Athens Gathering Report-Back Chris Schramm

Aug 27, 2001 — We met in the town of Athens, Ohio, in the western Appalachian foothills. It's a beautiful university town built on hills around a river valley. We walked most places. Everyone seems to know everyone else. Huge (if young and doctrinaire) activist community there. Lots of organic farms. A worker owned restaurant with delicious food. Kinko's. We ate fresh corn on the front porch while the cicadas screamed overhead. One morning a thunderstorm woke me up.

The reason this meeting had been organized by Sabrina in the first place was so that a bunch of issues could be worked out among medics. First among these issues was what went down before/at Quebec. Delyla's hubby Stan had written a fucked up response to a bulletin board monitor who'd posted a letter from a rape survivor. Someone in Florida where the survivor lived thought the survivor's letter was eloquent and that people should read it so this person sent out the letter to bulletin boards everywhere, including a medic related bulletin board in Denver. The Denver moderator published the letter. Stan wrote a private email to the moderator saying that "she should consider herself lucky she's not impoverished or in jail."

The Denver moderator was justifiably outraged and posted Stan's "reply" on the bulletin board. A bunch of Denver people and Brian Dominick got pissed off. More people found out and felt unsafe being around him. A couple weeks later, Delyla somehow got the role of organizing the Quebec clinic. She brought Stan to do security even though he was basically crippled from recent back surgery. The morning of the first protest, the medics had a meeting and the whole Stan story blew up. People were screaming. It could and should have been dealt with in the preceding weeks but no one took initiative and told Stan that no, he was not welcome to do security and he should find another job.

The Canadians, who'd had Yanks come in and organize their clinic, were shocked to find medics screaming at each other in English. Why did the Yanks bring their shit into another city? Many of the French speaking medics thought Stan was the rapist. All this with police bearing down on them only minutes away and important protest-related stuff to talk about. Some people stormed out of the meeting (and out of action medical work in general). Others felt that the pressing priority was getting medic work started. No on went and confronted Stan. So he stayed at the door and a rift opened among the medics.

Anyway, we had a long discussion about this, in the framework of an anti-oppression workshop, and the general consensus seemed to be: that no one agreed with what Stan said; everyone wishes they had confronted Stan themselves; we have to deal with our shit before we go to other cities.

The impression I had was that this was hugely traumatic for everyone and I felt as if our arguments pale in hilarious comparison to this problem. Not that we don't disagree. Obviously we are going to have lots of disagreements with other medics and may not like some of them. But I felt as if it's alright to argue with them when we want to and that actually meeting with people face to face sometimes allows these things to get worked out better than email.

The second impression I got about this issue was that Quebec was tremendously traumatic for the medics there who treated massive numbers of casualties over many days. More than one seasoned medic spoke clearly of having PTSD. I'm sure that this compounded the problems.

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