Clarification on charges of misinformation on Twitter at Occupy Oakland

“People with good info were drowned out by your ignorance @MikalJakubal”

Yesterday, the police raided the Occupy Oakland vigil and tree sit, arresting around a dozen people, three at the tree-sit and the rest at the vigil area or on 16th Street just to the north. I was in the area for most of this and tweeted and livestreamed throughout. I was later accused of putting out misleading information. What happened, instead, was a small cascade of miscommunication, based on assumptions, information gaps and protocol lapses, that led to misunderstanding of and false accusations against my reporting. At the end of the day, none of it was of any consequence to the outcome but, in another situation, it might have mattered. I’m posting this hoping that others can glean some bit of experience from it.

I own my mistakes and challenge the other parties to own theirs.

First, let me say that my inclination when relaying protest-related information is to always skew away from hyperbole, away from paranoia and away from panic. As a practice, I don’t RT reports of imminent doom unless I can verify it. I also try to pass on any mitigating information I might have or do rumor control through direct fact-checking when possible.

Activists are very prone to exaggeration and “crying wolf”, often having a sky-is-falling mentality—including me when I was in my 20s. It’s comparable to the way many activists also label anything they don’t like as “fascist” and every bit of police abuse as a “police state,” obviously never having seen either. When I hear doom and gloom information, I’m skeptical from the start, especially if it seems to contradict what I can see in front of me. I think this outlook often gets taken as hostility to fellow activists or leads to the assumption that I’m somehow not on their side. The truth is that I’m a bit jaded and don’t get riled by minor things. Take that into account as you read the following and if you see other live reports I put out.

I’ve chosen to transcribe the tweets instead of posting screenshots in the interest of readability. I’m hoping it is actually more readable this way.

At about 12:15pm on December 30th, cops showed up at the tree sit at Oscar Grant Plaza and arbitrarily arrested three people. The arrestees were not doing anything in particular, such as blockading or rioting or putting up tents or assaulting anyone. I tweeted and videoed the last two arrests and sent a tweet at 12:20.

A few minutes later at 12:30, @hyphy_republic (who was not there in person until well after the whole afternoon raid scene was over) sent out a tweet saying there was a “raid”.

[EDIT: See comments below. He apparently got that info of a raid from the Bay Action text loop, something I’m not on. This is a reminder to get on it, even though texting seems dated at this point. It’s still another channel to monitor. So, my bad again for making that assumption.]

At 12:34 I tweeted to @hyphy_republic that there was no raid (meaning there was no longer a raid taking place) and that there were now handful of people and cops standing around.

At that same time, 12:34, @247ogp send out a tweet from the vigil area on the north side of the plaza saying that the cops had just given them a 2pm deadline to vacate the place. For reasons I don’t understand, this and many other tweets from @247ogp never showed up in my timeline on Twitter.

At 12:37 I posted that there was no “raid” and posted a photo of the tree sit area and said that for now, the tables/vigil area was being left alone. This was literally true at that moment, though I was then unaware of the eviction order that had just been given.

At 12:40 I posted that there were 10 cops at the tree sit, but were allowing a supporter to toss small supplies up, indicating that it was a low-intensity situation, not a raid or eviction attempt. At the same time, @hyphy_republic and @oaklandelle asked for clarification about the arrests.

At 12:45 @247ogp’s tweeted More officers advancing on plaza to clear everything out. People power needed to hold the space & mobilize necessary supplies, but I didn’t see this for five more minutes.

At 12:45, I clarified questions for @hyphy_republic and @Oaklandelle about the arrests as best as I knew.

At 12:47 @hyphy_Republic tweeted, This sounds like a prelude to removing tree sit, to which I replied Yeah, could be. There’s a [police] car parked below, but everything’s chill now. I’d say be on alert.

Note here that I’m giving an accurate temperature of the situation, but saying to still be on alert.

At 12:50 I finally saw @247ogp’s alert from five minutes ago that More officers advancing on plaza to clear everything out. People power needed to hold the space & mobilize necessary supplies.

Looking across the plaza, I could see no unusual activity there—no running, no cops, no yelling, just people apparently milling around as usual. Having not received @247ogp’s 12:34pm tweet warning of the upcoming 2pm deadline given by the cops to clear the plaza, I reasonably assumed that @247ogp was referring to the cops (in normal uniforms, not riot gear) lined up at the edge of the plaza by the tree sit, mostly hanging out chatting. The cops I saw were clearly not making any advances on the vigil area. Here’s where my tendency toward downplaying colored my subsequent actions.

At 12:53 I sent out this tweet: FALSE! Rumor! Cops are not “advancing” on plaza. Here’s a photo from the tree sit side of #OGP #oo pic.twitter.com/3CMEhyVv The photo shows cops just hanging around. A short time later, I did a short livestream of the area, saying basically the same thing, that it was all mellow here.

This was a lapse in protocol on my part. Before posting something like that, I should have simply jumped on my bicycle and rode across the plaza to confirm or deny in person, or I should have sent tweets to @247ogp asking for clarification. Instead, my anti-hype instinct kicked-in, based on assumptions about what I was seeing at this end of the plaza. My bad. Luckily, in the big picture, it was inconsequential. Next time I’ll be tighter about that.

That said, I still believe that no cops were ever “advancing” on the plaza at that time, from any direction. I’ve messaged @247ogp with some clarifying questions, but as of nearly 24 hours later, have not received a response. As I’ll describe, a short time later, about 1:30pm, I did go over there and there were no cops. When I left the plaza at about 1:50, there were no cops, advancing or otherwise. When I returned at about 2:15, I saw them drive up at that moment and reported that fact at the time.

For those claiming I spread false information, I challenge you to show me any instance of cops advancing on the plaza at around 12:45pm. I came clean with my mistake, now you do the same.

Had I ridden over to the vigil to confirm/deny the information, I would have also learned about the 2pm eviction deadline and been able to tweet it out, since I didn’t get that tweet in my timeline. Interestingly, I’m not sure others did either. That was absolutely crucial information for mobilizing supporters! Everyone should have been screaming it from the rooftops. “Hey, everyone the cops just said we’d be evicted in an hour and a half! Everyone come down! Now!” This is exactly what happened in previous raids and evictions where notice was given. Normally, this info would have been retweeted to tens or hundreds of thousands of people within minutes. Yet…nothing, apparently. This morning, I went through the tweet streams of many of the core of the Occupy Oakland Twitterverse and no one had retweeted @247ogp’s 12:34 tweet about the order to clear out at 2pm, including @hyphy_republic who I would think would be the first to do so. There was a similar dearth of RTs of the “cops advancing” tweet, though it should have also generated a massive flurry activity.

Did anyone get this absolutely important dispatch? If you are reading this and are a follower of @247ogp, check your timeline for 12:34pm on December 30th to see if it’s there. Here is a screenshot for rapid browsing. If this didn’t go out properly, we need to figure out why.

I rode over to the vigil area, learned about the 2pm deadline and sent out this tweet at 1:31pm: New info. Occupiers at vigil area say OPD Sgt. said plaza will be cleared at 2pm. Sgt. said it multiple times. People packing up. #oo #OGP

At 1:33 I sent out this: Will try to get confirmation of 2pm deadline for plaza clearing. #oo #OGP

At 1:43 I tweeted: Detailed video update on present #OGP. #oo situation Now it seems that support IS important here at 2pm. http://yfrog.us/0n1viz

The video is of an activist clearly articulating the situation and calling for support.

In other words, far from the accusations leveled against me, I was sending out much more timely and detailed information about the upcoming raid than anyone else whom I follow.

At 1:44 I returned to the tree sit area and tweeted Banner up at #OGP “OPERATION OCCUPY”. Cops took it off light posts, but have allowed it to be spread on ground. #oo http://pic.twitter.com/sFnX0W8P

At 1:58, still at the tree sit: Current situation at #OGP tree sit. 50 people, a handful of cops. Supposed deadline is in 3 minutes. #oo http://pic.twitter.com/eOMNjLZe

Supporters were beginning to gather at this point, some coming early for the Egypt women’s solidarity rally/march, others after hearing news on Twitter.

This is where @bellaeiko asked for help with her parking meter that she’d forgotten to feed. I volunteered and rode northward through the plaza (where no cops were seen) and the several blocks to her car’s location. To get enough change, I had to go back to the sandwich shop on 16th and San Pablo, off the north end of the plaza.

From the sandwich shop, at 2:12 I tweeted: 7 OPD vehicles on north side of plaza, parking on 16th. #OGP #oo as the vehicles pulled up. I started with “2 vehicles” but had to keep revising the tweet upwards as more and more drove up, finally sending it at seven. I then got my sandwich, dashed over to feed her meter and rode back as the melee and arrests moved out toward 16th St.

I did a mixture of tweeting, videoing and livestreaming for the next hour or so till the Egyptian women’s solidarity rally, when dead batteries, impending darkness, other work and tiredness led me to call it a day and ride home.

At 2:34, @hyphy_republic tweeted: well do you wnt to update your prognosis about their not being a raid? Seems like everyone else thinks its a raid. @MikalJakubal

If you’ve read this far, you’ll see how completely baseless and unnecessary that post is.

I replied with: @hyphy_republic don’t be an ass. Read all my subsequent posts. That info was valid at that time & was extensively updated every few minutes. Followed shortly by: @hyphy_republic You’re welcome.

At 3:36 he replied with, If people are sending out a call for help, and calling it a raid, don’t negate that until you knwo its not.Take responsibilty @MikalJakubal

I have taken responsibility and learned from it. Now it’s your turn.

At 3:37 @hyphy_republic followed up with this: People with good info were drowned out by your ignorance @MikalJakubal

Again, care to elaborate? I was tweeting some of the best info out there, with one small exception.

Then at 3:48, @hyphy_republic tweeted, Never seen this b4 @MikalJakubal Tells people there’s no “raid” after defense call, then six people arrested at #ogp.

To reiterate, the raid on the people below the tree sit was over when I sent the tweet and photos after the 12:30 defense call. That defense call was for the tree sit, but that situation had stabilized and I said there was no raid happening—which was accurate. I was there. I posted video and photos. I never saw the 12:34 tweet about the 2pm deadline (as I detailed above) and the defense call for THAT, which must have been different than the defense call that @hyphy_republic sent out at 12:30, simply because it came four minutes later. For the record, @hyphy_republic didn’t retweet the 12:34 defense call either, making me wonder if he (or anyone) even got it.

Contrary to @hyphy_republic’s tweet, there were more than six arrests. Three of them were at the tree sit before I sent out the tweets about things being calm at the tree and the remainder of the arrests took place well over an hour after that, during the big raid, the one that I repeatedly called for support about. The way his 3:48pm post is written could almost be taken to imply that the arrests took place because I somehow kept people from responding to the defense call. I’m not saying that was @hyphy_republic’s intention—it is Twitter, after all—but it was sloppy and unnecessarily vague and attacking in tone.

I understand that this can be confusing in a rapidly-moving situation, but before you use your reputation to repeatedly discredit someone, do what I’ve done here and go back through the timeline and see what really happened.

At 3:50 @hyphy_republic: “Not a “raid”, just two people arrested for nothing. Handful of people and cops standing around now.” @MikalJakubal 2mins after defens call

Followed by: My friends getting arrested out here jackass @MikalJakubal

Again, let me correct @hyphy_republic’s misinformation. The arrests HAD ALREADY HAPPENED when the defense call for the tree sit came out and the situation had stabilized, as I reported and showed in the photographs. This post, like the one above, also has a tinge of blame to it.

I’m sorry your friends got arrested. I was there and watched it happen, doing my best to record events accurately. Despite having a bike with me, I managed to stay in fairly close to the action and get videos of police being pointlessly aggressive with people, all of which are posted online and are available to the defendants if needed in their defense. As the videographer, I’ll happily appear in court on their behalf and testify about what I saw if they need me to.

I made one minor reporting mistake and have owned it. @hyphy_republic, you’ve made many errors, mixing up different calls for support, reports of raids, etc., not to mention being a jerk to me online and spreading misinformation about me.

If @hyphy_republic and @247ogp would rather not have active supporters willing to drop their regular lives in order to take risks to report on the movement, this is the best way to treat them. Seriously. I’ve got a film to finish and two businesses to run and a cat to feed. I can ignore this sort of baseless personal attack, but with enough of it, most people will be turned off and go back to their regular lives.

This is all a learning curve for everyone. These new social media tools are transforming the social-change landscape in dramatic ways, requiring constant adaptation by all of us. I’ve been fascinated by the speed with which information goes out and is crowd-edited in the Twittersphere. That’s why I spent most of my birthday indoors writing this. I took it on as my own little research project and, in the process, learned a ton about Twitter. I also might have found a blank spot in the system that needs further investigation: why no one RT’d and maybe didn’t even see that very important post by @247ogp.

And thanks to all those who RT’d my posts from yesterday and all the new followers I picked up.

Now, where were we?

4 thoughts on “Clarification on charges of misinformation on Twitter at Occupy Oakland

  1. The people calling out for the support experienced the exact same thing once before–police giving them a warning that they would come within a certain time and start making arrests. They sent out an alarm from the bay action text, to which I’m a subscriber. Knowing that there had been arrests over the past two days; how rarely and that the police were doing a sweep–and that they’re mandate from Santanna is to make arrests whenever they feel like a new camp may form–I took the call seriously. There was indeed reliable info of a raid, and were responding to it through our network.

    I have a following of interested parties in the Oakland area, people who are OO activists. I also know the parties who tweet at the @247ogp, and who are holding down the plaza.

    You have no idea what raid the defense call was for, nor how it came to me. You didn’t then either. You really don’t know what’s going on there. Incredibly your defense is based on the same kind of arrogance and ignorance with which you saw to mediate another group’s call for support. Seriously, dude, epiphany time.

  2. Your tone notwithstanding, I see what you’re saying about an alternate information channel—apparently the bay action text network, which I never got around to getting on. So, yes, you’re right, I don’t know how you got that info.

    What I do know is that there was not a lot of detail getting across on Twitter, which I suspect is a more active source of info. I also know that what was going out on Twitter was somewhat vague in the sense that support was being called for a raid, when the one raid on the base of the tree (not the tree sitters) was over by the time the support call went out. Then it was put as a raid on the plaza, which was not happening at that time, as I’ve repeatedly emphasized.

    In any of this, more detail, more follow up and more clarity can only help everyone.

    Before calling my any more names, you might consider acknowledging the day’s worth of good information I put out there.

    And, I still have not had anyone confirm that at 12:45 there were cops advancing on the plaza. That is the one thing I was responding to and the only thing where I lapsed protocol about ground-truthing first. Even though I was, in fact, ultimately right about there not being a raid right then and there.

    Do me a favor, would you? (And anyone else who follows @247ogp.) Look for the @247ogp tweet I screenshot above in your timeline. You didn’t RT it, nor did anyone else. I never got it. That, not your continued slagging me is something that is important to resolve. If that info didn’t go out for some reason, it would be very good to know why.

  3. The issue was not whether or not you did good work after the incident we’re talking about. I’m told you did, though I was in transit while you were doing it, didn’t see it then, and later relied on @bellaeiko’s stream and then went to the plaza. The issue is your initial arrogant dismissal of the concern that you potentially nullified a call to action. Your reaction–calling me an ass for calling you out on it–was infuriating. That feeling was shared by those who risk arrest every day in the plaza, who tweet under @247ogp. You could have saved me, them and yourself a lot of trouble, by simply accepting responsibility for what you had done–rejecting that responsibility did even more harm in that it continued the question of whether such calls for action should be taken seriously.

  4. thing is, hyphy_republic has proven himself an ass many times over in different forums, including in person, so you need not be concerned about his rash, rude accusations. on the other hand, you should be showing complete deference to @247ogp, which is tweeting directly from the plaza. and definitely, as you acknowledge, be slow to question somebody’s call for help on behalf of the vigil or any other outpost.

    i tweeted the promised raid early on, because i got a message early on about the threat.

    [[wiseoldsnail wiseold snail
    brand new threat by #opd to raid the #ogp today. be there by one o’clock if you consider yourself part of the solution. #occupyoakland #oo
    30 Dec Favorite Reply Delete]]

    that was at 12:22 pm. that was before @247ogp warning tweet, which i did not retweet probably because by then i was busy getting ready to go downtown. maybe you should be following me. i don’t tweet all the time, but do when warnings and requests for help are delivered to me. like now. right now. opd came and kidnapped julian a little bit ago. i got the text at 12:23 am, just after waking up almost drowning in lung fluid… coughing… strange that i awoke coughing just when the raid was happening.

    can’t be outside now to fend off more police gang stupidity. we need a police gang injunction.

    @wiseoldsnail

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