This is long, but the history is complicated. I’ve revised the original to incorporate new information. Peace.
Citing peculiarities of Las Vegas law, three members of Occupy Las Vegas (OLV) leased a county-owned parking lot for its encampment after lengthy negotiations with the county commission. That site is known as Area 99. The lease was renegotiated last week some time and at that time, the Board of Directors of the 501(c)3 non-profit corporation Opportunities Las Vegas signed it, the GA has been told.
Opportunities Las Vegas filed papers of incorporation with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office on October 20, 2011. At the time the GA was informed that OLV had gained non-profit status, sometime near the end of October, it was told that the name “Opportunities Las Vegas” was chosen because the name “Occupy Las Vegas” already belonged to another entity. The justification for establishing a non-profit offered to the GA was that it would protect the personal assets of the membership of OLV in the event of a lawsuit.
But unless Opportunities incorporates OLV as a dba, its status as a non-profit doesn’t protect the membership of OLV from anything; it only protects Opportunities Las Vegas from tort actions. At the time of this writing, no record of dba registration can be found, and name registration alone doesn’t provide the protections the membership was told it would enjoy. Moreover, the claim on the name "Occupy Las Vegas" was not registered with the Secretary of State until November 3, 2011. The name on that registration is that of Robert Kern, a member of the Board of Directors of Opportunities Las Vegas.
A link to the Secretary of State business entity search may be found here: http://nvsos.gov/sosentitysearch/corpsearch.aspx. The SoS office does not allow hyperlinks, so to see filing records, you must copy and paste the URL into the address bar and then type "Opportunities Las Vegas" and / or "Occupy Las Vegas" (without quotes) into the search box.
Non-profit status also allows Opportunities Las Vegas to receive tax-deductible donations. Board member Sebring Frehner recorded a video on which he says that he can “pretty much guarantee” that “those three” individuals would “end up spending all that money to help Occupy Las Vegas.” Of course, “pretty much guarantee” and “guarantee” are not the same thing. On that video, Frehner admits that Opportunities Las Vegas and Occupy Las Vegas are two “completely separate” entities.
The video is available here.
The Board of Directors of Opportunities Las Vegas is comprised of three people; if what the General Assembly has been told is true, those people are now Robert Kern, Kristal Glass, and Sebring Frehner (Glass reportedly replaces Mercedes Haefer). Because Opportunities Las Vegas holds the lease, its Board of Directors has the legal authority to keep anyone out of Area 99 for any reason they choose. According to Frehner’s video remarks, the General Assembly (GA) of Occupy Las Vegas has no legal right to input into who sits on the board.
Since October 21, 2011, the General Assembly of Occupy Las Vegas has met at Area 99. The GA is the decision-making, procedural, and policy arm of Occupy Las Vegas. Because General Assemblies are held at Area 99, being barred from the site also means being barred from the GA. According to Frehner and attorney Robert Kern, another board member and agent for Opportunities Las Vegas, the three board members need not consult anyone or follow any procedure or policy if they wish to evict someone from Area 99. And that is legally true.
Because GAs are held at Area 99, those who have the power to decide who is allowed into Area 99 also have the power to decide who is allowed to have a voice in the GA, and by extension, who is allowed to vote. In effect, the Board of Directors of Opportunities Las Vegas has the power to unilaterally disenfranchise any member of OLV, for any reason, without consulting anyone, including the GA. At the November 8th GA, for example, Glass said that the topics of trespass and banishment were closed: “If you don’t like what I have to say or what Sebring is doing, you can walk your ass right off this property. It's that simple. ” The video of Glass asserting this may be found here.
This power has been exercised more than once, and the silencing has not stopped at the gates to Area 99.
Members who question actions and demand transparency have been unilaterally blocked from the group’s Facebook pages and banished from Area 99 when they weren’t even in Area 99. Full disclosure: I am one of those people.
Frehner barred me from Area 99 via a Facebook conversation. I hadn’t earned ejection according to any Occupy Las Vegas policy in place at the time; although I did yell at Frehner during a break in a GA meeting to demand that he explain why people were being ejected, the policy in place at the time required that a member disrupt the GA four times before s/he would face mandatory ejection. When I yelled at Frehner, the GA was taking a break. Moreover, Frehner told me at the time that he wouldn’t eject me for yelling at him, and I facilitated a GA meeting at Area 99 two days later. I have publicly apologized to Frehner and the GA three times since the incident.
Nor did I violate the Facebook “Asshole Policy” created by Frehner, contrary to his claims I did, and I have the screen shots to prove it. In fact, the policy was put into place while I was having a conversation with Frehner and others on the OLV page. It was unilaterally created, put into effect, and enforced without consulting the GA. Additionally, although the matter of who should administer the Facebook page was on the GA’s agenda for the next meeting, someone unilaterally removed administrative privileges from everyone except three people, one of whom was Frehner.
The “Asshole Policy” may be found at the Facebook page #occupylasvegas #occupytogether. I cannot provide a link because I am blocked from the page.
On Tuesday November 1, an OLV photographer informed me that he had been photographing demonstrators for the Metro Police liaison at the behest of Mercedes Haefer, who was then a member of Opportunities Las Vegas’s Board of Directors. The photographer said he had been told not to tell me of his work for Metro and that he had decided to refuse to continue it. I have been unable to independently verify his report at this time. It’s a noteworthy aside here that when I asked Haefer who comprised the Board in my capacity as facilitator of the Tuesday November 1st GA, she said that that hadn’t been decided, yet she herself was identified as a member of that Board on November 5 and the paperwork identifying the Board was filed on October 20.
OLV has had a long-standing policy of honoring the no-camera zone, a space in which those who did not wish to be recorded or photographs would sit during events and meetings. GAs always began by identifying where that zone was, and the LiveStream camera was situated so as to respect the privacy of those who chose to sit there. However, one volunteer photographer, Robert Paisola, chose not to honor that space, despite repeated requests that he stop filming and photographing there. In the end, he was stopped only by someone physically blocking his camera’s lens with their hand. Additionally, Paisola stamped some of the photographs he took at meetings with a legend declaring them copyrighted by Western Capital (his corporation) for NBC, and published them on his private / corporate Facebook page.
When Media Team photographic coordinator Donald Rilea informed Paisola that he was no longer welcome to photograph events for OLV, Rilea writes, Paisola “directed me to Sebring Frehner, after telling me that OLV Corporate Counsel [Robert Kern] and Sebring were behind him on this, who relayed the following to me in response to my more copiously worded inquries on this matter, ‘I say we take photos and post them. Document everything,’ and ‘There is no photo authority. We need anyone taking photos to take more photos.’”
One OLV member, angered by Paisola’s violation of his privacy, ran an Internet search on the photographer on Monday. The member discovered that the photographer had a criminal background, including a conviction for possession of child pornography and another for financial fraud. Both convictions were at least 13 years old. I consulted an attorney because I feared the information might have pertained to another man with the same name. I then immediately emailed the Board and other core group members to inform them of the photographer’s background; I asked that they refuse him access to Area 99 until the parents who stayed and visited the site were informed that he was there. I believe that they did so, and I have complete documentation of our correspondence as well.
I deeply regret that I didn’t run Internet searches on the photographers who were placed on the Media Team. I’ll know better in the future.
At midnight on November 3, an Emergency Security Team Meeting was held at Area 99. The meeting had been announced only 25 minutes earlier. Some Security Team members who were on site were not informed. Some Team Managers were invited by phone and text; others were not. No one has yet revealed who made the decision about whom to invite and whom to exclude despite repeated request for a direct response by members of the group. And, although the bylaws produced at that meeting were ostensibly to protect members from an imminent threat, Frehner later admitted that the bylaws haven’t the power to protect OLV from being declared a terrorist organization under the Patriot Act, which was presented as the rationale for their adoption. On the self-recorded video already referred to, Frehner said that the bylaws “put into place for Opportunities Las Vegas do not apply to Occupation Las Vegas.” The imminent and credible threat that would lead OLV to be indentified as a terrorist organization has yet to be revealed to the GA, also despite repeated requests. The video of this meeting has been stolen.
On Saturday November 5, the GA met at 3:00 PM. The GA passed a motion that required the names of the Board of Directors and the source and amount of the filing fee to be revealed before the GA could vote on the bylaws; the GA did not yet know that the bylaws didn’t actually pertain to them.
The motion also called for copies of the forms filed with the Secretary of State’s office to be posted on the group’s website; for the GA to elect Opportunities Las Vegas’s Board of Directors; for the GA to decide whether or not the non-profit should have paid employees, if any employees or Board members were to be paid, and how much paid employees should be paid. It passed. There were jokes that the Board’s pay should be limited to $1.00. Since no representative of the Board was on site, the meeting adjourned for five minutes until Glass could get the information by phone.
That night, Frehner recorded the video in which he said that nothing the GA says or does is binding on Opportunities Las Vegas.
Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning (November 5/6), the minutes from Saturday’s GA were stolen and the LiveStream recording of the meeting disappeared from the web, although a record of the motions passed exists in the form of facilitator notes, which I provided to the Board on Monday, November 7. The passwords for the Internet hotspot were changed—not for the first time—and the video of the midnight meeting also disappeared. Other equipment and information were compromised because the safe was left unlocked. Frehner’s self-recorded video was also pulled from where it was posted, but it had already been copied, transcribed, and posted to YouTube, so it still exists.
Sunday morning, the domain for the website that had been the official site for OLV from day one was redirected, and those coming to the address found themselves at what seemed to be a cheesy-looking anti-Zionist site. However, techies realized within minutes that the DNS switch had been re-pointed, and they got a new domain to point at the original website within a couple of hours. The original website is now located at http://occupylv.org.
A new website is being built at the old domain/address, which Frehner allegedly owns and controls. Frehner has admitted that someone got his password and re-pointed the original domain name. However, when he regained control of the domain, Frehner chose not to point it to the original site, but to create a new site and to have the domain point there.
On Sunday November 6, Frehner announced in the Examiner that because the original website had moved, the group had split, even though he had himself chosen not to re-point the domain to the original site. Contrary to the report given to the Examiner, the website was not hacked; a password was used to repoint the domain. You can read the story here.
Also on Sunday, a group of OLV members held a circle Gathering at UNLV in an attempt to iron out some of the issues that had been causing friction in OLV. Attendees’ statements were videotaped. One of the most significant gains was that two men to revise their signs to bring them more in line with the group’s goals as outlined in the Mission Statement. Their signs had created a great deal of dissent and had led to the first ejections, so this was quite a step forward. The meeting was not a GA; no motions were made and no actions recommended other meeting again on Wednesday to keep the dialogue going.
On Monday November 7, 2011, surreptitiously taken photographs of those in the no-camera zone at Sunday’s Circle Gathering appeared on the internet. Although we have been able to conclude who took the photos from the angle of the shots, we have no proof, so we will not name her. Also on Monday, the Twitter stream was flooded with slanderous tweets declaring that those of us who’d attended the Circle Gathering were anti-Semitic racists who advocated violence. A complete video of that meeting will be posted as soon as it's posted by the videographer.
Later on Monday, the three members of OLV visited the Secretary of State’s office and met with Mr. Walsh. That is when he declared that Opportunities Las Vegas had “co-opted the movement.”
However, despite the best efforts of a small number of people, Opportunities Las Vegas does not and certainly never will control the spirit of those who comprise the future of the Occupy Movement, which survives at Circle Gatherings.
On Wednesday November 9, another Circle Gathering took place. Those of us who attended agreed to formally separate from the 501(3)c-run Opportunities / Occupy Las Vegas, using the Circle Gatherings as our GAs. Meetings have returned to the consensus-based democratic model the GA agreed to in the beginning.
As long as the corporate GAs are held at Area 99, as long as Occupy Las Vegas is subservient to the will of the corporate Board of Directors, three people have the right to silence and disenfranchise the rest of the group.
That is not what democracy looks like. That is what politics as usual looks like.