Is Olympia DSA dangerous to its members?

Recently I was expelled from Olympia DSA. It was a sucker punch from the Executive Committee followed by broadcasting the expulsion in an email, full of lies, to the entire membership list to maximize their immature cancelation. They were making an example of me to make everyone else in the organization be afraid. It was me this time, but this kind of authoritarianism (which is usually the purview of the far right) demands constant purges to maintain its fear based power. This time it was me, but I wasn’t the first, and next time it could be any of you. Which begs the question: is it safe to be a member of Olympia DSA considering the secretive cadre at the top are behaving like paranoid authoritarians that willfully disregard their own rules to attack anyone who may challenge their position?

This decision to do a public condemnation of Olympia DSA’s Executive Committee was not taken lightly. In fact, I reached out to the Executive Committee to conduct interviews, gather facts and offer opportunities for reconciliation. Not one of them replied or called. Instead I got an anonymous response telling me that I was to be ignored. Olympia DSA’s Executive Committee intentionally painted a target on my back with their lies and now they are desperately washing their hands to avoid being found guilty and facing consequences for their atrocious behavior.

Here is how this all began, a letter of expulsion out of the blue!

“Notification of Expulsion from Local Olympia DSA Chapter

Hello Bruce Wilkinson,

Please read this email in its entirety.
(which I will do now for everyone else to hear)

After a vote of the required ⅔ by the chapter’s executive committee on 3/19/2023 (remember the date) at their regularly scheduled executive committee meeting, a decision was made to expel you from the local Olympia chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. This decision to do a disciplinary expulsion was not taken lightly. (So they claim, although it isn’t apparent they weighed these actions seriously) Evidence was brought forward to the executive committee by a chapter member that you have been making anti-trans statements online for many months on social media (folder of evidence attached) and your personal blog. (Note that they don’t name the chapter member and also note that their accusation has no relation to DSA, as in they aren’t accusing me of doing such a thing, which is an accusation I reject, as part of any DSA function or on any DSA platform. And I’ll get into their folder of supposed evidence shortly.)

Per Article III. Sec. 2 of our chapter by-laws, the executive committee has the power to expel members “if they are found to be in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization.” The executive committee found this to be the case, as nationally DSA has made it clear that trans and queer liberation is a core value within DSA. (Here they accuse me of being against trans and queer liberation.Then they say…) Bigotry has no place in the socialist movement. (Here they accuse me of bigotry.)

Per the above chapter by-laws, you are given an opportunity to appeal this disciplinary expulsion decision to the local chapter general membership at the very beginning of the next general meeting. The next general meeting is on Monday, 3/27 at 7pm. (remember the date and time) You will be given one minute (ONE MINUTE to defend myself) to make a case at the General Meeting and present any additional evidence that was not considered by the Local Chapter Executive Committee. Then, you will be asked to leave the remainder of the meeting while the rest of the membership discusses the case and goes through the agenda. This general meeting will be hybrid, on both Zoom and at Mixx 96.1 (119 Washington St NE). If you would like to appeal this decision to the chapter membership, you must notify a member of the executive committee beforehand through a written request. A reply to this email will suffice. If you request an appeal to this decision and are not present when the meeting begins, then it will be assumed that you have accepted your expulsion from the local. A vote of two-thirds by the chapter membership present at the meeting shall be required to overturn your expulsion. You will be notified within 48 hours if the membership votes to overturn your expulsion. An expelled member in good standing may appeal to the National Political Committee of DSA.

To clarify, this disciplinary expulsion does not stop you from participating in DSA at a national level, but you are barred from participating in any local chapter communications, work, activities and events.

The Olympia DSA Executive Committee” (Note here that there is again no name attached.)

That is what I had the misfortune to discover during my break at work that Monday. The ExCom meeting where they supposedly voted ⅔ to expel me was on 3/19. This email was sent a week later, Sunday, 3/26, at 8:01PM. The next DSA general meeting, that they stated I was allowed to appeal, was 3/27 at 7PM. That means I received this notice of expulsion 23 hours before the meeting in which I was to be given, ONE MINUTE, to make an appeal. Afterwards, no questions allowed, I was to leave.

I want to clarify here, in case you all were wondering, this email notifying me of my expulsion was the first time I had heard of any of this whatsoever. I had no clue it was coming and it seems that they were hoping that I would not notice the email in time for the meeting so that I wouldn’t come and later they could deny my appeal. This can easily be described as a witch hunt and a Kangaroo Court. Where they went out of their way to target me and then went through the motions while breaking every sense of the word justice.

On my break at work, where I am a unionized public school bus driver, I emailed back for them to explain what was the meaning of this? I dug into the bylaws and pointed out very clearly that this was a violation of their own rules. I also found another bylaw that stated, “Section 2. Action Out of Order. Any action taken by an officer or member of the Local Chapter in contravention of these bylaws is null and void.” Despite pointing this out, they were committed to running roughshod over the democratically determined bylaws of the organization to pursue this vicious smear against me, a DSA member in good standing who is also a union member and long time grassroots organizer.

Our Olympia DSA local bylaws have a whole section on how to deal with disciplinary matters. Here in fact is our very first bylaw:

1) Assume good faith in your fellow comrades

Assume good faith in each other. Please try to speak from experience, speak for yourself, and actively listen to each other. When someone makes a point, repeat what you heard, summarize, and ask clarifying questions like “did you mean X” or “what makes you say that” to get more information. Encourage yourself and others to maintain a positive attitude, honor the work of others, avoid defensiveness, be open to legitimate critique and challenge oppressive behaviors in ways that help people grow. We want to “call each other in” rather than calling each other out — in other words, if you are challenging someone’s ideas or behavior, do it respectfully, and if you are being challenged, receive it respectfully. Remember, mistakes will be made, nobody is perfect.

It’s clear that they did not assume good faith, weren’t respectful and they definitely didn’t call me in. This was instead, very blatantly, what is known as cancel culture. Here is their 4th bylaw which they also very clearly violated.

4) Please recognize and respect others feelings, background, and cultural differences

Many people have different levels of experience, knowledge, and feelings in social justice and radical activism and all participants should respect and embrace this diversity. Many people from different backgrounds have different definitions of what it means to be an “activist” or “radical.” While we all don’t have to agree on everything, we should respect our diversity of opinions. Recognize that everyone has a piece of the truth, everybody can learn, and everybody has the ability to teach and share something. Don’t use language that’s clearly oppressive or hurtful. Please, refrain from using acronyms or complicated language that could exclude others.

I’m a big believer in the strength of diversity and complexity in our cultures and organizations. I enjoy hearing the well researched, nuanced, reasonable opinions of others and I try to have my own opinions be similarly well grounded and respectful. My long background in the struggle for a better, more just, diverse and complex world is rooted in, as Bobby Seale said, “All power to the people!” ExCom’s expelling me, plus their tar and feathering of me, to silence me, is breaking this principle.

This is the bylaw they specifically cited in the expulsion. 

Section 2. Member Discipline, Suspension, and Expulsion

Pursuant to Article III, Section 4 of the National DSA constitution, the Local Chapter Executive Committee shall have the power to suspend or expel members from the Local Chapter. In order for such a finding to be made, another DSA member must formally proffer written charges against the member in question to the Local Chapter Executive Committee. A two-thirds vote is required to suspend or expel a member. Prior to the meeting, officers of the Local Chapter Executive Committee will conduct interviews, gather facts and offer opportunities for reconciliation. In all cases, prior to discipline, the Local Chapter Executive Committee should consider and abide by the principles of privacy, accountability, and restorative justice. If the person being disciplined is on the Local Chapter Executive Committee, that person will recuse themselves from debates or votes on the matter. Members may be disciplined:

  • If they are found to be in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization; or
  • If they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior.

A member who has been suspended or expelled may appeal this decision to the Local Chapter General Membership by written request to any member of the Local Chapter Executive Committee. The member shall be entitled to explain themselves at the next General Meeting and present any additional evidence that was not considered by the Local Chapter Executive Committee. This does not entitle that member to be present for discussion or the remainder of the meeting. A vote of two-thirds shall be required to overturn the expulsion. An expelled member in good standing may appeal to the National Political Committee of DSA.

How many ways did they fail at following this bylaw? Well let’s take a look: 

  • They didn’t seem to show “formally proffered written charges.” They vaguely described something that sounds like an “informal proffer” without “written charges.” I may be splitting hairs but they said, “This decision to do a disciplinary expulsion was not taken lightly.”  Informal charges says otherwise.
  • Next it says that, “Prior to the meeting, officers of the Local Chapter Executive Committee will conduct interviews, gather facts and offer opportunities for reconciliation.” Well, I wasn’t interviewed, one would think that would be important. They didn’t seem to gather facts either. They said, “Evidence was brought forward to the executive committee,” not that they gathered facts. And there certainly were no offerings of opportunities for reconciliation. All of this was to be done prior to the ExCom meeting.
  • Next it says that, “In all cases, prior to discipline, the Local Chapter Executive Committee should consider and abide by the principles of privacy, accountability, and restorative justice.” Prior to discipline none of those were abided by. The only thing kept private was who slandered me, who voted to expel me and who wrote me the email informing me of the expulsion. It’s hard to abide by such principles in a witch hunt and kangaroo court.
  • Finally, I don’t believe that they showed that I am in “substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization” and I certainly don’t fall under the latter bullet point. I have some disagreements with DSA, as do all members. Whole caucuses and groups of DSA members form to push DSA towards taking their position on different issues. If DSA went around issue by issue checking people’s social media and blog writing for disagreements then that would be extraordinary.

The other part they shared was this:

Article II. Purpose

We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit, alienated labor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability status, age, religion, and national origin, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships. We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for building a majority movement that will make democratic socialism a reality in America. We believe that such a strategy must acknowledge the class structure of American society and that this class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population.

Why would I have been a dues paying member in good standing in DSA since 2020 if I didn’t agree to the purpose? I’ve been involved in many similar groups over the decades. I’ve written vision statements as part of groups that have sounded pretty similar to this as well. Everything within this generalized DSA purpose statement I support, but ExCom’s judgment declared otherwise without even asking me. They are saying that I don’t “reject… discrimination based on… sex, sexual orientation, gender expression… and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.”

A purpose, like a vision, is an intentionally vague statement made to inspire folks to work towards the betterment of our society. Within a purpose is a whole lot of debates on what everything means and what is the best way forward. I have fair and nuanced opinions on these issues that are in no way discriminatory and of course reject brutality and violence. My opinions are well within the construct of the purpose we all share in DSA. None of us share the exact same opinions on anything when you drill down deep enough, but generally our opinions all rhyme with everyone else in DSA. Having strong general principles is important but there has to be room for constructive debate within those parameters. That’s how a mass movement is built.

A mass movement isn’t built by coercive bullying of people, who already agree in broad terms, to a slippery slope of demanding full agreement on myopic positions or be expelled. The “evidence” folder is 20 screenshots of my personal facebook page, all public posts, and two screenshots of the bylaws that I shared above. The only other thing is a link to my personal blog article, which they don’t show any examination of whatsoever. There is nothing else. No complaint letter, no debate minutes, no questions answered, no interviews, no nothing. They don’t even bother explaining how the evidence shows what they declared me guilty of and there is a reason for that. When you look at their supposed evidence, they don’t have a case!

This is the screenshot marked April 1st 2022, it’s a good article. Obviously they didn’t read it because only the screenshot of my post was taken. Here is a selection from the article. “So, is my bright, quirky daughter Trans? I would say she’s doing the best she can to get through this painful, confusing experience in a “brave new world” and, in many ways, being Trans has been a logical adaptation to today’s adolescent challenges. It is well established that adolescence is a time during which identities are explored and discarded. I’m grateful for my background in education and child development, and for the good sense to not exempt Trans from these fluid identities. Yes, I think I can give my girl that. I can see her as Trans. And I can be proud of her for using her sharp wits to navigate today’s adolescence. Now if I can just get her through to a more developed sense of self and a more mature pre-frontal cortex before the markets claim her healthy body as another sacrifice to the New Gods of Gender and Capitalism, I’ll be forever grateful. “

This is the next screenshot marked April 10th 2022. Another explicitly not transphobic post showing clear leftist values! It was a great article which people should read. “In the end, it wasn’t one person who pointed out that gender extremism wears no clothes. There were so many: therapists, academics, parents, authors, athletes, politicians, barristers, journalists, scientists, feminists, gay activists, all shouting over the years that this ideology would hurt women, children, gay people and trans people. And this was the week the spell began to break.”

The next screenshot is a link to a Washington Post article, with no introduction from me at all. “What I wish I’d known when I was 19 and had sex reassignment surgery.” Which is a great article worth reading from someone who is currently a transwoman. I kid you not. This was an example of evidence of me being anti-trans and in “substantial disagreement” with DSA? A Washington Post article written by a transwoman that I shared? The ExCom at Oly DSA is sounding more like ignorant book burners than socialists.

I could go through the rest of the slides, all 17 more, but there is no example within them that shows me being anti-trans, transphobic or bigoted. Some screen shots of “evidence” show someone leaving a comment accusing me of being transphobic or anti trans, but that isn’t evidence of being transphobic. Accusing someone of being transphobic doesn’t make them transphobic in the same way that me accusing DSA’s Executive Committee of being cowardly spineless authoritarians doesn’t make it so. It might convince people but just saying it isn’t actual evidence.

Plus I left those comments up on my post. I knew that talking about this topic can lead to powerful emotions and I wanted them to feel heard. I usually responded to these sort of comments with understanding. I’m not just allowing the people who disagree with my perspective to speak, I’m encouraging their participation in a meaningful dialogue. This is how good opinions should be formed. Good decisions aren’t made by spineless cowardly authoritarians, hiding anonymously, silencing debate, targeting members in good standing. I’ve got a whole lot more proof of that last sentence being true than any of them would ever find in a million years of the lies and garbage they attacked me with.

Are they hiding literal arsonists?

This is the first of many articles I’ll be writing on this as part of my public organizing campaign to make sure that the Olympia DSA ExCom isn’t a danger to any more of its members or the community. There are indications that this witch hunt and kangaroo court is part of a concerted effort by a small group outside of DSA but who were able to get the ExCom to go along with their coercive efforts. I have been horrified to find out that not one member of the ExCom will answer any questions about this. If these authoritarians get away with attacking, then get away with ignoring demands for justice, what will stop them from attacking again someone else?

My strong suspicion is that the ExCom was manipulated by an outsider group of people who are encouraging violent and criminal actions towards me. I’m still investigating, but what I do know is that I’ve been targeted by a largely anonymous, informal, violent, affinity group. I wrote an article detailing the past on this already. The questions for ExCom that need to be answered are as follows:

  • Who, if anyone, within the Executive Committee of DSA, is connected to the transwoman arsonist or the manipulators behind them, who burned my dump truck to the ground on October 17th, where it was parked behind the Track House? (Side note: the Track House, months later, burned down on March 18th, mysteriously. Any DSA ExCom connections to that space?)
  • What about the slashing of two tires of my daily driver on November 11th that is related to these sort of accusations made by DSA spread by the clandestine affinity group that targets me?
  • Or the anonymous article that vehemently attacked me on November 13th in Puget Sound Anarchists? Who in DSA is connected with that and with their targeting of me? Does DSA support arsonists the way that Puget Sound Anarchists does?
  • How does the ExCom explain that the “evidence” is in a folder dated 12/21/22? Or that one of the pics dates to November 20th? Has the investigation been going on for 4 months? Is it simply the next step in the targeting of me over this?
  • I asked ExCom who started the investigation which apparently began in November but the ExCom only voted on March 19th. I’ve gotten no response. For my legitimate safety, I need to know. Who? When? Why? Was all of ExCom a part of the witch hunt since the beginning? Is that why everyone in ExCom are maintaining total silence on these attacks against a DSA member? Or are people simply afraid of others in ExCom and are facing a coercive silencing under implied threat?
  • Why would an anonymous person, that I don’t know in DSA, decide to start an investigation of me unless they were coerced by others? Let me emphasize, I don’t know ExCom members well if I’ve talked to them at all. Whatever this is about, it is led by their coerced perceptions of me, not their experience.

These are serious questions because I’ve already been victim of harassment, threats, vandalism and arson. An anonymous ExCom official has refused to answer the questions and then demanded my silence. This points towards whoever led this witch hunt being in touch or working on behalf of this criminal affinity group. ExCom has shown complete negligence and unaccountability. What’s now needed is for the membership to form a special investigative committee of ExCom on this matter. This special investigative committee needs to question whether those responsible were seeking my expulsion on behalf of people who aren’t even members of our organization. They can’t stop until those responsible share a full documented accounting of where this stems from. That means all emails, all text messages, signal chats, the names of others involved, all dates and a complete narrative that explains why this happened.

If you’re a member of DSA and you read this and agree with me you need to do something. You can message me, like others already have privately to share support. You can help me, even better. You can better inform yourself and ask me any clarifying questions. Then you can speak up and do something. If you do nothing then you’re complicit. As Howard Zinn said, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train!”

Below are all the links I could find on my Facebook sharing my positions on the relevant topics of this inquiry in case others were curious. It’s in no particular order, although I’ll lead with a fun video of me in a flash mob of Target 12 years ago in protest of the corporation giving money to the campaigns of anti-gay legislators that got millions of views and a quarter million people boycotting them. A campaign we won. What’s that ExCom? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you with your foot in your mouth when you say I am against “queer liberation.”

My next series of articles will be naming names and presenting evidence, or better, it’ll be announcing that Olympia DSA showed maturity and we solved their egregious offense against me. Obviously I can only write about what actually happens.–20220308-0011.html

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