MDP Leadership Struggles to Address Assaults on Members



By
Michigan Progressive Staff
24 October 17
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A group of concerned Michigan Democratic Party members released the following statement to the press earlier this evening.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MI DEM LEADERS STRUGGLE TO ADDRESS ASSAULTS ON MEMBERS

On 10 October 2017 the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Rules Committee held a meeting at the MDP offices in Lansing. During the meeting, one member engaged in what any organization with a written code of conduct officially considers unacceptable behavior. Witness statements and all other documents are linked at the bottom.

In summary, a powerful man in the organization, a long-time member with a great deal of influence in the Democratic Party, got angry. He started screaming at a young woman, another Committee member. He got up from his seat, moved to where she was sitting and stood over her, no barrier between them to mitigate the force of his presence in her space, inches from her body, and continued screaming at her, thrusting his finger aggressively at her face. Calling her a “liar” and accusing her of “slander” and “libel”.

He was explicit about the specific reason for his anger. He brought with him multiple copies of a screenshot of a facebook post. The young woman had pointed out he has a lot of influence in the Democratic Party.

He didn’t like the way she said it.

In a meeting open to all MDP members, with many members in attendance, he felt this was an acceptable way to behave towards another MDP member, a State Central Committee member, a Rules Committee member; a young woman with whom he disagrees.

There were several members of MDP leadership present. No one intervened. When the offending person calmed down, he was praised by some members of the committee for his attack on the young woman.

These kinds of incidents are far too common in the Michigan Democratic Party. There is a Congressional District Chairman under investigation for physically assaulting a woman, a Party member. This past December, the leader of a large and influential caucus physically assaulted an activist for interrupting a meeting. In an early meeting of the Rules Committee, we heard reports – including from eyewitness – of other incidents of intimidation in the Party.

The MDP has no written procedure for handling such incidents. This is unacceptable.

In regard to the 10 October incident, concerned MDP members have taken the following steps:

  1. A person not a witness collected independent witness statements from five witnesses.
  2. A letter describing the incident and asking the MDP to take swift action was drafted, and submitted to MDP Chairman Dillon on 16 October 2017.
  3. The witness statements were included.
  4. The letter informed Chairman Dillon that we would release a statement on 23 October 2017, and such statement would reflect the MDP’s response as of that date.
  5. We offered the MDP the opportunity to provide a statement to be included adjacent to this one. Chairman Dillon declined.

In our initial letter, we made six demands.

  1. Issue an official response on behalf of the MDP and MDP leadership condemning the [long-time party member]’s behavior.
  2. Publicly sanction [long-time party member] for his abhorrent behavior, to include up to removal from committees which he currently participates in.
  3. Counsel your leadership team that was present on how they are expected to deal with situations such as this to include intervening and formal reporting.
  4. Provide your leadership team with de-escalation training to deal with situations where verbal or physical violence occurs.
  5. Issue a public statement acknowledging the matter and include what specific steps are being taken to prevent the behavior from occurring again.
  6. Immediately move to amend the rules to include a process of expedited sanctions of members who get physical against other members.

Officially, the MDP has said only that they have received the information and “will be reviewing it with MDP leadership”. Chairman Dillon has said he will “take this very seriously”.

Informally, it has been communicated to us that if we insist on pursuing this matter, we will be attacked, in the media and “legally”. Informally, we’ve been advised that if we pursue this we will be starting a “war”. Informally, we have been advised that of course this won’t come from the Party, but from other sources.

This response falls far short of our expectations from an organization that claims to defend the vulnerable. Nonetheless, it is our hope that a fair process can be created and followed to address the issues raised by this incident and the pattern of which it is just one example.

As an example of what other organizations have in place, we’ve included the AFL-CIO’s code of conduct, with highlights relevant to the 10 October MDP Rules Committee incident.

 

Relevant documents are linked below.

16 October Letter and Witness Statements

18 October Letter

AFL-CIO Code of Conduct

 

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