Last Updated: January 2014
In joining Occupy Homes MN, members commit themselves to struggle to change society and to build our organization. But our efforts to build a mass grassroots movement to build power for the 99% suffer when the divisions and prejudices created by capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy find expression within our own organization. The prejudices deeply and often unconsciously ingrained in our society and in us as individuals are a tool of the 1% to keep us from uniting to build the mass movement necessary to challenge them successfully. As we work to transform society, we must also work to transform our own consciousnesses.
Of course, our organization is not immune from the deeply ingrained prejudices and attitudes spawned by centuries of oppression on the basis of race, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and we don’t aim to exist in a bubble. We know that our membership is drawn from many different backgrounds and cultural traditions and, especially with newer members, we will adopt an empathetic, discussion-oriented approach when conflicts arise due to misunderstandings. At the same time, we also commit to waging an ongoing struggle, including within our own ranks, against sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice.
By joining Occupy Homes MN, and particularly when taking on responsible roles within the organization, members are making a commitment to challenge the wider oppressions in our society, but also a commitment to struggle to develop oneself. We must strive to understand the root causes of oppression and prejudice, how to resolve them on a systemic level, but also how these systemic prejudices have conditioned our own attitudes. Therefore, a key aspect of our political development is taking a conscious attitude toward personal development.
Accordingly, Occupy Homes MN intends to maintain an environment that is free from intimidation, harassment, or other offenses that may interfere with our goals. We aim to create an atmosphere in which all members feel encouraged to fully participate in the democratic life of the organization, and where unnecessary obstacles to their participation can be quickly identified and resolved. Harassment of any sort is not acceptable, including harassment on the basis of sex; gender, perceived gender, or gender expression; sexual orientation; race or skin color; national origin or ancestry; citizenship; religious creed; age; physical or mental disability; medical condition; body weight; marital status; family or child care roles; or any other identified section of society known to face persistent discrimination.
What is Harassment?
Comments or conduct that are known or would be perceived by a reasonable person to be unwelcome could be considered harassment. When the unwelcome comments or conduct are linked to someone’s physical characteristics or known identity, this especially may be considered harassment. While in general harassment is considered to be repeated unwelcome comments or conduct, one incident could be serious enough to be considered harassment.
Harassment may take many forms, but some of the most common forms include:
- Verbal harassment – such as unwelcome jokes, epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, and unwelcome remarks about an individual’s body, color, physical characteristics, or appearance, questions about a person’s sexual practices, or gossiping about sexual relations;
- Physical harassment – such as physical interference with one’s activities, impeding or blocking movement, assault, unwelcome physical contact, leering at a person’s body, and threatening, intimidating or hostile acts that relate to a protected characteristic;
- Visual harassment– such as offensive or obscene photographs, drawings and gestures, display of sexually suggestive or lewd objects, unwelcome notes or letters, and any other written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual, because they are identified with an oppressed section of society;
- Sexual harassment – There are two distinct categories of sexual harassment:
- When an individual’s submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexualized conduct is used as a basis for decisions about their participation in the organization; and
- When unwelcome sexualized conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s participation in the organization or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment, even if it does not lead to tangible consequences. Some (but not all) of the ways sexual harassment may manifest are listed above.
Whether incidents of harassment between Occupy Homes MN members occur during formal events of the organization or outside of them, the same standards and approach to resolving the conflicts apply.
In order to prevent incidents of harassment within Occupy Homes MN, we commit to taking proactive steps to make all members aware of our harassment policy and to foster a culture that doesn’t tolerate harassment. We commit to regular anti-oppression trainings and honest reflection about how race/class/age/gender etc. dynamics manifest themselves in ourselves as individuals and in our organization.
Preventing situations from rising to the level of harassment and resolving conflicts at the moment they occur should be our central goal. This means establishing a culture in the organization where recipients of unwelcome conduct feel confident to immediately speak up, and where their requests to desist unwelcome conduct are respected. Similarly, we want a culture where others will feel responsible to immediately intervene when they witness harassment or otherwise unwelcome, offensive conduct, even when they are not the recipients of the conduct or don’t feel deeply offended themselves.
Conflict Resolution Committee
To help facilitate ongoing discussion within the organization, and to help process complaints when they arise, the membership should elect a Conflict Resolution Committee of three to five members.
The Conflict Resolution Committee will be elected as a slate and should represent all demographics of our organization, including people from diverse ages, races, and genders, and should represent a cross-section of our work.
The Conflict Resolution Committee will handle conflicts arising from harassment and, as needed, other interpersonal conflicts that may not fall under the category of harassment.
Members of the Conflict Resolution Committee will be active members of Occupy Homes MN. They will make themselves accessible to newer members by introducing themselves and explaining their role and the policy. This will help ensure that newer members are aware of our expectations of all members and know what to do if a conflict arises.
The Conflict Resolution Committee will take special steps to educate and prepare themselves to responsibly, efficiently, and fairly process harassment complaints and other conflicts as they arise and assist the coordinators’ table to organize political discussions around our harassment policy and the broader societal issues that make the harassment policy necessary.
What to do about harassment
Any Occupy Homes MN member who believes they have been subject to harassment or have been made to feel uncomfortable by the conduct of another member should promptly report the matter to a member of the Conflict Resolution Committee or coordinators’ table, so that it can receive the organization’s attention immediately. If the matter is brought to a member of the coordinators’ table, they will refer it to the Conflict Resolution Committee. When members who believe they have been harassed feel comfortable doing so, they are encouraged to first discuss directly with the individual(s) in question to see if the situation can be resolved. Any member who becomes aware of possible harassment, even if it is not directed toward them, should report the situation through the same channels.
When a member reports going through an emotionally difficult or traumatic experience, elected bodies should also assist them in finding emotional support and, when necessary, outside help. While we are not equipped to provide vital social services, we must also take into account that offering support and guidance to members will sometimes be necessary both for the individual and the morale and health of the organization.
Procedure for harassment cases
When complaints are reported to the Conflict Resolution Committee, they will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. All information disclosed in the course of the investigation will remain confidential, except as necessary to conduct the investigation and take any remedial action. Decisions about how to proceed, what information to disclose and to whom, and other sensitive questions will be made in the closest possible dialogue and agreement with the individual making the complaint, as well as the accused. All involved parties have the right to a fair and impartial investigation.
At the conclusion of its investigation, if the Conflict Resolution Committee determines a violation of the harassment policy has occurred, it will take effective remedial action commensurate with the severity of the offense. This action may include disciplinary action against the accused party, up to and including temporary suspension or expulsion. Where possible, through discussion with all involved parties, resolutions that are agreed upon by all and ensure the continued uninhibited participation of all will be reached. Steps will be taken, as reasonable and necessary, to prevent any further violations of the policy.
In cases where any party involved in the complaint is on the Conflict Resolution Committee or coordinators’ table, they will not take part in the investigation or decision-making.
Members must be free to raise concerns and make reports without fear of reprisal. Retaliation for reporting any incidents of harassment, or perceived harassment, for making any complaints of harassment, or participating in any investigation of incidents of harassment, or perceived harassment, is not acceptable and constitutes a violation of the harassment policy.
This harassment policy should enable us to better build Occupy Homes MN and help foster an atmosphere for continued growth of the organization, and build power among those most directly affected by systemic injustices. This way we can most effectively build a mass grassroots movement to challenge the power of the 1%.