Tag Archive | Occupy

Fame or Flame

“No one likes a show-off”, as they say. Or in New Zealand, we’d say “No one likes a skite.”

When I first arrived in Berlin and began to meet the activist crowd, I’d say “Hi, I’m Suzie from New Zealand” and people’s eyes would not reflect any recognition.

“You might know me as @endarken online…” I’d then say, and often their eyes would light up – many of them knew of my online handle.

This is because for more than 3 years I had stuck to that moniker on Twitter, avoiding ever posting photos of myself or tying myself to my “real person” identity. Few people even realised I was female, let alone knew my real name.

My critics would frequently deride me for being ‘anonymous’ and tell me I was hiding behind an icon, a fake persona. My supporters knew I was just trying to protect myself and others, and my media team knew it was out of respect for them, and for the founding understanding (in New Zealand Maori – the kaupapa) of our occupation.

In 2011, I was repeatedly asked to accept interviews, or speak for the occupation. I constantly deferred to our media team co-ordinator, as we had all agreed upon, and he would then delegate speaking opportunities amongst the team. When he would urge me to be interviewed, I would also decline. It was important to me to respect the horizontal nature of the movement and I did not want to be seen to be taking on any form of leadership role, or to be promoting myself as an individual.

When a newspaper picked up a piece I’d written on Facebook and wanted me to write a version for them, I said no. When a local radio station wanted to interview me, I said no. When one of my friends did a series of video interviews to commemorate the founding of our 4th physical occupation, Occupy Albert Park, and wanted to interview me, I said no. I had zero desire to appear on camera (as it turns out I adore that particular video, which features three of my fellow media team members speaking from their hearts about the occupation, and I periodically view it just for the pleasure and enjoyment of reminiscing about that day, which was a very special day for all involved.)

A good friend and fellow Occupier lectured me repeatedly about my refusal to speak up outside of the sanctuary of the occupation. “People need to hear what you have to say. We need your voice!” he told me. I demurred, repeatedly. I had zero interest in joining the lists of speakers at actions and events. Zero political aspirations whatsoever. No desire to see myself on camera or hear the sound of my own voice.

Occupy was never a career opportunity for me. I was there only because I wanted to give, to share, to amplify the voices of others and to protect them. But my compulsion for telling the truth about what was happening to us and to others around the world, kept me vocal online, as an “anonymous” voice.

In 2012, in what I was yet to realise was the lead-up to the evictions, I relented and agreed to be interviewed by Kiwi truther Vinny Eastwood.

At the end of the segment, I was quietly mortified when he said:

Host: “By the way, we have just received word from [person] who runs this monthly broadcast on UnitedWeStrike.com that goes out internationally, that they’d like you to be popping in on a monthly basis just to give a quick little report and updates as you’ve done here if you’re willing.

Me: “Oh, excellent, thank you. Someone from the media team certainly will. We run a non-hierarchical structure and we rotate through the positions. But there are plenty of awesome people that have awesome things to say on our media team, and definitely one of us would love to speak to you when you are able.”

I was pleased at having successfully avoided any commitment to personally undertake future interviews. But a week after it took place, private security and police would physically dismantle our occupations, arrest nearly our entire media team (and dozens of other protesters), and begin to dramatically accelerate our persecution.

Enraged at seeing what was happening to selfless, conscientious people whose hearts were in the right place, and with the backing of our media team co-ordinator, I agreed to do my second ever interview, on the same show, some ten weeks later.

The host wanted a picture of me to use in the video. I insisted he use an image of thousands of protesters filling a motorway overpass on their way to the November 2011 Port of Oakland shutdown/General Strike.

We discussed the persecution of Occupy at length, and other related issues. Towards the end of the video, we had the following exchange.

Host: “We all self-censor a little bit. So if you think there’s anything that’s a little bit risqué, or that you try to steer clear of or anything of that nature, because of its very scary implications or because of what people might think of you if you said it, this is the place to say it.”

Me: “To be honest, I’m not scared. I just tell the truth. And that for me has been my mantra right through Occupy because I just say what I saw and what I know to be true and if people don’t like that, I can’t really do anything about their reactions, but I do feel that it is really important that there is a testament to the truth that remains on record because the MSM version of the truth is inherently flawed…”

On July 14th, 2012, the same filmmaker behind the Occupy Albert Park video, who had been repeatedly asking to interview me, literally ambushed me on live video at an “Aotearoa Is Not For Sale” anti-asset sales protest. Hair in a bun with zero makeup, I was not even vaguely expecting to find myself put on the spot like that. But I cared deeply about the issues and when he asked me what I wanted to see happen as a result of the march, I gave my two cents.

Me: “I want people to feel empowered. I want people to not feel scared to talk out, to speak out about these issues. I want, really, Aotearoa to know that they can’t sell us what we already own. We already own these assets so I don’t believe the line that it will be sold to New Zealanders – we already own it.”

Interviewer: “So are we heading up to the Town Hall, is it, then we’re going to have an event there?”

Me: “Yeah. Well Aotea Square is pretty much shut down – the Council has paid another $18,000 of ratepayers money to fence it off from us. If the public don’t have access to public space then that just leaves us the streets. I think you’re going to see a lot of people on the streets this afternoon!

Interviewer: “The beautiful thing is, is also that this is synchronistic around the whole nation.”

Me: “And around the whole world. 380 cities protested, it’s huge, May Day, #M12, #M15 in Europe – they’re just massive. Austerity doesn’t really exist, it’s something that is just imposed upon us by people – politicians – who don’t want to make the effort to find real alternatives and in many cases, who have a vested interest in pursuing the policies of privatisation and colonisation of New Zealand and more and more now we’re going to see public assets and public infrastructure being passed into corporate hands. It’s already happened with our Council, that’s probably why our Council has reacted the way they have. They’ve already partially-privatised many of their assets. That’s why they’re now pushing that onto the rest of our country. We don’t want to see that. We want to keep our education, we want to keep our infrastructure, we want to keep our public assets.”

It was the last interview I would agree to do for more than another two years. It is fitting that in the wake of my words, New Zealand music artist King Kapisi is shown singing “Stand on your own two feet – stand, don’t be afraid to speak. Stand for what you believe…”

In the meantime, I was authoring hundreds of blogposts without ever putting my name in the by-line, and supporting the actions and events of a slew of movements; Aotearoa Is Not For Sale, Idle No More, anti-rape actions, anti-GCSB actions, It’s Our Future NZ (against the TPPA), Internet Party events, Greenpeace events, the list goes on and on. Whoever was taking action for humanitarian reasons, we supported unconditionally. I had also accidentally become an interviewer myself… both in print, with our first ever web series “Women Warriors of the Global Revolution” for Occupy Savvy, and in video – sheerly because I was increasingly finding I had access and serendipitous opportunities to ask questions of amazing people and felt obliged not to squander those opportunities, but still kept myself out of the frame in a semi-cinéma vérité style, and credited everything to our media team.

This had an upside and a downside. The upside was that I felt I was staying true to the original commitments made by our media team, even though the occupations themselves were long gone and the working groups dissolved (with the exception of ours, which in an incredible display of extra-human commitment and loyalty stayed together to this day, regardless of whatever was thrown at us. The more we were attacked, the more staunch, determined and closer we became.)

The downside was that while it wasn’t apparent to our friends and supporters exactly what I was doing or involved in, our lack of encrypted communications and the pervasive surveillance of us meant that the government and security agencies knew full well the gravity and significance of my involvement, my level of productivity and what I was responsible for.

This led to ever-increasing pressure being applied to me by them, and intrusions inflicted upon every single area of my life imaginable. They were out to get me with a vengeance, and my lack of visibility as a “real person” began to protect them, and endanger me.

This accelerated as I began to campaign directly against the state intelligence agencies later on in 2012 & 2013, and as I was imploring major media and political personalities behind the scenes to build and co-ordinate a national movement against them.

In the wake of the June 2013 Snowden revelations, my unconditional support of him and constant circulation of related information and advocacy for whistle-blowers, exacerbated that.

Likewise with the Kim Dotcom situation. I don’t need to go into the ways in which I supported the formation of the Internet Party and its various members here, but the state is well aware of every single thing I did, as in my ignorance of ‘opsec‘ none of those communications were protected.

By 2014, in the months leading up to the ‘Moment of Truth‘ Snowden/Greenwald/Dotcom/Assange event, as Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics‘ revelations were shocking the nation, and as I and other media team members were throwing our efforts into developing #NZ4Gaza in protest of Israel’s war on Gaza, the constant state sabotage of, intrusions upon and wanton destruction of every aspect of my being, snowballed into several direct and undeniable attempts upon my life.

Particularly in the week leading up to the MoT event, it got so bad that I honestly didn’t expect I would live through it. The attacks on me were physical, 24/7 and relentless and it seemed clear that I was toast – it was just a matter of time before I would be taken out of the equation.

I was told outright by more seasoned activists than me that if I didn’t make myself more visible, I was as good as dead. So the day before the event I went on Aussie radio with an old friend, who interviewed me about it.

The mainstream media did a humongous snow-job on the Moment of Truth event, which culminated in a tumultuous press conference where I filmed Kim Dotcom rightly telling the media (politely) where to shove it, and then scored another interview with legendary Kiwi politician and then-Internet Party Leader Laila Harré.

No one’s fool, she understood exactly what our significance had been and stated so eloquently, when for the first time ever, I asked a question about the role of citizen media in what had been going on in New Zealand.

Me: “What could you tell me about the role of citizen media in exposing the GCSB [NZ equivalent of the CIA] activities over the last few years?”

Laila: “Well, without citizen media, and without the humble investigative reporting of citizen journalists and supportive academics and senior journalists around the world, we would not even begin to understand what it is that’s being presented to us today by Glenn Greenwald. What you people do is provide the base of understanding that then allows this level of information to penetrate and be shared.”

Less than two months later, I was sitting having lunch with another media team member with whom I had co-created #TPPANoWay, and with Dr. Jane Kelsey, the University of Auckland Law professor who spearheads the movement against the TPPA in New Zealand, explaining to her that our hashtag had just trended number 2 worldwide at the most recent action and discussing the ramifications.

We were jubilant, and I told Dr. Kelsey how throwing ourselves into circulating the information online was our way of both circumventing and getting back at the mainstream media who frequently blacked out or subverted activism messages.

Jane intimated that the agencies who oppose us would be looking to find a way of dealing to that. She was right. The death threats had been coming in thick and fast in the wake of the re-election of the sitting pro-US government. My social media platform logins were being piggy-backed by accounts featuring serial killers for profile pictures, sending me sickening messages and images suggesting my impending demise.

They would alternately suggest I should flee the country, and then send me photos and videos of plane crashes in an attempt to further terrify me.

On the night they had won re-election, I unmasked myself online. It was raining, and rather than sit at home and feel sorry for myself, I’d been walking around the central city, filming video interviews with homeless people to see how they felt about the election. I got a menacing Twitter message from a fake account that said “just you wait until tomorrow. Then the real fun will begin.” In defiance, and inspired by a friend, I took a photo of myself, and for the first time ever, posted it to my Twitter. It was September 20, 2014. Three years after I started tweeting.

At that time, I was being tailed and harassed 24/7. My house was being constantly broken into… the perpetrators would leave unpleasant little surprises around my home to ensure I knew they had visited. Some kind of LRAD-style aural weapon that made me feel like my eardrums were bursting was being used against me in the late nights as I would attempt to work in my lounge.

It became impossible to live with. Other more high-profile international activists who had experienced the same things told me to sell up, pack my bags and move to Berlin, where there was more support for people like me.

When I would try to explain what was happening to regular people, their reaction was “but why would they be doing that to you?” It became abundantly clear that my commitment to anonymity had been aiding my persecutors, and hurting me. So I built the website Suzi3d.com, and started the Twitter account @Suzi3d. I started to by-line my articles, using my real name. Up to that point my by-lines had all been assigned as either Occupy NZ, Occupy Auckland or endarken.

My media team members supported me outing myself unconditionally. While I wasn’t comfortable with it at first, and in some ways still am not, I understand why it was a necessity.

I have also begun to accept that what I have to say is an important contribution to the debate. Arriving in Berlin, I felt a genuine responsibility to warn everyone what was happening to dissidents in New Zealand. I became hyper-aware of the fact that while I had ostensibly got out in one piece, others were still back there facing all the same problems, being subjected to the same criminal behaviour by agents of their own government, and of the Five Eyes at large.

To someone who doesn’t know me, and doesn’t know better, my portfolio and solidarity pages on Suzi3d.com appear to contain exhaustive lists of me taking credit for magnanimous things. To them, the sheer quantity is overwhelming and therefore they assume it must be fantasy. But in reality, it isn’t the half of it. Those who know me and have worked with me behind the scenes know my true significance, and how much I have done that I still take no credit for.

A particularly toxic pastebin was brought to my attention recently, that a) accuses me of being a fantasist, based on what work I have alluded to on my website; b) quotes slander about me by a relentless persecutor of our media team, who has a 20-year history of fracturing and subverting New Zealand activist groups and attacking and endangering key protesters; c) claims that I have questions to answer about my “sources of income” and how I’ve financed my activism; d) attempts to smear me by association because someone who hasn’t been in my life for years was once in the army reserves five years before I ever met them and e) claims it is suspicious that I have ‘computer skills’, despite the fact that nearly the entire millennial generation does too.

I can find no trace of the pastebin having been circulated on social media or on the web. Yet it has 100 hits. Which suggests that it has been supplied to individuals privately, on a targeted basis, in order to damage specific relationships.

While asserting that I have “questions to answer”, the unnamed author has never directed me to the pastebin, nor even alluded to its existence at all. Which suggests that they knew I could easily debunk it, but that it could have impact with others more removed from my personal situation.

My response when shown the pastebin was “pffft.” While in the beginning of my activism I would have been shocked and mortified that lies were being circulated about me, after so many years of being targeted, such attempts to smear me hold little weight now, and bother me less than ever.

But I am a truth-teller, and have staked my life in order to do so. And the truth is, in 2013-2014 while campaigning against the GCSB, the TPPA, Israel and other facets of the military-industrial complex, I was working a day job as a Software Development Manager, eventually earning up to NZD$120 per hour building print portals for New Zealand universities.

As it became clear to me that there was likely political interference in my career by the very same players exposed in Nicky Hager’s “Dirty Politics“, I turned down an offer to extend my employment contract, resigning against the wishes of my employer when my contract expired and walking away from a massive paycheck to become an unemployed full-time writer. I then sold my house and everything I owned, and moved to Berlin.

In the 15 months since, we have had to live off those funds as I have continued to write, speak out and advocate for multiple movements and issues, unpaid. My net worth has plunged to nearly zero and I have absolutely no regrets. Despite the stress, danger and degradation, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

I may not have money or assets or safety or an untarnished reputation, but I am at peace with my own conscience and decisions.

I have never earned a single dollar for any of the activism work I have done. Since quitting I.T., my only source of income, if it can even be called that considering how paltry it is, has been child support payments. The last payment I received was NZD$5.45c. I have never even heard of someone receiving such a pathetic amount of child support as I do, but it is not even worth my time to pursue as the government agencies and banks are so obstructive towards me that there is clearly an agenda by them to limit my access to resources and income in every way possible.

This is not a new phenomenon – over the last two years, my cash cards have been repeatedly frozen without notice, my internet banking access revoked for months on end, and all manner of other injustices inflicted upon me. At one point my bank tried to close my cash-positive accounts entirely with the bizarre excuse that I wouldn’t be able to secure debt services. Debt services that I had neither requested or needed. When I involved lawyers and pushed back, they backed down, as they later did with the revocation of my internet banking, and they even had to refund me ATM fees that had resulted from their undue restrictions on my accounts, but the message was clear. I was on their shit-list and they were going to make life as hard for me as possible.

When I tried to move money from New Zealand to Europe to pay my landlord in Berlin, the transiting authority, the American bank Citibank, froze the funds and refused to complete the transfer, holding the money for two weeks then shipping it back to New Zealand.

When I tried to transfer funds between European banks, an anomalous “administrative error” resulted in those funds also being frozen, leaving me without access to finances.

The role of police agencies in working with the banks behind the scenes was outed by David Fisher in the New Zealand Herald. It turns out that police made thousands of warrant-less requests for information from banks, utilities and other services, without any legal basis, and without any push-back from those institutions. Under the same ‘Fraud and Money-laundering” anti-terrorism legislation that is being used to persecute Kim Dotcom (and likely anyone within two degrees of separation from him is also a target) the accounts of persons of interest are handled in a completely different way to those of the general public. The banks have their own corresponding ‘Fraud and Money-laundering teams’ responsible for administrating those accounts, who according to their own assertions to me, run Palantir risk-management software and liaise with the police teams.

At no point in the last four years has it ever been admitted to me that I am under any type of investigation. Yet having had my house first broken into in December 2011, experiencing years worth of harassment and attacks since, including being directly targeted by the FBI-informant ‘Sabu’ in 2013, and the attempts on my life in 2014, it would be extremely naive of me to think that I have not been caught up in the net of myriad investigations – whether it be the sealed indictment into WikiLeaks in some way, shape or form (I have been a WikiLeaks supporter since 2010), the investigation into Snowden, the investigation into Kim Dotcom by the FBI (which would go some way to explaining why I was targeted by Sabu), the investigation into Kiwi journalist Nicky Hager, and/or other investigations into the activist group Occupy or Anonymous, or my involvement in the movement against the TPPA, which has just been deemed a ‘threat to national security’ by the New Zealand government.

So why the hell did I do it?

This is the question asked me by an NGO employee not two weeks ago. “You have children!” she said. “Why did you do it?

Her question sparked a flame in my very soul. I answered vehemently “because I am just one person. They can kill me, and I am just one life. But the issues I have been working on effect everyone. There are 4.5 million people in my country, and the GCSB spying on New Zealanders affected them all. How can I weigh the importance of my one life against the importance of everyone in my country? I cannot. The issues are far more important than me.” I also told her that my children would not have been able to escape the ramifications regardless. They would grow up in a country whose sovereignty had been forfeited to the United States with less resistance, whose resources were mercilessly plundered and whose citizenry was subjugated by the surveillance systems of the Five Eyes.

I remember, and will never forget, the first of thousands of tweets I sent and amplified on the hashtag #GCSB. Yes, I did momentarily hesitate before making a conscious decision. Me, or everyone? And I chose everyone. That was precisely the decision I made. Do I act to try to preserve myself? Or do I act to try to preserve my country?

I chose the latter. And I know that if I don’t survive this, others have been and will be inspired by the choice that I, and countless other people around the world, have made and make every day, and speak and act in my stead.

Every day I have, I am conscious that I am a dead woman walking. Because it is only by chance that they weren’t able to kill me in 2014. It is only by chance that I am alive to write this now. To that end, I have and will continue to commit my life to shining light on injustice, no matter what they do to me. Every day for me is borrowed time, and I am determined to make full use of it.

I remember every ‘Thank You’

This entire post has come about because an amazing person who I have a great deal of respect for, simply said “Thank you, Suzie” to me. It made me remember each and every time someone had said thank you to me, and why.

Family friends who sent me private messages, gushing over how my posts had inspired them. Movement organisers, who did the on-the-ground work and saw the benefit of our online efforts, who took the time to make contact and personally thank us for what we were doing and had done. In some cases, thanking us on behalf of people who had bombs dropping on their heads, whose babies were being killed, whose countries were being devastated. People who had no voice other than the voices others raised in empathy, in solidarity.

Followers and supporters online, who have sent me wonderful messages sharing how they’d been inspired to speak up in unison with us.

Their acknowledgments mean the world to me. I remember every thank you. Those simple words mean more than any payment. That is the real profit of our efforts.

And to them I say back now – thank you. Thank you for caring, thank you for following, thank you for sharing, thank you for supporting, thank you for acknowledging, thank you for reaching out, thank you for your love and your authenticity and your integrity. We are all we really have and that is as it should be.

In respect of you all, I will continue to speak out. I will step into the role I was so uncomfortable in and that I resisted for so long. I will be seen, I will be vocal, and I will remain committed to truth and social justice.

I hope you will continue to support me in this journey. I have your backs, all of you, and I appreciate every one of you that has mine.

Love,

Suzie


Written by Suzie Dawson

Twitter: @Suzi3D

Official Website: Suzi3d.com

Journalists who write truth pay a high price to do so. If you respect and value this work, please consider supporting Suzie’s efforts via credit card or Bitcoin donation at this link. Thank you!