The Million Dollar Question: What Happened to the $10K Donation from OWS?

by The North Star on February 16, 2012

Note: This report was originally sent on Thursday, February 2, 2012.

On January 4, 2012 the NYC GA reached consensus on a $10,000 proposal written by myself (Tobias) and Ibraheem within the Town Planning Working Group. This proposal was created to help make our encampment more sustainable. Having 8 years experience as an editor and publisher (nHouse Publishing, LLC), writing has become one of my strengths. So my involvement with writing the proposal consisted of answering all of the questions with the exception of WHAT IS THE BUDGET? Detailed description of costs. A lot of the language used came from our Declaration and an article that I had written titled “Why Do We Occupy?”

I realized that $10,000 was way more than what we needed and suggested that we (Town Planning) revise our budget with the other working groups in mind and take a more realistic look at our encampment needs. This initiated a series of meetings with the attempts of encouraging various working groups (Town Planning, Media, Comfort, Kitchen) to create realistic budgets to be submitted to Town Planning so that we could create one report to be presented at our GA. The revised budget would determine how the $10,000 would be disbursed. However, this attempt of collaboration and cooperation would become an ongoing struggle.

I would even send out emails that read: There will be a Town Planning Working Group meeting Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 6pm. We will meet at Military Park then head over to Essex County College. The purpose of this meeting is to carefully review the budget presented to OWS, discuss issues of sustainability at the encampment such as intake/comfort, security, kitchen (food), transportation, sanitation, communication, media, and medical.

It wasn’t until Saturday, January 14, 2012, did we receive this monetary donation from OWS Finance. Being that Ibraheem had become the designated point person, he was granted the authority to pick up the check. Yes, check. It was understood that Ibraheem would be picking up a check and that I would accompany him because the check would be in his name and I would hold on to the check to ensure that it wouldn’t be cashed, but deposited into a bank the following Tuesday since the weekend fell on a holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday.

Ibraheem agreed to meet me at Military Park at 2:30pm because I teach youth theatre on Saturdays from 12noon to 2:00pm. However, we’d been getting some extremely cold weather during the beginning of January and many occupiers had begun occupying the residence of other occupiers.

When I arrived at Military Park I was informed that Ibraheem had already ventured off to OWS Finance to pick up the monetary donation. I was told to go over there to meet up with him. I dug into my pocket and pulled out $8. I looked over at a fellow occupier and asked him to be my travel buddy. We took the Path over to lower Manhattan, piece of cake.

When we arrived at the building where OWS Finance is located we were told that due to recent issues only one point person per working group/occupation was allowed upstairs. So I used the cell phone of a person standing close by to call up to the office and informed them, in a friendly voice, that members of Occupy Newark were in the lobby waiting for Ibraheem to come down. I was informed that he would be down shortly.

After some time had passed, Ibraheem came down smiling, but I still couldn’t read his body language. I didn’t know if that look of his was good or bad news. I just knew it was news. We started off down the street and I asked impatiently what happened. I leaned in close, squinted, and focused on his lips because I could barely hear what he was saying. Then I heard something about $2,000 emergency cash and a check for $8,000. I asked for clarification and then he stated that he asked for emergency cash. I didn’t think much of it until he stated that they gave him $10,000 cash!

I had to ask a few more times to make sure I heard him correctly and to make sure he wasn’t playing. He wasn’t. I couldn’t believe it. We had no bank account. Newark had been rank as the 3rd worst maanged city in the nation, murders were occurring by the day, and they hand over $10,000 cash. I was speechless. We decided to take our quiet celebration into McDonald’s; the first floor didn’t provide enough privacy so we went upstairs.

The three of us sat. We were still trying to digest the most recent “not so public” announcement. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting upfront near the steps and moved more to the back of the restaurant. After settling down I decided to write and blast this email. I even had Ibraheem and the other occupier read it before sending it out: Town Planning needs all budgets submitted by midnight Monday, January 16, 2012. Town Planning will be submitting an encampment proposal with all working groups’ budgets as discussed at previous GAs to the General Assembly on Wednesday, January 18, 2012. If you do not submit a budget to Town Planning by midnight Monday, January 16, 2012 your working group risks not being included in the revised proposal/budget submitted to OWS.

After sending the email out Ibraheem suggested that we divided the money in half, I hold $5,000 and he hold $5,000. To make sure we were both given an equal share, our fellow occupier counted the money out. I repeatedly ask Ibraheem if he was sure that he wanted to hold on to $5,000. After all, he was actually living at our encampment and I didn’t think sleeping in a public park downtown Newark in a camping tent with $5,000 was the safest thing to do. However, Ibraheem insisted that he’d be okay. Well, I wanted to make sure no one suspected him of carrying $5,000 and suggested that we tell everyone that OWS Finance gave us a $10,000 check until the following Tuesday, when we would be able to put the money into a bank. Also, I wanted to encourage everyone to work together and create budgets for their working groups.

The Working Groups in question are as follows — Intake & Comfort, Kitchen, Media, Finance (transportation), Town Planning (tents and all related material/supplies for outdoor living).

Well, everyone agreed to this story: Tobias has the $10,000 check.

We departed, Ibraheem went in one direction and me and our fellow occupier went in another. We headed back to our encampment in Newark $5,000 richer. When I reached Military Park people ran up to me informing me about their needs, especially the need to finish setting up the military tent because there were people who were staying at churches in New York who wanted and needed a place to encamp.

Half-truths became a whole lot of lies.

I responded by stating that we received a check and will be depositing the check into the bank on Tuesday, whereas, it would take about nine business days before the check clears. In the meantime, working groups will be meeting to work on their budgets so we can revise the Town Planning budget and handle things in a more organized and professional manner. This made sense to everyone, especially since there was no “money.”

Well, you don’t know you’re doing wrong until you try to do right. The next day, Sunday, I appeared on the scene at the (Peoples Organization for Pogress (P.O.P.) MLK Jr. rally and the fellow occupier informed me that Ibraheem had informed others that he had given me $2,000 emergency cash and an $8,000 check.

A frown came across my face.

I couldn’t understand why he would tell people this after we agreed to tell everyone we had a check until the money was in the bank. The fellow occupier then stated that he didn’t want to have any parts of it. I understood and stated that I’d carry the burden. I just didn’t want to come out and tell people that Ibraheem was walking around and sleeping in the park with $5,000.

Well, what a day that was. I nearly got into about three fights, and argued with nearly everyone about why I lied about not having money. The grievances went on nonstop. I even lost it a few times, yelling and screaming, becoming a madman. I felt like people were ganging up on me and my defenses went up and stayed on high alert. People were proposing that I take half the money and split it with everyone. I just couldn’t see the reasoning in that. There were some good ideas expressed but people have very little respect for the process. People don’t want to write a proposal, submit it on our website 24-hours in advance, so that it could be discussed properly at a GA. They were expecting me to just hand over money. We simply don’t have enough organizers/professionals.

At some point, well after the sun went down, I decided to part ways from the occupiers. I called Ibraheem, asking why did he tell people that I had $2,000, but because he was with the occupiers whom I was in the confrontation with he couldn’t entertain my grievance so I emailed him. He then replied, what you expect. This weak response infuriated me. I then stated that people are asking me for all kinds of money and he replied that I shouldn’t give them any money.

Easy for him to say. I managed to get about two hours of sleep that night.

I later learned there was a private meeting going on to vote me out of finance for lying. I had to laugh because half the money was sitting amongst them. Also, I never officially was a part of the Finance Working Group. I was simply trying to help facilitate the organization of the working group and ended up with half the donation. The attached document shows this. However, I wasn’t about to let others simply spend the money on nonrelated matters because the proposal for the donation was created in Town Planning and a large part of the donation would go to Town Planning for the purchasing of materials and supplies.

And that’s exactly what I decided to do. The next day I began purchasing supplies and material for the encampment. I wanted to spend as much of the portion I had on the encampment. That’s what the money was for in the first place. I even informed one of the older occupiers what had happened and asked if he could take me and another to various stores to purchase heaters, sleeping bags, etc.

The more I think about it, it should’ve been Ibraheem wanting to spend his portion quickly being that he was carrying part of the burden on him daily. It doesn’t matter now, does it? I went from being well respected to being labeled a thief, liar, and other things I’m sure. But I don’t blame them. You just can’t afford to trust anyone in a monetary system. But I continued to hold on to my lie because I didn’t want anyone to know that Ibraheem was carrying $5,000.

Then when Tuesday came, Ibraheem and the other occupier who were designated to open the bank account wasn’t able to do so for whatever reasons so it was put off until everyone returned from Occupy Congress. Now the end of the week comes and Ibraheem and the other designated bank signee, me, and another occupier heads down to City National Bank to open the account but Ibraheem doesn’t have all required documents to open the account. This was becoming more and more of a headache. And people were becoming more and more determined to use the money for things other than what was specified in the original proposal or revised proposals. From my perspective, it seemed that people had become more concerned about money and less concerned about the movement. It seemed that money was the sole purpose, the sole motivation, for some. This is why I advocate for a resource based society, because in a resource based society human and environmental needs are a priority, money is irrelevant.

We would continue to meet to discuss how the money should be spent and our meetings would turn into heated debates, at times nearly physical. Ibraheem took the initiative to revise the Town Planning budget. We also managed to develop a budget for the kitchen, but Media still hadn’t submitted a budget nor did it look like they were going to. Me and Ibraheem then became more determined to spend the money on encampment material and supplies. We approached Occupier Barbara about purchasing the needed items through her credit card but she wanted to see the check from OWS. That was a problem because there never was a check. So we decided to go another route.

After about spending two days trying to find ways to spend the money we then tried putting the money on two reloadable visa cards that belongs to Ibraheem and that seemed to work. Why didn’t we do that from day one?

This experience has been a lesson well learned. I do apologize to those who I’ve offended and to those who feel that I’ve let them down. But we do what we feel and believe is the right thing to do. I feel like I’ve failed at helping to bring balance and structure to the Finance Working Group, but every failed attempt brings us one step closer towards success. I’ve also decided that as of Monday, February 6, 2012, to remove myself from the Town Planning Working Group, and focus more on the overall human and environmental needs at the encampment, which means I’m willing to assist in any way I can. Also, all of my receipts were turned over to Ibraheem and Barbara. I would also like to help develop our Media Working Group because without media I fear that our journey will not be respectfully documented. By the way, I have a set of keys to the donation box that seems to have become a piece of art. I’d like to turn the keys over to someone. Instead of monetary donation boxes we should set up wish lists and encourage people to support us with love and not treat us as a monetary payoff or a charity case.

Please do not mistake this report as a means to build up a hate campaign against Ibraheem or any other occupier(s). Ibraheem did what he believed to be the right thing, and so did I. If anyone wants to point an incriminating finger please continue to do so at me. This experience should be documented and reviewed as how to better handle this type of situation.

Also, nor should Ibraheem be voted out of the Finance Working Group for believing he was upholding the integrity of Occupy Newark and honoring the relationship of OWS. Instead, Ibraheem needs to be sat down and told about the danger I was placed in because of his and my actions. He also needs to hear from the occupiers who strongly feel that he ignored their immediate needs. Lastly, we all need some serious training on how to better express ourselves and work with one another. Because we don’t know how to effectively communicate with one another it’s nearly impossible to understand each other’s points of view.

If my report brings harm to any occupier or damage to his/her property the perpetrator(s) should be removed from Military Park. I would definitely advocate for this. Violence at any encampment should not be tolerated.

Andrew Lo, Professor and Director for MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, stated in the award winning documentary Inside Job directed by Charles Ferguson that “recently, neuroscientists have done experiments where they’ve taken individuals and put them into an MRI machine. And they have them play a game where the prize is money. And they noticed that when these subjects earn money, the part of the brain that gets stimulated is the same part that cocaine stimulates.” We are living in a sick society.

Town Planning Working Group
Contact(s): Ibraheem Awadallah ([email protected])
Tobias A. Fox ([email protected])

$1,500 for food budget for two months ($750 January; $750 February)
$500 (encampment shopping spree of boots, sweaters, hats; “OccuFly” one occupier calls it)
17-passenger van to Occupy Congress ($350)
$500 for 1 Porta potty for two month ($250 February; $250 March)
Supplies needed for military tent ($240)
11 four-man sport tents (with shipping expense $510)
27 0-degree weather sleeping bags ($1,100)
Info tent/People’s Library and Storage tent – ($860)
Solar Power Generator – (Pending)
1 large commercial canopy to house tents to be protected from inclement weather ($720)
3 chargeable lanterns ($90)
4 heaters ($80)
Transportation ($230)
Miscellaneous (tarps, utensils, supplies, food items outside of the food budget, etc – $300)
Community Donation of $1,250 – Proposal submitted on 1/18/2012 and passed on 1/24/2012
Pain and suffering endured during the spending of all of this (Pending) :-(
Other miscellaneous (cigarettes, booze, weed, women, men, political payoffs) classified :-) Just kidding, we never paid for men or women :-)

Balance on February 1, 2012: $1,770
Porta Potty expense for March — $250
Food budget balance for February — $375

Balance: $1,145 (this balance was used to purchase additional equipment)

Tobias Fox Discusses Occupy Newark

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Binh February 18, 2012 at 4:32 am

“… this attempt of collaboration and cooperation would become an ongoing struggle.”

Talk about irony!

This is probably the most hair-raising story I’ve heard come out of Occupy. Tobias you personally deserve a lot of credit, thanks, and gratitude for standing by Occupy’s principles in spite of the tremendous heat (and danger!) you faced holding so much cash. A lesser man would’ve cracked, taken the money, or been ripped to shreds by angry, hungry, broke occupiers.


Tobias Fox of Occupy Newark February 18, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Thanks so much for the kind words. I truly do appreciate it. Peace and blessings….


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