Revolution #182, November 8, 2009
EHSC Calls Police Against Videographer
On Sunday, November 1, plainclothes and uniformed police who had been called in earlier by officials of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) dragged out, maced and arrested a man for videotaping Sunsara Taylor as she stood near her seat and made a statement before the start of that morning’s program about the shameful cancellation of her long planned talk to EHSC that day on the topic “Morality Without Gods.”
The shocking incident took place at the insistence of the president of EHSC. About 40 people witnessed the videographer being brutalized by the police in the foyer of the facility. An attorney demanded that the police stop brutalizing him when five officers piled on him as he lay face down on the floor. Six police cars arrived within minutes.
The day before, during a workshop on the same premises which the president and other Board members of the EHS were at, Sunsara explained very clearly that she would be attending the opening of the EHS’s Sunday gathering and giving the EHS the opportunity to do the right thing and allow her talk to go forward, up until the last minute. If the EHS still refused to let her give her talk, she explained that she would leave and give her talk in “exile” at the nearby home of one of the EHS members. [This statement can be viewed on youtube:
In her brief statement at the EHS on Sunday morning, Sunsara Taylor challenged the very wrong decision to cancel her speaking engagement and pointed out how this is contributing to a chilling atmosphere in society as a whole and has happened all too frequently to people who challenge the dominant narrative (like Ward Churchill, Norman Finkelstein and the screenwriter of Milk who was recently “disinvited” from Hope College, etc.). Taylor stated that while the group had the “bureaucratic right” to disinvite her, it didn’t make it any more “right” than the voters in California passing Prop 8. She also invited those who wanted to hear her speak to come to her “talk in exile” at the home of a member of the EHSC.
At no point during her brief statement was Sunsara asked to stop speaking or to leave the premises. And at no point was anyone who was there to support her, including the photographer, asked to leave. It is telling that the only person singled out by the police, at the request of the president of the Society, was the man documenting what Sunsara was saying.
The videographer was simply trying to document and guard the truth of what Sunsara was saying in her brief statement. Sunsara’s words had been grossly distorted and taken out of context by some members of the EHSC who were the driving forces behind canceling her speech.
What kind of ethics and morals is the EHSC upholding and modeling through the great lengths it has gone to in suppressing Sunsara Taylor’s talk on “Morality Without Gods”? A number of their own members expressed disagreement with the cancellation and a number of prominent people from around the country wrote statements in support of Sunsara’s speaking and called on EHSC to rectify its wrong-headed decision. Instead, the Board fortified and increasingly defended its decision and created an atmosphere of anti-communist hysteria, fear and rumor-mongering that had no relationship to reality.
The EHS had no legitimate basis to feel the police needed to be there in the first place, except for the rumors and hysteria that they themselves had created. Then, by choosing to set the police upon the person filming they went after the one person who was documenting the truth of Sunsara’s words and the fact that Sunsara and others there to support her were acting in no way to disrupt the replacement talk the EHS had planned.
What kind of Ethical Humanist group would create a situation that led directly to the brutal arrest of someone simply for filming Sunsara giving a statement at that point with simply a cell phone? In their zeal to suppress Taylor they went repeatedly against the stated purpose of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago which includes “the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society...Our commitment is to the worth and dignity of the individual and to treating each human being so as to bring out the best in her or him.”
This attack was in stark contrast to the day before at the EHSC where Sunsara led a well-attended and lively discussion with much audience participation on Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of Humanity. This whole program was videotaped by the same volunteer photographer.
To call upon the EHSC to drop charges against the photographer and to continue to express their disagreement with their decision to dis-invite Sunsara Taylor contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out how to make contributions to the legal defense, contact: email@example.com.
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