the couch was forcibly ejected, and *then* the police
Something felt really "off" about the space and part of that is people
not very strongly connected to NB and who don't know each other well
either, letting each other in, late at night.
I think there is also increasing class tension as more of the people
coming in are completely homeless and lack many resources and lack a
network of people who have access to those resources, while others of us
are comparatively privileged, with marketable skills, shelter, food,
jobs, emotional stability, and friends who have all of the above
resources and more. Homeless not like "temporarily homeless hacker" but
like "crazy person who has been on the streets for years and has just
randomly showed up here." We have to figure out how to talk openly
about those issues amongst ourselves without stigmatizing poverty,
homelessness, or mental illness.
Obviously I'm no expert in this.
If people want to make Noisebridge into a community soup kitchen,
resource center, and squat, and invite people in off the street, that
will radically change the nature of the space and the problems it faces
and who wants to come here and why.
I don't want to do that, though I help people out individually in the
community where I live.
So I am not talking about Banning People but I think there is room in
our community to speak as individuals to tell people "I'm uncomfortable
with you because of X, Y, Z behavior" or "because I don't trust you not
to steal stuff". That's what I'm going to say to people when I'm
thinking it, in future. It will be interesting to see what answers I get.
Other people can decide what approach they will take individually or
collectively. I realize some may totally disagree with me that there is
a problem. See what you think when you meet some of these folks.
lizhenry at gmail.com
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