Reposted from Seattle GDC
To Seattle area organizers and our community beyond,
May this letter serve as a warning to all who have entertained the idea of organizing or being involved with Robert “Andy” Ribaudo (also known as “AnarchoVet”) in any capacity. Andy has exhibited a long history of violent, misogynistic and racist behavior and has not been accountable to any of the people he has hurt in the process. We must make it clear that this behavior cannot be tolerated in our movement, and that toxic men such as Andy who repeatedly exhibit this behavior are not welcome in our organizing spaces.
The following are observations made by individuals who have worked with Andy:
Andy was first invited to organize with Stop The Sweeps about a year ago when he was working for the YWCA as an employment case manager to houseless veterans. We learned that Andy wanted to organize an event that would raise funds and collect supplies to distribute to houseless people throughout Seattle. In many meetings leading up to what became to be known as “SEACampOut”, we observed Andy aggressively dictate goals and strategy to folks who wanted to help organize collectively. When called out on his toxic behavior, he explained that he has had a hard time learning to communicate with people in a healthy way and appreciated being checked in private conversations… but any time that led to being held accountable in public, he has consistently shifted blame onto others, specifically womxn, non-binary people and people of color.
Though he initially seemed to be receptive to some feedback, after continued conversations and similar patterns, it became clear that he was not making an effort to change anything. When it was brought up that the group of SEACampOut organizers were largely housed white men who were making decisions for the unhoused population, and how that could not only be harmful, but leave some critical voices out, he seemed very confused and said he did not understand why that would be a problem. He repeatedly overpowered and shut down the voices of the unhoused people living in the camp, those who would be most affected by any decisions made. When given feedback from people experiencing racism or misogyny, he became defensive (seeing the feedback only as criticism and a personal attack) and denied all responsibility. Though he can talk at length about systems of oppression in the larger context, he is unable to acknowledge how power dynamics can show up in interpersonal ways, especially when he is the perpetrator. He often can’t get his story straight and falls into a pattern of habitual lying that also has lent itself to gaslighting (“that never happened,” “you’ve got it all wrong,” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about, I never said that”).
Putting yourself at the forefront of organizing a group or a campaign when you haven’t done the internal work to deeply understand systems of oppression like racism and sexism is a bad idea. Everyone learns about these things at a different pace, but Andy didn’t appear to be even starting the work to unlearn these systems. He holds so much power (being white, male, cis, heterosexual, etc.) that this is a glaring fault in his organizing.
Instead of moving forward into a radical and expansive solidarity model of change, Andy falls back to a white savior charity model where he presumes to know what people need, doesn’t ask them, and doesn’t defer to the most impacted. He doesn’t consider other perspectives or ideas, nor does he seek out feedback. He moves swiftly and recklessly and leaves a wreckage of chaos in his wake.
When cooking a large group meal together with the camp in November, he self described himself as a leader without checking in with anyone on the logistics of the event, and sourced large amounts of raw meat that could not be cooked given our resources (12 turkeys!). He then left womxn and non-binary people to deal with that logistical issue, requiring at least 6 hours of cooking. After the event, when the majority of the cooking was done by womxn and non binary organizers and he was asked to help with clean up, he was unwilling to pull his weight in that way, leaving the cleaning to the same group who prepared the meal and fixed his mistakes all evening long. Not only that, he also consistently misgendered some of these people through this process.
In December, he ghosted the camp with no explanation after making some grandiose promises. Other organizers looking to support the camp made repeated attempts to contact him and he never responded. Furthermore, he solicited donations to provide the camp with supplies, but refused to be transparent about where those donations were going, and when he left the camp none of the remaining money went to other organizers to support the ongoing work. Our houseless neighbors are routinely retraumatized by the nonprofit industrial complex through empty promises, unworkable solutions, and unavailability/detachment, and by abruptly leaving the camp with no explanation Andy perpetuated this pattern of harm.
In the months since the campout, other organizers have tried to bring these issues to his attention. He has responded by repeatedly lashing out at many of us online, using threatening language (such as but not limited to threats of physical violence) and making us feel unsafe. He has refused to hold himself accountable to other organizers or to the folks at the camp and has said that he has apologized for his actions when that hasn’t been the case.
“When organizing with the movement to occupy the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma…”
Andy pays lip service to contrition and accountability, but his actions show that he repeatedly commits the same injustices. This underscores the need for him to step back from the forefront of these movements that are not for him, or about him. When organizing with the movement to occupy the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma (OccupyNWDC), Andy again failed to have any transparency or accountability.
He used his own personal Venmo to raise bail funds for comrades arrested on site, but simultaneously used that account to raise money for a personal court case. He has made multiple media appearances and often jumps at the chance to be interviewed on behalf of the group, speaking his message as if it were the only message. Meanwhile, multiple members both present at the occupation and from the Puyallup tribe have expressed their disappointment in his actions.
He has commandeered the conversation and the decision-making process, claiming to be accountable to the community but clearly seeing himself as a leader above reproach. He has shown blatant disrespect for the wishes of the Puyallup tribe and failed completely to center the voices of the marginalized and oppressed communities who bear the brunt of injustice. After multiple community members attempted to have productive conversations with him, he was eventually formally voted out of the occupation.
Andy’s mistakes are compounded by his stubborn and often violent refusal to acknowledge his faults or to stop imposing his will on those around him. When called out, he will resort to lies and manipulation, or angry threats to get his way. He desperately clings onto a victim complex and has heavily insinuated that his ongoing court cases are at least a partial result of his “good faith” efforts in organizing for a righteous cause, when in reality, his violent actions are to blame. Lending even more seriousness to his frequent threats, he has admitted to being a physically and emotionally abusive partner (this has been further verified by public records) and has repeatedly endangered the lives of those closest to him, in what should have been a trusting relationship.
“We call on the members of the community to stop enabling a violent, misogynistic, racist, and self-involved man…”
Because we’ve seen him showing up again as a ‘leader’ in organizing spaces, we wanted to write this letter as a warning to those who work with him, and a call to action. We call on the members of the community to stop enabling a violent, misogynistic, racist, and self-involved man with a cis white superiority complex to speak for and with a louder voice than those who suffer from the systemic oppression he helps perpetrate.
To all those who are self-professed allies: we have an obligation to speak with our actions, and to not let our own inherent bigotry grant a free pass to allow these actions to continue. We are obligated to stand up for the marginalized comrades we claim to fight alongside.
To Andy: we call on you to step back and to learn how to prioritize the voices of those impacted by your mistakes over your own. When it comes to dismantling hierarchical systems of oppression, cis white men should not be seen in the spotlight, or on the news giving strongly-worded speeches with empty promises. Until we see you come forward in good faith, ready to do the voiceless and nameless work of supporting existing movements with humility and selflessness, you are not welcome in our shared spaces. Accountability is not admitting you have done wrong and continuing anyway. Accountability is bowing out quietly and without complaint, whenever a group or individual who has been hurt by your actions requests, for as long as it takes them to rebuild trust. Accountability is being honest and transparent with yourself and others about the nature of your faults and your intentions. Accountability is sacrificing image and ego to go against everything you have been taught about yourself. We don’t need more soldiers, or leaders, or loose cannons. We need to count on you as a friend and comrade, who considers all other voices before your own. If not, we demand that you stop holding yourself up as a savior in name only, while you continue to hold up the same systemic violence we fight against.
This letter was created as a collaboration amongst many impacted people, some of which who wish to remain anonymous. If you would like to sign onto this letter, please e-mail:
Greater Seattle IWW General Defense Committee, Anti-Oppression Committee
Stop The Sweeps Seattle
Simon Stephens, Organizer – Stop The Sweeps Seattle
Matthew Lang, Organizer – Transit Riders Union, Neighborhood Action Coalition
Jennifer Durham, Organizer – Neighborhood Action Coalition
Alyssa MacLachlan, worker-owner, Revolution Staging
Damien Karolev, worker-owner, Revolution Staging
James Stredwick, worker-owner, Revolution Staging
Jordan Whiteley, worker-owner, Revolution Staging