Statement Regarding a Disciplinary Matter in East Bay DSA
On December 6, 2017, East Bay DSA (EBDSA) and Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) member Jetta Rae Robertson received a member conduct notice from EBDSA’s Local Council informing her they were pursuing disciplinary measures. The reprimand cites several tweets wherein Jetta criticizes the EBDSA leadership and alleges that she engaged in behavior that they felt was inappropriate or unethical.
The specific leaders Jetta criticizes in her tweets are Meagan Day, Jeremy Gong, Mary Virginia Watson, and Benjamin Fife. It is especially concerning that Gong, Watson, and Fife—three of the four EBDSA members whom Jetta criticized and who are on the Local Council which issued her reprimand—are also named in a grievance submitted by Jetta to the DSA National grievance working group on November 27, 2017 (that is, before the above-mentioned member conduct notice was sent on December 6).
In the grievance she filed with the National organization, Jetta describes a prior member conduct investigation against her initiated by the aforementioned members of the EBDSA Local Council. Her grievance complaint alleges that the investigation itself as well as follow-up conversations with Mary Virginia Watson and Benjamin Fife were coordinated to harass, intimidate and humiliate her. And it is for these very claims, which she had published on Twitter prior to filing the grievance with the national working group (which didn’t exist at the time she made the tweets), that the EBDSA Local Council are intending to sanction her.
The member conduct notice of December 6 is a blatant misuse of both local and National harassment policies.
In one tweet, Jetta compares her opposition to Jeremy Gong to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series; EBDSA’s Local Council alleges the tweet is a “personal attack” on Jeremy Gong. In another tweet, Jetta expresses her feeling that organizing with Jeremy Gong, Mary Virginia Watson, and Meagan Day had become detrimental to her mental health. The feelings Jetta expressed in the tweet were due to perceived censorship and public smearing against her for her support of brake light clinics, and EBDSA’s Local Council alleges the tweet is abusive.
The Libertarian Socialist Caucus believes that freedom of discourse and accountability of elected office-holders are critical aspects of democracy. DSA members must be free to publicly criticize the DSA as an institution and DSA leadership at all levels. Attempting to silence dissent is undemocratic and should not be permitted within DSA.
Weaponization of harassment policy language to identify a member’s grievances with leadership as “personal attacks” or “misreporting” goes against the pluralistic, multi-tendency, democratic foundations of the organization of which we are all members. We must not come to define a member’s standing with the degree to which they are popular with leadership, and we must not allow leadership to retaliate against criticism by rank-and-file members.
For Jeremy Gong, a member of EBDSA’s Local Council and DSA’s National Political Committee, to either sign off on or otherwise abide by the sanction of a comrade for speaking critically of him speaks to a pronounced intolerance of dissent that is unacceptable for someone in national leadership.
For EBDSA’s Local Council to censure a member for speaking to their experience of feeling gaslit and emotionally preyed upon by a member of the Local Council, and without attempting to mediate or even reach out to that member, speaks to a palpably unsafe space within EBDSA, particularly for those who are at the most risk for harassment or abuse.
This opaque, unilateral process which EBDSA is using in an attempt to discipline Jetta for merely expressing dissent must not become precedent. DSA’s National (non-binding) harassment policy was not created for and should not exist in order to quell dissent and purge members who are not popular with those in leadership positions.
Therefore, together as members of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus, we assert that East Bay DSA should retract its member conduct notice to Jetta Rae Robertson and immediately pursue mediation through the democratically adopted grievance process. We urge East Bay DSA’s Local Council to set an example for locals across the country on how intense, even sometimes volatile, intra-chapter conflicts can be resolved without censoring, ousting, or driving away the grassroots socialists whose labor sustains this organization.