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#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke: Harvey Weinsteins of the World Can’t Exist Without “Systems of Power”

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Disgraced former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of first-degree commission of a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, but acquitted of two more serious charges. “If we turn a blind eye to the systems that they operate in, then we’ll just have another Harvey Weinstein. … That’s why we have to upend the systems,” says Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. We also speak with award-winning actress Rosanna Arquette, who was one of the first women to share details of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to bring Tarana Burke back into the conversation. Your reaction, given this verdict now? And obviously, Weinstein still has to face now trial in Los Angeles for other accusations of — two accusations of sexual assault there. What’s going to be the impact, in your sense, on the #MeToo movement as a result of this historic verdict?

TARANA BURKE: What I’m trying to do and, I think, what those of us who are on the ground doing this work are trying to do is use this as an example of why we have to examine the larger systems. I really don’t want people to rest on this verdict as an indictment of the whole movement, or a victory even for the whole movement, or to think that our work is done. What we have to do is look at people like Harvey Weinstein and unpack that. What type of power and privilege was he surrounded by that allowed him to do this, these things, these crimes, for 20 and 30 years, right? He’s an individual person who did this, but individuals don’t operate in isolation. You cannot — you don’t become Harvey Weinstein overnight without having systems of power around you to keep you in that position. So, really, as the new trial happens and as we get to his sentencing, we’re going to keep a close eye on that, but use that as an example to talk about the larger issue of sexual violence and how it affects people who aren’t in positions like Harvey Weinstein or who aren’t actresses in Hollywood or people who have access to the same kind of resources.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what we’ve seen with a lot of these cases, not just with Harvey Weinstein, but with Jeffrey Epstein, that there were people around them —

TARANA BURKE: That’s right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — that were perfectly aware of what was going on, and helped to facilitate his crimes, in effect. But there’s been no prosecution or attempt to go after these folks.

TARANA BURKE: No, and there has to be accountability across the board. Yes, the person who perpetrated the crime needs to be accountable for the harm that they caused. But other people are causing harm, and if we turn a blind eye to the systems that they operate in, then we’ll just have another Harvey Weinstein. Right now there’s another Weinstein being groomed, there’s another R. Kelly being groomed, to do the same exact thing. That’s why we have to upend the systems.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a clip we played earlier of Ambra Gutierrez, one of Weinstein’s accusers. I mean, this one is an amazing story. In 2015, she saw — she was with Harvey Weinstein. He attacked her. She raced from the attack to the New York police precinct. At the precinct, she said one of the police officers said, “Oh, again?” and then had her wired to return to Harvey Weinstein to see if he would admit that he groped her. She did that. She got it on tape. But then Cyrus Vance refused to bring the case. She was there yesterday, and she reacted to the verdict against Harvey Weinstein.

AMBRA GUTIERREZ: I can say that right now I’m happy to see that those years that I lost of my life are getting back. Of course, there is a lot of work to do, and I’m here to, you know, be there and speak to people so that situations like this will never happen again. And yeah, this is my mission right now.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the story behind Ambra Gutierrez, to understand her bravery as she’s sitting there responding to the verdict. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance called Weinstein a “vicious, serial predator.” There are many right now who are calling for Cyrus Vance to resign, among the cases, around Dr. Hadden, the Columbia University OB-GYN that Evelyn Yang, the wife of the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, spoke out against, saying that she went in, she was seven months pregnant, and he sexually assaulted her. Since she spoke out at a rally, 40 more women have come forward, bringing the total to 70 women who came out against Dr. Hadden. Now, unbeknownst to her, he had been arrested six weeks before she was assaulted, but allowed to go back and continue to practice. He never served a day in jail. So, many are calling for Cyrus Vance to resign over this or to bring charges around Dr. Hadden, who simply lost his license.

TARANA BURKE: See, it’s ridiculous that it takes 90 women to get two convictions, 60 and 70 women to come forward to get attention to these issues. And the fact that Cy Vance didn’t bring a case against Harvey Weinstein over the years, when he’s had other evidence, is something that we do have to look at. I mean, his statement yesterday was great, but you can’t — that doesn’t erase what you didn’t do. So many of us will never see the inside of a courtroom. So many survivors will never have a moment like we had yesterday. We will never see this kind of justice, if you will. And part of it is because of people like that, who sit and they gatekeep so that powerful men like Harvey Weinstein never also have to see the inside of a courtroom. And that’s problematic. This is about — this is why I keep going back to the systems. He is a part of that system that perpetuates this continued violence against survivors of sexual violence.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what are the kinds of changes, reforms to the law, that you think need to be made to make it — to level the playing field for women who are targets of these assaults to actually get justice?

TARANA BURKE: Well, some of it is around statute of limitations, right? There’s a lot of conversation across the country around the statute of limitations. We’ve just seen New York roll back and make this window so that people who have institutional violations can come forward and prosecute, you know, bring claims. So we have to look at the different — there are like hindrances all throughout the laws, and I really think there should be a close examination, ongoing, at these laws, whether it’s statute of limitations, whether it’s the preponderance of evidence. These are all things that have to continuously be looked at. It’s like how technology advances over time, and you have to move along with the times. The laws have to change with the times.

AMY GOODMAN: Rosanna Arquette, if you could also respond to that question? And, of course, Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers say that they are appealing. They kept repeating yesterday that he sat there like a man, and he repeatedly said, “I am innocent. How can this happen in America?”

ROSANNA ARQUETTE: How could this happen in America? Well, it’s finally happening in America, and it’s been a long time coming. And hopefully this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning. There’s also another court case that’s happening in Los Angeles for Harvey Weinstein and many new women, and one of the which was 16 at the time.

Cyrus Vance lost a lot of — lost that tape, apparently, the tape of Ambra Gutierrez. Her tape was missing. And thank God for Ronan Farrow and Ambra. They figured it out, and she had had it somehow recorded herself. I don’t know how it worked out, but they got it. And that’s great. And I’m sorry, I’m —

AMY GOODMAN: The kind of sisterhood that was formed around this case, I think of the cover story of New York magazine with a hundred women wearing black, arm in arm, all saying that they were victimized by Harvey Weinstein. What has taken place with that kind of sisterhood? I mean, in your case, Rosanna, your case is not going to trial, and so many women’s cases are not.


AMY GOODMAN: Due to statute of limitations. Oh, are you thinking of bringing a case?

ROSANNA ARQUETTE: No, no, no. I mean, you know, I think about — you know, you spied on me. You spied on my life. We’ll see. We’ll see. All in good time, I think. There’s a lot of other people that need to have their day in court before me. That’s for sure.

But the sisterhood, the sisterhood started by Tarana Burke years ago, the #MeToo movement and her help, helping women come forward and being able to share their stories and heal in a safe space, you know, she created that. And we’re all a part of that across the world holding hands in this sisterhood. People we’ve never met, people — I hear from people every day, who — “Thank you, thank you,” and tell me their stories, be it online. And it’s quite extraordinary, what Tarana has created.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Tarana, let’s end with you talking about how you began to organize this movement so many years ago, revived by the hashtag, completely credited to you, of the words “Me Too.” You were dealing mainly with black and brown girls and women, who have a much harder time of coming forward and confronting their accusers.

TARANA BURKE: Absolutely. I mean, I couldn’t even imagine having this kind of outcome 15 years ago, right? And I think that it’s important, even relating it to today. Our work is around healing, and it’s around ending sexual violence. And although moments like yesterday feel really good, and they’re symbolic, and they mean — they are very important to survivors, you can’t adjudicate healing. And we have to remember there are still lives that were ruined by this man. There are so many careers that were upended. There were people who will never have their dreams actualized because of this individual. And there are people like that across the world.

And so, the work I started was about making sure that the people who say “Me Too” have the resources they need to heal, that they know that healing is possible, but also that they’re empowered to do the work to end sexual violence. And that’s really what our focus is. We want to make sure that we have consistent interruptions and interventions in wherever sexual violence is, so that, ultimately, we can get to a place where it’s not normal, where it’s not OK, where the laws meet the crime and the action, and where we move even beyond a crime-and-punishment framework, so that people are accountable for the harm that they cause in the lives of other people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both so much for being with us, Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, executive director of the newly established group “Me Too” International, and Rosanna Arquette, award-winning actress, one of the first women to share details of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. Thank you for joining us from Los Angeles.


AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’re going to talk to Senator Bernie Sanders’ chief Latinx organizer, as Sanders continues to ride the wave of his decisive victory in the Nevada caucuses. Stay with us.

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