***Note: This story was originally published on November 18th, but was reported for containing “copies of private communications between private individuals without the explicit consent of all parties to the communication” and then removed — twice — even after I removed the screenshots (my screenshots of the text messages between Michael and myself) and replaced them with drawn/typed transcriptions. I am new to Medium as a contributor and didn’t realize that posting screenshots of my own communications would violate their policies. In any case, proof that my story is truthful exists, Medium would just rather I didn’t post it here.
Yesterday I had two different women send me the link to a story Michael A Wood Jr. had published on Medium in which he details his experiences of being sexually harassed, and how his smoldering good looks have been an unbearable burden for as long as he can remember. I’ll admit that I couldn’t even make it through the second paragraph because I was so disgusted by this man taking a conversation about men in positions of power who sexually harass and assault women and girls (a conversation prompted by the Roy Moore and Al Franken revelations), and using his platform and relatively large Twitter following to make it about himself. Not only was the piece rife with gaslighting and delusions of grandeur, in it he also states that he has had “no less than five women have imaginary intimate relationships” with him. He recalls one such incident in which a girl at his high school became so obsessed with him that he was forced to punch her in the face in order to defend himself.
But what makes the piece such an insufferable read is the fact that I know Michael personally. And I’m sure that he counted me in with the “no less than five women” who have had imaginary relationships with him, especially considering the fact that he published the piece just days after some prominent progressives/Leftists had retweeted a thread in which I detailed my experience with Michael. I’d shared my story in response to his incredibly disrespectful and ignorant side of an exchange with @thewaywithAnoa, although I’m not a big fan of publicly sharing details about my personal life and relationships, nor making myself vulnerable to strangers. Not everything needs to be played out in the public square, and I am definitely concerned about retaliation. But I will not allow this man, no matter how many followers and connections he has, to slander me and the other very real women he’s taken advantage of with his selfish, reckless, and manipulative behavior. And my side of the story comes with receipts.
In the summer of 2016 following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I logged into an old Twitter account I had created years earlier and forgotten about. I didn’t have cable, and at the time there was very little information coming out of any online MSM outlets. Caught between anger and despondency, and thousands of miles away from the protests, I started following activists and progressive leaders in an effort to learn more about how I could “get involved”.
By October, Twitter was both my main source for activism news, and a void for me to scream into. That’s when Michael A. Wood Jr., self-proclaimed “Police Scientist”, slid into my DMs. I didn’t really know who he was at the time (I wasn’t there for his rise to Twitter-fame as a half-ass whistle-blower), but right off the bat he made sure that I learned how important he was to the movement to bring an end to police brutality in America. To be perfectly honest, he isn’t really my type and I thought he was a little corny, but I was going through some things (who wasn’t in late 2016) and he was a welcome distraction.
It wasn’t long before we started flirting, and at his request, I got the Signal app, which we used to communicate daily. Michael had gone to great lengths to gain my trust and convince me that he was in an open marriage (with whom, I would later learn, was his third wife), and that they had not had a sexual or romantic relationship in years. I started to become concerned that he was falling for me even after I had made it clear that I wasn’t looking to be in a relationship — certainly not with a married man, regardless of the nature of his marriage. But it felt good to be showered with compliments and attention all day, and I felt safe knowing that we were on opposite coasts and would likely never meet. If things ever got out of hand or I felt like he wasn’t respecting boundaries, I could just block his number and move on.
Things changed when Wes Clark Jr. recruited Mike to help him put together a group of veterans to head out to Standing Rock, North Dakota to assist the Water Protectors who had already been camped out for months in their mission to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built through sacred sites on treaty land; a pipeline that would gravely endanger the water supply of over 17 million people. Michael started a GoFundMe to get #VeteransStandForStandingRock up and running. After a few TYT interviews, CNN finally did a story on the mission and it exploded. In almost no time, over $1 million was raised and over 4,000 veterans from around the country had pledged to be a part of the mission.
I had been following the #NoDAPL movement for several months via social media before all of this (most mainstream media outlets would not even mention it), and was eager to assist in any way I could. Mike asked me if I would get the shirts made for the veterans and media who would be heading up with the group, and I accepted. Around the same time I also introduced him to my brother, a Marine veteran, who would became an important part of the operation.
Between being a single mom in the middle of a move across town, work, the impending holiday season, and getting a rush order of over 200 shirts made (before we realized how many veterans would answer Wes’ and Michael’s call to action),
time seemed to fly by. My relationship with Mike became kind of a friends-with-benefits thing, and we made plans to meet up in the week leading up to the mission when he would be in LA doing press and speaking engagements. He seemed to be convinced that our initial meet-up would go so well that he started planning ahead, and had even surprised me by buying a plane ticket for me to meet him in Atlanta where he would be for his dissertation several months later. I turned that offer down, but was still excited (and a bit anxious) to kick it before his trip to Standing Rock.
Long story short, we met up a few times in late November and early December, both in my city and in Los Angeles where he was staying (he swooped me up in the Jaguar he had rented using money from the GoFundMe). The night before he got on the plane for North Dakota, I accompanied him to a Circles of Voices event where he was guest speaking alongside his friend and fellow activist JC Faulk, who would also be heading to Standing Rock with the veterans group.
The next morning, Michael arrived in Standing Rock and promptly declared mission accomplished. Pandemonium ensued, including a video that went viral of Wes Clark Jr. apologizing to tribal elders on behalf of the American military (?), a blizzard hitting the area and trapping many of the veterans in the camp and casino, and Wes bouncing out of ND on a private plane in the wee small hours of the morning because he believed he was being targeted by Tiger Swan mercenaries. With Wes gone, Michael took over leadership of the operation.
When it was all said and done, the pipeline was temporarily halted and Michael and the team he had put together worked to get all of the veterans home and reimbursed for their travel expenses using whatever money was left in the GoFundMe, which was linked to Michael’s personal bank account.
It was at this time that Michael announced that he would be starting a non-profit organization called Veterans Stand, and the goal of the org would be to provide support and protection for communities in need, and as in the case with the Water Protectors in Standing Rock, to assist protesters in their efforts to stand up against large corporations and their own local, state, and federal governments. He asked me to come work for the organization designing and producing merchandise to be sold in the online store to raise funds for future missions, including one planned mission to Flint, Michigan (which never happened). I accepted, still thinking his intentions were good, and got started producing shirts, banners, and stickers without signing any dotted lines (I know, I know), as well as hiring my sister to design the official logo for the organization.
It wasn’t long, however, before Michael’s true intentions became clear. He announced that he would base the org out of Los Angeles and planned to move there from his home in Pennsylvania. Privately, he bragged that Cenk Uyger of The Young Turks, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard had agreed to be on the board of directors for Veterans Stand. He also bragged that Cenk had all but guaranteed him a permanent position on TYT. He began looking for condos in Los Angeles, and clearly his intention was not to live among the communities the org was supposed to be serving. He settled on a luxury condo in Playa Vista, a community that caters to the elite and has the feel of a Disneyland ToonTown for grownups. Michael justified using Veterans Stand funds to pay the full 1-year $50,000 lease by saying that it would be used as a “basecamp” for anyone who was in LA for a VS mission. He was also quick to point out the condo’s proximity to the TYT studios, and that his new wealthy liberal neighbors would be easy to seduce into donating generously to the cause.
In early March, I drove up to meet Michael at the condo for the first time to deliver the latest batch of shirts and collect some of those benefits. Avi, who works with Mike’s Civilian-Led Policing org, and Sam Ronan were already there. I immediately expressed my discomfort with the condo and it’s location, noting that it was not wise to use non-profit funds for such a swanky crib. Michael just laughed it off. He wasn’t officially moved in yet, and was just stopping by to pick up thousands of dollars worth of cannabis edibles that had also been purchased using VS funds, before he and the rest of the team would fly out to the East Coast to lockdown the Sun Trust Bank during the “NoDAPL Divestment March” in Washington DC. I stayed the night and dropped Mike and my brother off a the airport the following night.
After our latest meet-up, and between his questionable intentions regarding the non-profit and some weird vibes I was picking up, I decided to end the “benefits” side to our friendship a week later. We agreed that I would still do merchandise for the org and get paid once the online store was up and running (which never happened). I had already arranged everything with the printers and shipping company, and the shirts were just sitting in boxes in a warehouse waiting. I moved on.
If you would, please allow me to pause for a moment so that I may claim some personal responsibility and hold myself accountable for allowing so much bullshit to slide. It’s been a rough road trying to forgive myself for completely ignoring my instincts in favor of some convenient dick, and I’m not here to paint myself as the desperate or unwilling damsel who was coerced into being
Rumplestiltskin’s WCW in exchange for some bullshit-spun-to-gold. There were red flags flying all over the place from the moment I met this dude… The least of which being that he was a cop for over 10 years. And although he had been retired for some time when I met him, it wasn’t hard to see that he still possessed all of the character traits of a man who would be attracted to a career as an oppressor. But even though I chose to ignore my instincts telling me to GET OUT, it’s not like I was out trolling the internets looking for love or an object to obsess over. He used his blue check to contact me privately, and he put a lot of effort into pursuing me, including stalking my social media to get himself more quickly acquainted and make himself feel more familiar to me (even going so far as to follow me from his preadolescent daughter’s twitter account). And the relationship and sex that I consented to was with the understanding that he was not already in a monogamous relationship with his wife, and he explicitly told me on more than one occasion that he was not having a sexually or emotionally intimate relationship with anyone else (red flag #9817238).
About a month after I cut things off sexually, Mike had moved himself into the condo and was preparing for his wife and daughter to move out with him once the school-year ended. My brother mentioned that a woman who is a friend of mine had been over one night to see Mike. I asked her about it later… and all Hell broke loose. As it turned out, Mike had been having an ongoing flirtatious friendship with her, in addition to a sexual relationship with another woman who worked for VS, who is also a friend of mine. Messy.
We began comparing notes and timelines and came to realize that he had been having relationships with all three of us concurrently, and there was sufficient evidence to suggest that there were several other women that he was involved with as well. These women have a right to decide whether or not they want to share their experiences with this man, so I will not comment much further than that, other than to say that of the five that I was aware of, I was by far the oldest, and I’m 5 years younger than Michael.
While comparing notes, I also found out that Michael had called and berated one of these women (my friend from VS) over the phone after she had replied to one of his tweets in disagreement. This was someone who was also a very supportive friend and who had helped him build his org and brand over many months. After we had talked amongst ourselves, I called Michael on the phone and confronted him about his lies and multiple affairs. I demanded that he apologize to his wife and to these other women, and that he pay me for my work so that I could be done with him for good. He fell apart, accused one of the other women of “forcing herself” on him and “weaponizing” me against him, and hung up.
The following day, he instructed another member of VS to fire that woman, then proceeded to contact her personal friends (who had no ties to the org) to tell them that she was obsessed with him and that he was worried about her mental state. Look, I’m 33 years old, have worked in a male-dominated industry for my entire career, and I have never seen gaslighting as outrageous as this in my entire life. Over the next day, he continued to send me text messages insinuating that I had also been “way over the line aggressive” the last time we had been together, and that he “didn’t feel good or willing then”. I understood this to be a threat, that if I told people (namely his wife) about us that he would say I had assaulted him in order to slander me, which he had already done to my friend.
During this time, I was also in contact with my brother who was still at the condo with Mike. He informed me that there was a loaded gun on the floor of the master bedroom closet and that he was concerned that Mike was spiraling out of control. To be clear, Michael A. Wood Jr., who has stated countless times that there is no such thing as a responsible gun owner, and who stated on the Joe Rogan podcast that he does not own any firearms, had a loaded shotgun on the floor of his closet. For my brother’s and Mike’s family’s safety, I reached out to Michael’s wife, who was due to arrive in town with their daughter just a few days later. I briefly explained to her the nature of my friendship with Michael and that, after realizing he had lied about just about everything else, it had occurred to me that he may also have been lying about the nature of their marriage. I apologized, for whatever that was worth, and warned her about the gun. She did not reply to me that day, and Michael ceased all communication with me after that.
After some of the other VS board members got wind of what was going on, Michael was pressured to step down from his position as “Executive Director” of the org, but was allowed to remain on the board of directors. Unfortunately, too many bridges had already been burned by this point, and several volunteers and board members (some of whom had been a part of the original mission to Standing Rock) had left due to Michael’s poor leadership and inability to listen or work with others. Other than assisting with the clean up of Oceti Sakowin camp (which Michael did not participate in), and tagging along on the Vans Warped Tour to promote the Civilian-Led Policing org, Veterans Stand never had another official operation. Several former board members have also come forward with allegations of misappropriation of funds, but for that, I have no receipts so I’ll let the IRS handle it, I guess.
In a few tweets here and there, I’ve given a much less detailed account of what transpired with the hopes that it would save real activists who are doing good work from compromising their efforts by including Michael, and to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else (outside the several other women who have already come forward with similar stories).
It might be wise for us to consider that Michael didn’t blow the whistle about the corruption, crime, and racism he witnessed within the Baltimore Police Department. He left only because he was forced into retirement due to an injury, and despite building a career over a decade long as an oppressor in what is considered to be one of the most corrupt police departments in the country, he didn’t begin speaking out about the corruption and racism until he was already collecting his pension. And when he finally did come forward in a series of tweets, he declined to provide names, dates, and the kind of specific information that would be necessary for an investigation to be launched at the very least. Perhaps he was afraid of implicating himself. Perhaps we’d do well to hold our allies and those who stand to build a name for themselves off of Black and Brown suffering to a higher degree of scrutiny. Michael A Wood Jr. may be a philanderer, a pathological liar, a gaslighter, and a charlatan, but WE allowed him in our spaces, we gave him a stage. And so it is on us, especially our White allies and especially other men, to take stock of our priorities and cut the rot out of the wood before it poisons the whole tree.
Mike Wood, the Rose Armitage of activism, and still a proud card-carrying member of the FOP, loved to boast about hiring and recruiting women and PoC in his endeavors as a way of demonstrating how “progressive” and inclusive he is. What he doesn’t boast about is the fact that he relies as much upon the skills, intellect, creativity, and labor of the women and PoC around him as he does on the credibility they afford him. We were his armor against any allegations of misogyny or racism. And that’s not just dangerous for the people working with him and their reputations as organizers and activists within their respective communities, it’s dangerous for the movement.