TRANSPARENCY, DEMOCRACY & ACCOUNTABILITY. The ongoing muddying of the work of Occupy Auckland.
“Transparency! Democracy! Accountability!” are concepts so often invoked by those who practice none. Indeed the very language of democracy is being used to abuse it, used as a weapon against it.
While we investigate high level topics and write about magnanimous and far-reaching issues, we have bottom-feeders buzzing around us like flies; wielding those three words, bludgeoning us with them, trying to distract us at every turn.
While we are loathe to pause to acknowledge the lies being seeded about us, it is for the comfort of those who ? everything that we fill in the blanks.
Penny Bright has unfinished business.
Having embarked on a series of attacks on Occupy Auckland’s media team, crippling our G.A.’s early in 2012, she then told everyone Occupy was over, shepherding them on to other movements.
Only to then experience the double shock and horror of getting herself excluded from those other movements, only to discover that Occupy wasn’t at all dead but still very much alive and kicking.
The very media team she had so voraciously attacked, had spent their year continuing to spread Occupy’s many messages and support Occupy’s many actions. Behind the 8-ball and in desperate need of an organisation to tie herself to, Penny decides to have another shot at usurping the name of Occupy Auckland.
Therefore, after six months of blissful peace and quiet, free from her attacks, she is back to do it all again. Round 2.
Dissatisfied by our refusal to respond to the provocation of her recent press release, which blatantly attempted to co-opt Occupy Auckland support to herself, personally; she has continued to use NZ Truther Vinny Eastwood as a media platform for anti-Occupy attack videos. Which we would prefer to rise above & ignore.
However, we have been asked by many people who KNOW there is far more to the story, to right her wrongs by setting the record straight. We feel indebted to them to do so.
So who is Penny Bright?
In her words she is; “Penny Bright Media Spokesperson for the Water Pressure Group.” Visit the Water Pressure Group‘s website and you’ll discover it’s been essentially turned into a personal promotional page for her. She says she is a: “Judicially recognised ‘Public Watchdog’ on Metrowater and Auckland regional governance matters.” That she has been “publicly acknowledged” as an “Anti-corruption campaigner”. That she was an Auckland Mayoral candidate. That she stood in the Botany by-election as an independent candidate. “Currently standing in the Auckland Council Howick Ward by-election”. Attendee Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference 2009. Attendee: Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference 2010.”
Indeed here is Penny’s appeal on the Water Pressure Group website, to help her attend that very conference in 2010, with a list of things she wants to tell the attendees, including;
“12) Members of Transparency International New Zealand, after denying membership to citizens actively fighting corruption here in New Zealand, had Police arrest two of us after denying access to the Transparency International NZ AGM on 9 November 2009 – International Anti-Corruption day.”
Who was denied membership we wonder? Was it in fact, Penny Bright? Who might have been wanting to control the direction of Transparency International New Zealand, in the same way she has managed with the Water Pressure Group, with Occupy, and other organisations?
Here Penny is the year before, at the 2009 Transparency International conference.
If you take her Vinny Eastwood performances at face value, Penny has a story to tell about Occupy Auckland.
In a series of You Tube videos, she has been publicly bashing nearly the entire New Zealand political “left”; “naming and shaming” the protest movements Occupy; Aotearoa Is Not For Sale, Unite Union, Socialist Aotearoa, and veteran activists including Joe Carolan and even John Minto (who was again arrested and assaulted by police at the Glen Innes housing defence protests in Auckland last Thursday night.)
Penny’s repeated claim to legitimacy is having “40 years” of activism behind her, by which point you’d think, she must have established a mass following. This is a photo of her last Occupy-related action. The per-capita statistics for participation in activism must have gone through the roof in 2011/12. Virtually overnight, millions around the world were able to see through the projected TV fantasy version of reality and joined the call to amass in their city centres, eager to participate in change.
To smart veteran activists, it was a huge boon. A large pool of new talent, eager to get involved at ground level and establish mutually beneficial relationships; in urgent need of mentors to guide them through the pitfalls of putting themselves on the line for the benefit of humanity.
But according to Penny Bright’s attack videos – new activists are a reason for suspicion and NOT to be trusted. A statement that, if believed, silences the vast majority of the participants in Occupy. By default.
It is no secret that early in 2012, as with many other occupations in the wider movement, the Occupy Auckland General Assembly process was besieged by proposals to disband our Media Team. These proposals were supported by “Chris Glen” (described by the MSM as the ‘leader’ of Occupy Auckland) and Penny Bright, across an ongoing period, including in the immediate aftermath of the two evictions.
The premise for our proposed firing was that we had not sufficiently promoted a last-minute event instigated by “Chris Glen” and which we had warned that we would not be able to commit to, since his first mention of it.
As they knew full well, we were already working full-time to establish new occupations in the wake of the de-encampment of Aotea Square. Yet us not being able to wave a magic wand and achieve his demands was then used as the pretext for multiple (unsuccessful) attempts to fire us.
Our media team has no track record; Penny says. As if our live coverage of nearly 50 Auckland actions including both evictions counts for nothing. As if a combined 40,000 tweets, an online newspaper that has published daily for 6 months and a 340-post blog of Occupy reporting, all count for nothing. No track record in sight.
The fact that, unlike her actions, ours occur on global days of international solidarity for the Occupy movement, has escaped her notice. That we adhere to the principle that any two or more people can form their own occupation at any time, with their own sovereignty and voice, but with free promotional support from us, also escapes her.
According to testimony at a G.A., elders at West Auckland marae were, via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address that was controlled by “Chris Glen”, told the opposite. They were told that they were subject to the decree of a singular entity of “Occupy Auckland”. That new occupations needed to receive permission before establishing.
Limitations which defy the purpose and decentralised nature of the Occupy movement.
We haven’t promoted her work, Penny claims. When in reality we promoted her work for months on end, through all our channels, even while she was publicly attacking us, we dutifully continued to share her work.
Yet we cannot find a single example of her promoting any of our work in return. Not even one.
Penny says we have prevented her having access to the Facebook page. In one of her most recent press releases, she names two other Occupiers as supporting her wholeheartedly, then supplies her Water Pressure Group email address as point of contact for Occupy Auckland enquiries from the general public.
One of the two people Penny names is Jacquelyne Taylor. More affectionately known to us as Jax. Jax has been an awesomely supportive and faithful admin for both Occupy Auckland and Occupy New Zealand for a year. We love her to bits. She is able to post Penny’s work at any time, as we have repeatedly confirmed.
Penny’s behaviour furnishing personal details in lieu of official Occupy Auckland contact details is not an original tactic, it is in fact entirely in line with previous behaviour from “Chris Glen”, which included creating ‘official’ Occupy business cards and fliers, whose contact details fed directly back to the email address controlled by him.
The website was G.A. mandated to be handed to Media way back when the teams were first formalised, but that access was never provided. (Democracy!) The website purported to be an official site yet if you clicked on the Occupy Auckland logo you got transported to a non-official Facebook page, with 5% of the ‘likes’ of the official page. A page controlled by “Chris Glen”.
Penny positioned herself early on as a lightning rod for dealing with the courts, Council and Police, due to her much-touted legal experience. In this role, Penny quickly established a foothold that was outside that of the rest of the occupiers. In tandem with “Chris Glen”‘s bragging that corporate media “just call my cellphone”, the actual G.A.-approved process of enquiries being referred to the Media Team Co-ordinator was never followed by Chris or Penny. (Democracy!)
Nor were the pieces of core media infrastructure withheld from media team by “Chris Glen” ever handed over to media team… they remain defunct or stagnant to this day.
Indeed, after they were unsuccessful at seizing OUR infrastructure, and the G.A.’s discontinued, we witnessed Chris Glen literally shouting in the face of media team members at Aotea Square: “Occupy is DEAD! Occupy is DEAD!”
To which we ignored him and continued working regardless 🙂
In her latest attack video, Penny brags about OIA requests she has gotten in the past. This is ironic because on January 25th, 2012, the day before the second eviction, we attempted to relay in good faith a message from the lawyer that said there may be a second eviction, and that Penny should do OIA requests on the Council and Police. Specifically on the eviction expenditure by the Council and to see if they had broken the terms of their own bylaws in their execution of them. Stating that if they had, we may be able to move into punitive court action seeking damages, rather than the endless cycle of defensive court action currently ongoing on Penny’s watch.
The fake badge numbers worn by Police at the first eviction, and the subsequent non-investigation was another matter which has remained unresolved despite all Penny’s claimed legal expertise. Perhaps this is due to the person who discovered and exposed the fake badge issue, being one of the first occupiers “named and shamed” by Penny?
She spread a rumour around Occupy that he was infiltrating Occupy on behalf of his father, a property developer, in reality he had been estranged from his father for years and was an enthusiastic and productive media team member, and supporter of both Occupy and Anonymous.
He is another example of a new activist who deserved guidance and protection and instead was made the butt of a smear campaign. A fact that she may rather forget, now that there is a whole list of occupiers she has attacked?
Family associations being used to smear activists is a running theme for Penny. First the aforementioned property developer story, then that another media team member must be in cahoots with their mother who worked for a pharmaceutical company; then that another occupier had military ties in their family; something to find dodgy, according to Penny.
Only for Penny to then contradict herself in her own attack video by casually stating that her own father was military and was in fact headhunted to work for the SIS! The very organisation said to have been involved in spying on us. Ridiculous!
Another big moan in Penny’s latest video is about minutes. She complains people didn’t have fair access to them. However there was only one person who wrote down every single thing that happened at every single working group and meeting they attended. Guess who that was.
So in the interests of TRANSPARENCY we point you towards this web link. It contains minutes from a handful of 2012 General Assemblies. If you type Ctrl+F and type “Penny” you’ll discover that these minutes were written by… Penny Bright. In them, she makes just shy of 50 references to her own name.
Penny’s latest attack video refers to “Chris Glen” as “the most effective Occupy Auckland person”. Effective is a very telling choice of words. As well as being our “leader”, Chris was the person that founded yet another Facebook page, “Occupy Auckland – Victoria Park” in early December 2011.
He used that page to purport that the occupation at Aotea was crime-ridden and overrun by homeless people and said that we needed to cut a deal with the Council to UPROOT the occupation and move to Victoria Park. He authored a list of “conditions” which people would need to sign, in order to participate in the proposed new occupation. Those conditions included the swearing of an oath & inviting the NZ Police “to enforce the Safer Spaces Policy”, earlier instituted by Chris & Penny at Aotea.
His list of things he wanted from the Council in order to de-encamp Aotea included the gifting of several caravans and other material goods and services. His idea went down like a sinking ship. Noone minded the idea of having a second occupation, but to establish it by disestablishing the first one made no sense.
Despite the overwhelming dissent, Chris continued working to bring his plan to fruition.He scheduled a series of press conferences without informing anyone on media team let alone our co-ordinator – on December 21st 2011 we arrived at the occupation to find him strutting around in front of multiple mainstream media cameras, “serving” occupiers with a 1 1/2 page legal synopsis, authored by him.
The court version of the document was 35 pages.
At lunchtime on the 23rd of December, 2011, multiple media team members arrived at Aotea ahead of a scheduled G.A. to discover the entire media centre GONE and all assets removed from the site. Chris gleefully informed us it was due to “an emergency G.A. decision” undertaken by a dozen or so people at 9am that morning, to disencamp Aotea and move to Victoria Park. He claimed no involvement. However, the minutes from the “emergency G.A.” revealed references to Chris having secured commercial storage space and begun packing our equipment down the night before.
Even more telling, MSM announced the disencampment at 5.17am on the 23rd – four hours before the emergency G.A decision.
He did not contact anyone on the media team or the co-ordinator to let them know there would be an emergency G.A. or that any decision to move had been made, or that our belongings were being packed, moved and stored without consultation.
Yes, this from the man Penny Bright describes as the “most effective Occupy Auckland person”. The person she instituted the Safer Spaces Policy with, the person with whom she was on the Council Liaison Team.
In another brilliant showing of respect for democracy, Penny completely ignored the G.A. rules that it must approve all funds before they are released (over $100) by usurping the last $200+ in the bank account, without G.A. approval, ostensibly with the help of “Chris Glen” who was on the finance committee and was also a bank signatory.
She wanted it for “phone bills”… despite the Media Team she spent months trying to depose never having been reimbursed by Occupy Auckland for any of our bills incurred as a result of our activism work.
Even worse – she took the money within a month of having been appointed to undertake an audit of Occupy Auckland expenditure (as recorded in her own minutes).
For an anti-corruption campaigner who rails against backroom-deals and conflicts of interest – how could she take money outside of G.A. process while simultaneously being tasked as auditor? (Transparency! Accountability!)
Is that not the greatest conflict of interest imaginable? But this is from the woman who was shameless enough to slam Occupy in the media and all over NZ blogs not 4 days before showing up at the High Court to supposedly represent Occupy’s best interests.
Yet another first in legal history she can add to her bedpost. Because we highly doubt any other legal representative has gotten away with smearing those who they are a self-styled representative of, immediately prior to a hearing.
Had they, surely they would be fired or forced to resign prior? Yet here Penny is in this September 21st video, openly insulting and ridiculing Occupy, 4 days before Occupy Auckland’s appeal hearing in the High Court on September 25th.
Seek truth from facts, Penny says. Well here are a few facts we have prepared about Penny. In her second to last attack video, Penny claims that she is mortgage-free as a result of having “worked hard” . She claims to be a “professional protester”, as if it is somehow a viable career path, rather than a calling of conscience. Sensing something wrong, we went back in time a little bit and discovered the following articles on the Auckland libraries website. Source: Auckland City Libraries
Yes, that’s right. Penny Bright who publicly rails against anonymous donations and anonymity is in fact herself a beneficiary of them.
Yes, Penny who accuses occupiers of being police officers, is in fact no stranger to them either. In fact, she has lectured them.
So, to recap (because this is the LAST TIME we will squander resources defending ourselves against her blatant falsehoods and electioneering), we will use her own words from her most recent video.
P.B.: “So with Occupy Auckland, what happened was, um, (4 second pause)” [20:12]
Penny can’t say what happened. Because she wasn’t even there when Chris de-encamped Aotea. She had gone on “holiday”. So she just reverts to giving the legal history of Occupy Auckland.
If you listen closely to her own words in her interviews, she actually gives herself away, over and over again.
P.B.: “Focus on the 1% as Occupy Auckland are supposed to do.” [30:38]
To date, Penny has “named and shamed” then smeared, 5 separate Occupy activists. (Not including people she smeared pre-Occupy of which there appear to be many more). She has claimed to have an “ex-Police Prosecutor” (Penny’s words) who she names in this video, investigate occupiers and their immediate families.
P.B.: “I’ve never been subject to such filthy defamatory comments in my life.” [30:50]
Says the woman who concocted fantasy stories about a slew of Occupiers, spreading lies amongst complete strangers about their family members, whom she had never met.
P.B.: “I’ve been blocked from even commenting on the Occupy Auckland Facebook page.” [30:54]
Your name is not on the Facebook page ban list. Although you were removed as admin when you tried to fire us, you can indeed comment on the pages.
P.B.: “I couldn’t let people know about the court case coming up. Which I think is absolutely diabolical” [31.02]
Well yes Penny, you could, because your close friend is an admin on both OA & ONZ & you’ve both been told you can post stuff, and what has been posted has been left up.
P.B.: “Seek truth from facts. Use common sense.” [31:16]
P.B.: “Beeline for policy, strategy” [31:22]
Penny & Chris founded the Strategy group for Occupy Auckland; which we were not on & never tried to be. They also instituted the only formal Policy at Occupy Auckland.
P.B.: “If they use more than one name..” [31:41]
“Chris Glen” is known to have used at least three different names.
P.B.: “I’m a 51%er myself.” [40:50]
What the hell is a 51%er? Sounds very two-party-system for a revolutionary?
P.B.: “The 1%, they hide behind secrecy, a lack of transparency, a lack of openness and a lack of democratic accountability. If we are trying to set up a society that is opposed to that, we must practice what we preach, we must work in a way that is the opposite to those which we are fighting.”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Penny. It’s time for you to take your own advice.
The above is just a fraction of the evidence we have. If you want to flush your “professional protester” career down the toilet by continuing to persecute Occupy participants, it’s yours to carry not ours.
TIMELINE OF MALICIOUSNESS:
From just prior to the disencampment of Aotea. There was a bunch of other annoying interference prior to that.
21 December 2011: The judgment comes out. Chris Glen turns our G.A. into an MSM TV press conference & tells everyone they will be arrested if they stay at Aotea.
22 December 2011: Multiple media team members chat with Penny on speakerphone, she tells them there will be no eviction until late January and not to move the camp. We pass that on to the G.A. in good faith. Penny goes on holiday and is “uncontactable for the duration”. (Her words.) Later, she bizarrely denies ever having received the call.
23 December 2011: Contradicting Penny’s advice, Chris Glen de-encamps the Aotea Square occupation, without contacting media team at all.
24 December 2011: In defiance, media team put out a statement that “Occupy will never die – we will multiply” and set about doing just that, while simultaneously providing tactical support to those who moved to Victoria Park. A media team member attacked by Penny in November, along with several other Occupiers, use the Town Hall-lockdown to establish Occupy Queen Street 2.0; an occupation that “Chris Glen” would later claim credit for. (This was another recurring theme; whenever someone did something successful, he would claim credit for it.)
25 December 2011: Some hardcore protesters defy Chris and remain at Aotea. Chris disappears. So, at this point, Chris had gone from expecting to successfully move the 1 Auckland occupation to a new site under his terms, to discovering that there were now THREE occupations, none of which were under his control.
13 January 2012: Occupiers set up the fourth simultaneous occupation of Auckland, Occupy Albert Park, while bearing up under the weight of a comprehensive disinformation campaign from Chris, who tried everything from threatening us with Council compliance and regulations to telling people they would be sexually assaulted and accosted by rats.
18 January 2012: Chris and Penny try to contain the erosion of their control of the movement by creating processes that require all four occupations to be subservient to a central organisation; “Occupy Auckland”. Media team counters with a decentralisation proposal that confirms equal rights and sovereignty for each occupation. The decentralisation proposal eventually passes.
21 January 2012: the “99th day of Occupy Auckland”, the day Chris had determined two and a half weeks earlier would be a “huge march”, arrives. Although many occupiers have a wonderful time at the event, held at Aotea, Chris and Penny declare it a “failure” for not pulling numbers into the thousands. Bearing in mind the short notice and the fact most media team members had opted out from Chris’s first suggestion of the march, it is not surprising. Marches that have pulled numbers into the thousands have been organised months in advance by large committees; not weeks in advance, by Chris plus friends. However, the mainstream media pick up Chris & Penny’s “failure” narrative and used the event as “proof” to the public that Occupy’s support was waning.
23 January 2012: the first eviction of Occupy Auckland, by cops with fake badge numbers, at the same time as the FBI was in the country. We learn from private security staff that the eviction had been scheduled weeks prior.
25 January 2012: As per instructions from OA’s lawyer we attempt to warn the General Assembly that there may be another eviction and that the Council’s instructions regarding property seizures were likely “onerous” and may be in fact, illegal. However, we are forced to “Mic Check” this information at the top of our lungs as Chris and Penny refused to allow us to speak to the G.A.; instead telling everyone that the information which we had JUST RECEIVED was “old” and that the meeting was over and to go home.
26 January 2012: the second eviction of Occupy Auckland occurs.
Feburary – March 2012: G.A.’s become consumed by Penny and Chris attempting to fire the media team for the heinous crime of, in their words, not having competently promoted Chris’s 99 day march. Although their proposals never pass, people become so sick of it, that General Assemblies are ultimately discontinued.
April – August 2012: Media team continues sharing Occupy information and promoting the work of activists across Aotearoa, New Zealand. Chris and Penny immerse themselves in the new broad-based protest movement “Aotearoa Is Not For Sale.” Many media team members do not attend ANFS meetings for fear of a repeat performance from Penny and Chris, but continue to supply media support for event days.
August-September 2012: Sure enough, after a carbon-copy performance of intimidation and bullying of key ANFS members, Penny is banned from the movement, and then subsequently banned from Socialist Aotearoa as well.
September-October 2012: Lacking an organisational name to trade on, Penny realises that Occupy NZ Media has expanded to include admins from all around the country and built international media relationships that are bearing fruition. Oblivious to her own silence over the previous six months, she renews her public attacks, and tries again to smear us with the ultimate aim of usurping the platform which we have engineered for all activists, for her own purposes.
November 2012: Nearly a year later, we are finally calling her out on her campaign of intimidation and bullying.
The crowning glory is Penny’s claim in one breath, that she can’t sue us for defamation because we are “Anonymous”; then in the next breath, names and defames multiple activists.
Considering some of us are ex-homeless who did all kinds of things in pre-Occupy life, its astonishing that Penny’s “private investigator” hasn’t been able to turn anything up. Indeed Penny complained about the lack of dirt profusely.
Several activists she attacked were parents of young children. The media team co-ordinator, who is the father and part-time carer of a young child is a frequent victim. As is another new activist she has “named and shamed”; a mother of two young dependent children. About which, Penny makes the clearly defamatory statement;
P.B.: “What caused the problem with Occupy Auckland was infighting caused by another person [NAME REDACTED]”
That is an untrue and defamatory statement wholly persuable by legal means. It also defies logic and common sense, given the statistics let alone the actual campaign of malicious proposals instigated by Penny Bright at Occupy Auckland.
Those who caused “infighting” were the ones attempting to destruct what was being constructed. Who proposed to dismantle others work when they discovered Occupy not controllable at a single source. Who used a “Safer Spaces Policy” to make it about each other, and not the 1%.
The truth hurts. They have utterly failed in their mission to co-opt our name, instead exposing themselves further.
The beacon passes on. The awakening is growing. All will be as it will be, regardless of what is.
Context: We were asked to write this a week ago. But we couldn’t live with ourselves to do it in lieu of covering Sandy internationally, and then #N3 locally. There are too many legitimate issues that need the attention of this page for us to be dragged through bullshit any longer. It won’t be tolerated. Thank you to the many who have supported us over the last year.