Pacifica Board Ousts KPFA Staff; Hammers Down on Protesters
1999-07-14 00:51:27

Jabber Streams
-- rotten elf


In an update to our earlier piece detailing the savagery which has ensued since the Pacifica National Board has tried to force unwelcome and restrictive new management and policies on its San Francisco-area flagship station, KPFA, Pigdog has learned that KPFA's entire staff was ejected from the radio station's building tonight, and riot police were called in to forcibly disperse a crowd estimated at approximately 500 protestors gathered in support of the troubled franchise.

And, as if the current shenanigans weren't enough bad news for KPFA, uncomfirmed word is filtering in regarding a possible sale of KPFA and/or sister station WBAI in order to create an "endowment" for Pacifica's national operation, which would almost certainly mean re-programming, total staff turnover and a complete format change for a non-Pacifica KPFA, or in other words, the end of the station as its listeners have come to know it.

In response to the possibility of such a sale, a group of concerned community members is poised to file a lawsuit challenging Pacifica's right to disgorge KPFA's management, which it has already done, and ask for a reversal of recent management changes.

The forced changes in KPFA's management is the lightning rod which attracted the recent controversy leading up to tonight's demonstrations. A chronology of events can be found at the Save Pacifica site, which, along with Free Pacifica, is providing breaking information on the brooding radio storm.

As for tonight's confrontation, a post on Usenet described the forcible removal of KPFA's "Flashpoints" host Dennis Bernstein and news anchor Mark Mericle, while yet another post, from ultimajock@eudoramail.com, detailed the chaotic scene:

At a few minutes after 6 pm Pacific time this evening, the KPFA Berkeley
evening news was interrupted by the sounds of Dennis Bernstein resisting
being expelled from the broadcasting studio by the armed guards recently
hired by the Pacifica National Board. The confrontatiuon was also
broadcast on KFCF Fresno, which directly sattelites KPFA programming.

Bernstein had been in the course of delivering a report on the current
dispute between KPFA staff and Pacifica, including a statement by
imprisoned commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal and a recording of the press
conference held this afternoon at which representatives of the steering
committee of the Coalition for a democratic Pacifica told the press about
an e-mail message from Micheal Palmer to Mary Frances Berry, both Pacifica
board members, discussing the possible closing of KPFA and the sale of
WBAI New York. FreePacifica lawyer Dan Siegel was also heard speaking
about a planned law suit by KPFA listeners opposed to Pacifica's recent
policies and the legal implications of what Palmer's message proposed.

At this point, while microphones were open, Bernstein was apprehended and,
according to KPFA newscaster Mark Mericle, "dragged from the studio" by
the guards. Bernstein was heard over the air shouting that the guards
would "have to shoot me then to get me out of the building." After a few
seconds' silence, an audibly shaken Mericle continued the broadcast,
explaining that Bernstein had been "placed on administrative leave" and
that KPFT Houston station manager Garland Gatner had been brought to the
Bay Area to take over operations at KPFA. As Mericle then attempted to
continue Bernstein's interrupted report, the KPFA signal went silent;
after a few minutes, a taped lecture by Eric Mann was broadcast.

Although later reports suggested that Bernstein, Mericle and other KPFA staffers had been arrested during the "siege" (charges unknown,) conflicting reports have emerged which suggest Bernstein and others thought to have been ejected had managed to work their way back into the station's building, where they remained as of the time of this report ensconsed inside the studio with as many as 20 protesters, and where they reportedly plan to remain until forcibly removed by the Berkeley Police Department.

Clearly, the strange saga of KPFA has not yet reached its final chapter, and Pigdog will stay on the story as further details emerge.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.


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