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KPFA activists arrested at law offices

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Thursday January 25, 2001

One month after what KPFA activists are calling the “Christmas Coup” – the firing of several staff members and banning certain volunteers from a sister station in New York City – a group of local activists was arrested Tuesday at the San Francisco law offices of Epstein, Becker & Green. 

The same day, nine persons were arrested at the New York station when they tried to attend an advisory board meeting. 

The San Francisco protesters were targeting John Murdock, an attorney who works at the firm’s offices in Washington, D.C. Murdock is a member of the Pacifica Board of Directors, which governs five community radio stations – KPFA in Berkeley, WBAI in New York and others in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Houston. 

Large demonstrations occurred in Berkeley in the summer of 1999 as a result of tensions between the listener-sponsors and staff of the station on the one hand and the board on the other. Activists say the board ought to be a democratic institution, representing the listener sponsors.  

The board changed its governing rules two years ago and became self-selecting. Board members were previously appointed by the various stations’ Local Advisory Boards. 

Murdock was appointed to the board last year.  

Aaron Glantz, KPFA’s Sacramento reporter who resides in Berkeley and Sacramento was among the eight arrested Tuesday. In a phone interview Wednesday, Glantz said that Murdock was targeted for several reasons. One is that Epstein Becker & Green is a “union busting” firm. Glantz pointed out that the company’s website says: “For almost 30 years, Epstein Becker & Green has effectively represented employers in all facets of traditional labor law including...maintaining a union-free workplace....”  

Glantz claims that Murdock has been charged by the board with re-writing its bylaws and says he fears that the result will be that the board will be able to sell the stations with greater ease – among the reasons for the 1999 summer protests was the receipt (in error) by a local activist of an e-mail written by one of the board members who discussed the possible sale of WBAI and/or KPFA. 

Glantz further pointed out that the board has recently hired Murdock’s law firm to defend it against the various listener lawsuits which have been filed. “That’s kind of sleazy,” he said.  

“The same board members who locked out the journalists at KPFA are at it again at WBAI,” said Media Alliance Director Andrea Buffa in a written statement. “People who censor and ban journalists at their stations have no place running the only progressive radio network in the United States.” 

To make their point, Glantz and seven other activists showed up Tuesday morning at the Epstein Becker & Green law firms offices in San Francisco and refused to leave until Murdock resigned from the board. The group was arrested and released. 

They returned outside the offices Tuesday afternoon to join a picket of some 40 or 50 KPFA protesters. “It was an informational picket outside; it was not meant to be confrontational,” Glanz said. 

However, when the group moved to the ground floor of the building, which is a mall, the manager called police and Glanz and three others were arrested. After being held in the San Francisco jail until about 1 a.m., Glanz said charges against the four were dropped. The eight persons arrested Tuesday morning have a March court date. 

East Coast activists have staged similar protests at the law firm’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.  

And Tuesday evening, when a group of listeners tried to attend a Local Advisory Committee meeting at the New York station, the station manager – recently appointed by the Pacifica executive director after the firing of the former manager – refused to allow their entry into the station and eventually had nine of them arrested by the New York Police Department on trespassing charges. 

Daily Planet wire reports contributed to this story.