On the Conflict with San Diego Tenants Union

September 26, 2021

Preamble: The Housing Justice Working Group (HJWG) of Democratic Socialists of America San Diego (DSA-SD) clarifies in this document our position on an ongoing conflict with the San Diego Tenants Union and United Against Police Terror/Copwatch, and responds to their doxxing, police collaboration, and various allegations they made against us. 

We think SDTU’s accusations are cynical, unserious, and intended to personally and politically discredit us, muddying the water to cover for their own misconduct, including their documented police collaboration and abusive behavior. 

Background: Until our exit from SDTU in June 2021, HJWG members were leading projects to build and strengthen SDTU, as full members of the union, including organizing tenants in apartment complexes, creating SDTU’s website, establishing dues & donations infrastructure, hosting organizer training and political education, creating agitprop, and developing democratized structures in the union. Our work was interrupted when a longstanding conflict in the local activist community, entirely unrelated to our work, boiled over.

In 2017, conflict in an organization resulted in a rift between groups of activists in San Diego, which flared up again in February 2021. While no one in the HJWG was involved in that conflict, some HJWG members were aware of it and knew people on one side through DSA, and SDTU’s self-described co-directors/co-founders, Cat M. and Rafael B. knew people from the other side through Copwatch. Those HJWG members chose to discuss the conflict with Cat M. and Rafael B. in the hopes of promoting communication between the parties involved. However, after a heated conversation, it was decided to leave the issue alone, because there was no agreement on the nature of the conflict, and it was not related to SDTU.

Later, when an instagram page detailing various grievances was posted by one of the involved parties, Cat M. and Rafael B. decided to attack DSA members working in SDTU. They saw the page as problematic, and blamed us for it, despite the fact that none of us were involved in the conflict or had any control over the instagram page. They focused attacks and bullying on a particular person, Jonathan, a young Chicanx tenant organizer and leader in HJWG. Numerous attempts were made at de-escalation, all of them failed.

An arbitration process was democratically established within SDTU and arbiters were elected to address the declining relationships in SDTU and promote healthy working relationships. All SDTU members were made aware of the results of the investigation, which called for de-escalation. Arbiters noted that only Jonathan complied with the arbitration process, whereas Cat M. and Rafael B. did not, instead continuing to escalate their doxxing and attacks, starting to make increasingly outlandish accusations against us. DSA San Diego Leadership Council clarified that DSA has no power over the IG page and asked for Cat M. and Rafael B. to stop their harassment, to no avail. With no end in sight, we chose to leave SDTU.

Current Situation and SDTU’s Cop Collaboration: Since leaving SDTU in June 2021 we ceased all contact with Rafael B. and Cat M, who despite this have made escalating accusations against us, and are now trying to harm relationships between us and other organizations. Though Cat M. and Rafael B. initially entered this conflict defending one party, they later turned on and doxxed them. Cat M., avowed “abolitionist,” then filed actual police reports against them, and apparently also some of us, CC’ing lots of people and other organizations in their emails. Cat M. has also gone on a recorded zoom call boasting about reporting us to the police. We (HJWG) have also been cc’d in similar emails from Cat M. involving the district attorney, the Democratic Party, press institutions, and others, for months now and we assume these are all blatant attempts to intimidate us. Cat M.’s police collaboration has also been noted by other activists. Rafael B. appears to support and encourage all of Cat M.’s collaboration with the police. Both continue their attacks and accusations to this day.

Rebuttals to Accusations:

  1. “Members of the HJWG/DSA-SD are undercover cop provocateurs or snitches.”

The only evidence provided by Cat M. was a still from a video which they claim depicts a member of the HJWG at a counter protest against a BLM protest. No one who has worked with the accused agreed they resembled the picture. The accusation was also given with no date, time, location, or other information that could be used to verify it, yet it has been used as justification to dox and, ironically, share our members’ private information with the police.
Cat M. and Rafael B. also point to a spree of police raids against several members of the activist community which they claim was provoked by the aforementioned instagram page (of which we are not a part), and the SDTU arbitration also concluded this claim to be unsubstantiated. Their “concern” is inconsistent since they later filed actual police reports against some of those victims of police repression. 

  1. “Members of the HJWG/DSA-SD are operatives of the Democratic Party or other actors in a conspiracy orchestrated by the Democratic Party to disrupt SDTU.”

First, the idea that the Democratic Party or political police or whoever else would bother sending agents to sabotage (through methods Cat M. and Rafael B. have never substantively described) a tiny dysfunctional nonprofit like SDTU is absurd, and second, the proof provided for these claims, that some HJWG members are acquainted with Democratic Party/“progressive” activists (as many on the left are), is irrelevant.
We always put the organization first, even when leaving, taking pains to establish Rafael B. as administrator for SDTU’s dues infrastructure, website and media that we had developed, to write up our tenant cases for them, attend events, even as they harassed us out of the organization. We offered good faith over and over, hoping that conflict would de-escalate, but they refused every time. Rafael B. and Cat M. are responsible for their own disruption. 

  1. “HJWG/DSA-SD is attempting to silence us, Cat M. and Rafael B.”

They claim to have been silenced yet they took every union meeting to make their case, and when no one agreed they made dozens of social media posts lying about us and dragging us through the mud, yelled at and bullied us in meetings, reported us to cops, used other organizations as forums to air their absurd grievances, and silenced many out of fear of their doxxing and snitching. We haven’t interacted with them for months. 

  1. Members of HJWG/DSA-SD are manipulating facts/lying/etc.”

We can support all our claims with evidence, which we will share with anyone interested. 

  1. “Members of HJWG/DSA-SD hacked our devices and personal accounts/burglarized Cat M’s home and stole childhood photos/etc.”

We are an open, above-board organization which exists to build working class power and overthrow systems of oppression. We have neither the time nor the motivation to engage in such acts. 

Our Analysis: SDTU styles itself as a radical communist union, but during the course of our work within the organization, we found that it is actually a California Endowment-funded nonprofit with only 3 active organizers (all paid) and almost no active tenant members, does not have bylaws or regular meetings, nor any semblance of democratic functioning. Union involvement for most ends at their one-time venmo “dues” payment. Throughout our time as members, Cat M. and Rafael B. resisted any moves towards democratization and formal structuring of the union, always demanding unilateral control instead. Despite SDTU’s small size, they are viciously territorial, and always put their personal conflicts above organizing, eagerly shutting down union projects to attack other organizers as they did here.  SDTU is not a union in any sense of the term. 

Conclusion: We call on members of the activist community to practice skepticism for strong allegations without substantive proof. Further, doxxing, cop collaboration, and baseless attacks against other activists are unacceptable and self-proclaimed “abolitionists” and “communists” who engage in these cannot be trusted. 


DSA-SD Housing Justice Working Group