[Noisebridge-discuss] Advisory about recent thefts at Noisebridge.

Liz Henry liz at bookmaniac.org
Sun Jul 10 06:16:53 UTC 2011

On 7/9/11 9:31 AM, Quinn Norton wrote:
> I'm confused. Did they actually do anything wrong besides make you uncomfortable?

Good question and thanks for asking. I'll try to answer thoroughly, 
though it is a bit tl;dr.  It was my personal judgment from fairly brief 
contact, and yet I had a fairly sharp worry about the person's being in 
Noisebridge. It's important to discuss in public how we might form that 
kind of judgment and expose our possibly wrong/biased standards for 

The guy I thought should not be allowed in wasn't the main guy who later 
that night got into the fight though I think he was involved. I was 
worried about leaving the space as he arrived, from my conversation with 
him and the drunk girl who brought him in. He was drunk or high and also 
seemed a bit incoherent, hard to understand, and out of touch with 
reality. He explained that people call him The Angel Gabriel and then 
began talking about the Bible. He refused a tour or explanation of the 
space. He was not particularly clean and was dressed in camo. I had a 
further snap reaction to him that was kind of like "Okay... you're a 
person who has been in prison... more than once." So a sketchy dude who 
on first sight I think has been in jail or prison, crazy, babbling about 
the Bible, drunk, etc.

None of those things alone would lead me to be uncomfortable enough with 
a person to say "You should not come in and in fact you should leave" 
but all in combination, along with it being late at night when there 
were not many people in the building to keep an eye on the situation, 
and the drunk girl much younger than him who I didn't think had very 
good judgment, concerned me. What I said was not anything reasonable but 
was a huge eyeroll and sarcastic "Oh fuck... GREAT...."  I came back 
with Danny after about an hour to make sure things were calm, and they 
seemed to be. So I did nothing and left. Not my finest moment.

That afternoon I had just had encounters with several homeless and 
apparently mentally ill people in Noisebridge whose situations worried 
me, one of them Philip who could not manage to respect boundaries and 
who Danny escorted out.  Another of them was the lady with white hair 
who is running for mayor and believes the FBI put her in SF General 
psych ward, erased her tape recorder, and is following her; she 
desperately asked me for help that I didn't know how to provide. So I 
also didn't say anything to The Angel Gabriel because I worried I was 
being overly uptight and freaked out from my earlier stressful encounters.

I'm not sure, but it seems like part of what was going on that night 
(and over the last few days) was that Philip looks for homeless people 
in difficulty to take back to his place so that he can provide them 
"therapy", and kind of hangs out in other open or community spaces to do 
that, and has added NB to his list of hangouts.  You might need to talk 
with Philip for a while yourself in order to decide whether you think 
that's a praiseworthy thing on his part or whether it is kind of disturbing.

I think at NB we have many people who might be called non-neurotypical 
in various ways and we might all vary also in our level of comfort with 
that. So for example when someone has a bit of delusions of grandeur, 
fine and dandy as long as they aren't harming anyone. If they think the 
FBI reads their email because of their theories about economics, fine, a 
bit tin foil hat IMHO but also not doing much harm. I'm not talking 
about people who might be a little rambly or awkward or annoying.  I 
guess it is when people seem really unpredictable, or predatory, 
incoherent, and plus are not already part of our community, then I 
think, why let them in the door at all?

The bit about it being late at night and not many people in the space, I 
also have some worries that the very people who were left in the space 
who might be the ones who did not feel safe because of their own life 
situations and who have been turning to others in the space to ask them 
to behave as "authorities". During the day more people are around to 
decide together what to do. That's part of why in retrospect I wish I'd 
just asked The Angel Gabriel to leave immediately. He seemed like a risk 
that people there might not be able to cope with. So it was not just 
about my personal comfort level or some abstract idea of safe space or 
politeness or bourgeois respectability. I'm not sure what actually 
happened that night later on, but it sounds like there was a fight, the 
guy sleeping on the couch was forcibly ejected, and *then* the police 
were called.

Something felt really "off" about the space and part of that is people 
not very strongly connected to NB and who don't know each other well 
either, letting each other in, late at night.

I think there is also increasing class tension as more of the people 
coming in are completely homeless and lack many resources and lack a 
network of people who have access to those resources, while others of us 
are comparatively privileged, with marketable skills, shelter, food, 
jobs, emotional stability, and friends who have all of the above 
resources and more. Homeless not like "temporarily homeless hacker" but 
like "crazy person who has been on the streets for years and has just 
randomly showed up here."   We have to figure out how to talk openly 
about those issues amongst ourselves without stigmatizing poverty, 
homelessness, or mental illness.

Obviously I'm no expert in this.

If people want to make Noisebridge into a community soup kitchen, 
resource center, and squat, and invite people in off the street, that 
will radically change the nature of the space and the problems it faces 
and who wants to come here and why.

I don't want to do that, though I help people out individually in the 
community where I live.

So I am not talking about Banning People but I think there is room in 
our community to speak as individuals to tell people "I'm uncomfortable 
with you because of X, Y, Z behavior" or "because I don't trust you not 
to steal stuff".  That's what I'm going to say to people when I'm 
thinking it, in future. It will be interesting to see what answers I get.

Other people can decide what approach they will take individually or 
collectively. I realize some may totally disagree with me that there is 
a problem. See what you think when you meet some of these folks.

- Liz

Liz Henry
lizhenry at gmail.com

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