Letters Oppose Hampshire College Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program's Use of Police to Suppress Political Views

May 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Stop Patriarchy on Being Removed By Police From "Social Justice" Conference

Statement issued by StopPatriarchy.org:

Hampshire is LYING about why they called police on StopPatriarchy activists and the stakes for women everywhere are HUGE!

On April 13, 8 members of StopPatriarchy.org (SP) were forced to pack up their officially registered table at Hampshire's annual conference on Reproductive Freedom and escorted off Hampshire College under threat of arrest by campus police. Their "crime"? Peacefully arguing that pornography and the sex industry—along with the assault on the right to abortion and birth control—are part of the global enslavement and degradation of women.

For weeks since, StopPatriarchy.org was ignored, canceled on, and hung up on by Hampshire Administration. Eventually, in response to press inquiries, Hampshire released a statement filled with LIES.

In order to "set the record straight" and because women's lives around the world are dependent on OPENING UP—rather than closing down and criminalizing—discussion and activism towards REAL WOMEN'S LIBERATION and overall HUMAN EMANCIPATION, we are printing their 5-sentence statement (below) and responding to their lies.

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On April 13, organizers from Hampshire College's Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) program, including CLPP Director Mia Sullivan, used campus police to evict eight members of Stop Patriarchy (StopPatriarchy.org) from their conference on Reproductive Freedom for peacefully expressing anti-pornography views. In response, Sunsara Taylor and other members of Stop Patriarchy issued an Open Letter to CLPP and the Hampshire community protesting this outrageous use of police force to suppress political opposition to porn and the sex industry and called on others to write to the school in protest as well. The following is a selection of letters received by Stop Patriarchy, and forwarded to Revolution newspaper, as of May 5. They reflect the outrage many feel not only at the unprincipled and dangerous decision on CLPP's part to call in police (agents of the highly repressive and oppressive state) against liberation fighters but also at the increasing marginalization of anti-pornography/anti-sex-industry views within much of academia, especially "Gender Studies," as well as much of the modern-day so-called "Women's Movement."

As the stakes in opposing this action by Hampshire College have bearing on whether a new generation will not only hear, but be roused into action to oppose, the tremendous harm that comes to women everywhere through porn and the sex industry, Stop Patriarchy continues to call on people to add their voice to this protest. To submit a letter of protest, go to: StopPatriarchy.org/opposesuppression.html.

Letters and comments protesting CLPP's Use of Campus Police to Eject Stop Patriarchy members from their "Reproductive Freedom" Conference

Signatures have been removed from the following letters for publication.

Dear Mia Sullivan,

I am appalled to learn about the suppression of the End Pornography and Patriarchy movement at the recent CLPP Reproductive Freedom Conference at Hampshire College.

Eight members of End Pornography and Patriarchy traveled long distances to Hampshire College to participate in this conference. Their message and point of view are entirely complementary to the theme of reproductive freedom. I'm told it was thought they "disturbed" some students who were apparently—astoundingly—uncomfortable hearing new political ideas.

Surely the easiest option in such a situation is for the cosseted young ladies simply to move away from the table. Instead, the police were brought in to forcibly eject the End Pornography and Patriarchy members from the conference.

Does "CLPP" not stand for "Civil Liberties and Public Policy"? And you celebrate civil liberties by suppressing a passionate point of view in the debate? Was the conference not called the "Reproductive Freedom Conference"? And evicting conference members is your vision of freedom?

One thing I can guarantee you: although I was not standing in front of the table when the police were called—as nor were you, I assume—the End Pornography and Patriarchy people are an articulate, compassionate, group of dedicated political activists. They enjoy nothing more than engaging in lively debate with students on college campuses all over the United States.  They are non-aggressive, non-belligerent, and completely non-violent. They are passionate participants in the debate around reproductive freedom.

It is completely embarrassing that CLPP and Hampshire College felt so "imperiled" by their point of view that they called the police to threaten arrest if this group didn't leave.

Shame on you. I'm quite sure the groups that financially support CLPP and the Reproductive "Freedom" Conference will not be happy when they learn about this disgusting suppression of free thought on a college campus.


Dear CLPP Organizers,

I have been alarmed by reports that CLPP used police to eject Stop Patriarchy (SP) organizers from their conference because SP disagreed with people who stopped by their table to challenge one of their political positions. I know the organizers of SP for many years. They are principled political activists who treat people who disagree with them with utmost respect, even as they argue their own beliefs. This has always been my experience of them. I cannot see how they did anything wrong, from all reports. I understand that someone complained they did not feel "safe" at CLPP because of SP. Yet the question of what SP did to make that person "feel unsafe" has not been forthcoming. It sounds like a political disagreement made that person "feel unsafe." Therefore the implication of CLPP's calling the police is that disagreement will be met by police force if someone says that another's opinion makes them "feel unsafe." This is a really bad abuse of the "Safe Space" concept and, if not repudiated, could result in the repression of necessary debate in our movement(s). I hope that the organizers of CLPP will rethink their actions and render a much deserved apology to SP for threatening them unjustifiably—and also for not properly valuing the care, work and good faith they put into attending CLPP's conference.


I join the demand that CLPP issue a public apology to StopPatriarchy.org and that they distribute this apology to all the attendees of their 2013 conference.

Everyone has the right to speak their mind and express their thought whether people agree or disagree with them. People from Stop Patriarchy had the right to express their views at the conference. Why would you speak about creating a "safe space" for everyone and the violence of the state, yet do the complete opposite and call on the oppressors for help? Perhaps Stop Patriarchy have different views than you, however, they are fighting for the same cause, to end the violence against women. That is what should be focused on. Nobody was attacking anyone, they had the right to speak their mind. Threatening them with arrest was not just wrong but it showed us that you do not practice what you preach.

War on Women has got to STOP. We have a right to defend ourselves through FREEDOM OF SPEECH. We have a right to demand respect. We have a right to a quality of life and not be subjected to violence that porn produces.

Citizens are protected and allowed to express peaceful protesting. Using violent force to suppress their opinions and protest is contradictory to our true Freedom of Speech and the ideals a police force upholds—do you want people to distrust our government and officers?

Attention: CLPP Organizers—"When reason fails, force prevails." However, it seems to me that reason ought to have had a chance to be heard and perhaps even respected before being silenced by the threat of state action. Read "police." I've been a community organizer and a progressive union activist for more than 40 years. I am also a feminist. From this experience and work, I have an opinion to share with you. It is my view that you have failed as organizers because of your response to objections to feminist criticism that names the harm that pornography and prostitution does primarily to women and children. Simply because both are sexual practices does not exempt them from political criticism. Civil liberties include speech, even if one dislikes the words. So I have been told countless times. While we may debate meaning and harm, it remains important to listen to each others' concerns and then evaluate those concerns for the answer to the first question asked by all activists: who gets hurt; who profits? There is a long history concerning feminist criticism of the practices of pornography and prostitution. The reactionary response to that criticism is equally long. Judging from the success of both industries, as well as the expulsion of this small critical group at your conference, I can see that the struggle continues.

It is absolutely deplorable that you threatened the mechanism of state oppression against the members of Stop Patriarchy, including trans and POC [people of color] members of the group who have much to fear from the prison industrial complex, in order to silence political difference. I am absolutely disgusted by the actions of your organization, and will be telling everyone I know that the CLPP is an organization which uses the racist police state to intimidate and threaten participants at conferences who break an unwritten rule against critiquing the sex industry. Your organization does not provide a safe space for those of us who have had traumatic and damaging experiences with the sex industry, and to hide behind the banner of "Safe Space" is an abuse of the term. I stand behind Stop Patriarchy and with them demand CLPP issue a public apology to StopPatriarchy.org and that they distribute this apology to all the attendees of their 2013 conference.

I oppose using police to stifle objections to the sex industry.

Critiques of the sex industry are not cause for police intervention.

Please do not muzzle dissenting voices within the feminist community. We need more dialogue not repression.

For an organization that supposedly enjoys free speech—I have to ask, for whom?

Kicking out feminists who hold a critical position on the sex industry at a feminist conference is a horrendous violation of freedom of speech and a disgusting example of feminist sectarianism. It is important that debate and expression take place. Having worked in the sex industry I have experienced firsthand the realities of the industry and feminists like myself and others are entitled to our opinion and to express it in any public forum. The hypocrisy of a civil liberties organization denying women assembly and speech is utterly shocking and deplorable, and an apology must be issued immediately.

Dear CLPP organizers,

I am writing to express my outrage at the treatment of Stop Patriarchy organizers at your recent CLPP conference. Using police force to remove this group, effectively silencing their voices, is absolutely unacceptable. Horrifying in fact. Stop Patriarchy works tirelessly on behalf of women to draw attention to issues and systemic problems that negatively affect all women and men as a result of patriarchy. They deserve to be treated with respect. Issues like pornography and sex work have to be discussed beyond the experience of the individual. The sex industry is an enormous money-making machine that exploits people for profit. Trafficking of human beings for sex, aka slavery, does exist. You have to be able to have a conversation about one of the most central issues facing women today without having to focus on the stories of one or two individuals. That would be like trying to discuss Walmart's use of slave labor in its factories and being silenced because someone stood up and said that they were a cashier at a Walmart and the discussion was hurting their feelings. Seriously! You have set a serious precedent here. Sending in the police was a really dumb move. You need to apologize.

Why is the CLPP giving the sex industry the final word about who is even allowed to be heard at a conference allegedly concerned with "Social Justice" and "Freedom"? When pornography can be defended as "free speech" but condemnation of it can not, the existence of free speech is pretty seriously called into question.

Obviously, the CLPP supports civil liberties and public policy for everyone except women and are just one more branch of the world-wide rape culture AKA patriarchy. Good to know. The entire world is safe space for the porn-addled; for women, not so much. Pathetic.

We condemn CLPP's use of police to eject StopPatriarchy.org from their conference on April 13-14, 2013 under threat of arrest simply for peacefully advocating their anti-pornography views at their own table. Because this action sets a dangerous precedent, we demand CLPP issue a public apology to StopPatriarchy.org and that they distribute this apology to all the attendees of their 2013 conference.

The reason I was called to send this message is how much I agree with this statement: "It is always wrong for people who claim to be fighters against oppression to rely on the police or other forces of the state to repress and physically threaten others who are fighting for liberation." I do not agree that anti-pornography rhetoric is inherently feminist, but I believe these people had the right to espouse their views at a conference.

I am writing to condemn the silencing of discussion and debate that the CLPP organizers carried out against Stop Patriarchy attendees. These are tactics that destroy the roots of activism and reinforce the dominant voices in our culture. Shame on the organizers for a cowardly, dishonest reaction to an important and legitimate political debate. Shame on those who used threat of arrest and police power to insure that only one side of the conversation was present at a "civil liberties and public policy" conference.

I am disappointed, disturbed and outraged by the actions of CLPP toward StopPatriarchy.org on many different levels, but I will focus on one. As a librarian, an advocate of intellectual freedom, I can think of no justification for stifling, let alone shutting down with the aid of campus police (!), a debate on pornography, a subject of fundamental importance to the liberation of women. To the contrary, conference organizers should have welcomed the controversy and facilitated such a debate. An organization called Civil Liberties and Public Policy should have stood firmly on their own principles and modeled for everyone involved, what it means and why it's important for all voices to be heard—especially those who are not in the majority or a position of power. It may be more difficult after the fact, but now there's another opportunity for CLPP to stand on principle by taking responsibility for this serious mistake and apologizing publicly so all involved can learn from it. Any other response sets a dangerous precedent and goes nowhere that's civil or liberating.

It is incredible that "safe space" is becoming euphemistic for shutting down radical feminist thought and expression. Such women in presenting their views are not changing the safety of a space, not in the least. Bringing in police power was an absurd response to pornography proponents' complaints. Civil liberties do extend to radical feminists, please remember!

I am appalled that open conversation on socially important topics was stifled in this way at the CLPP conference. Creating "safe spaces" is not about forcing everyone in the area to agree on all topics—we must be able to have conversations and honest disagreements when we are talking about social institutions—such as pornography—that have the potential to be so harmful.

How terrifying to be in a space where one is not safe to be anti-porn without retribution. Where ARE radical feminists allowed to be safe?

I am outraged that CLPP shut down the "Stop Patriarchy" table simply because some people disagreed with their views. It must have been evident that the Stop Patriarchy people could also have argued that the presence of those supporting the sex and porn industries made the space "unsafe" for them. But they chose not to, and to support open and genuine debate as to the way forwards, an approach that should have been taken by all. We must oppose the censorship of the left and the assertion that the exchange of left ideas is such a violation of "safe space" that it warrants being shut down.

I almost could not believe this was true when I heard about it. No self-respecting social justice organization would ban folks who are anti-pornography. It perpetuates violence against the women who are in it, increases sex trafficking and promotes violence against women. Your credibility as a social justice organization is in serious question with me given your actions silencing people fighting against the degradation of women. You owe Stop Patriarchy a serious apology.

I wish the organizers understood the subject matters explicitly stated in the name of their own organization—Civil Liberties & Public Policy. In this case, they've violated the Civil Liberties of these participants, and disallowed a vibrant debate on an important issue with implications on a wide array of public policy—from exploitation, pornography to sex workers' rights... sad state of affairs indeed.

The deliberate silencing of political opinions, discussions, and arguments that are in opposition to the majority WILL NOT be tolerated!!! Women (and men) who come together, and organize themselves against issues which they deem to be harmful to society, should be allowed to express their opinions without the threat of state suppression or police action. I stand with StopPatriarchy.org and other groups of feminists and women who work for an equitable society and women's liberation, and I DEMAND AN APOLOGY from CLPP organizers for threatening this group's safety (which I find ironic in a conference which claims to foster "safe spaces" for the oppressed and marginalized), and silencing their dissenting opinions/arguments. Shame on you, until you right what you wronged.

I am shocked that a conference that claims to advocate for social justice used the police to evict people from their conference for exposing the harm that pornography produces. CLPP you can not claim to be for social justice when you call the police on people who are fighting against all oppression including the degradation of women in the sex industry!

If Civil Liberties and Public Policy cannot tolerate a minority report, perhaps its goal is not promotion of liberty but enforcement of policy.

CLPP has a responsibility to foster debate, not silencing.

I heard that you allowed police force to suppress a group of people sharing their views at a conference, at their own table for the cause. This is not only shocking, it is outlandish and hypocritical, and hugely disappointing. I look to the CLPP to be an advocate for justice, to fight for civil liberties, and to work towards ending oppression, for all people. To hear that you didn't allow a group to speak at their own table and to voice their views about a vastly widespread form of oppression—it's just plain wrong. Debates get heated, especially when one side is on the forefront of emerging and understandings about different forms of oppression. The pioneers tend to get a lot of flack and you should know that, as a group that fights for civil liberties. To keep the field open to accepting all voices that speak out against oppression, there should be a public apology, and this type of silencing, especially without investigation, should be stricken from your organization's actions. We are all here to grow our society into one that has more respect and more love, more rights and fairness for all. Please don't become an organization that merely plays lip service to that.

Dear CLPP,

I used to feel the same as some of your attendees about pornography and the sex industry—that it was a female right. In some ways, I still do. But I'm not threatened by the views of the Stop Patriarchy group who has some very valid points which should be listened to. You really should have created a "safe space" for everyone to discuss the issue rather than just ejecting them from the space. Set some ground rules for the discussions, etc. What would you have done if I had "gotten scared" because one of the participants had a head scarf and I wanted her ejected? I'm a privileged, mature, white woman. My demands should prevail. Right? I really feel that you should do some soul-searching. Seems to me an apology is in order. I really hope you have a open mind to that.

"Safe space" and "inclusivity" are being used as codewords explicitly against radical and other consistently structuralist feminists, to silence our politics and exclude us from spaces invested in individualist, postmodern, and liberal analyses.

How long must women wait for a society that does not excuse, justify and permit their objectification and degradation? CLPP is WRONG in using anti-radical police state forces to suppress anti-porn views and those that seek to eradicate ALL forms of oppression rather than concede to some in keeping with the tenets of current patriarchal system. It should, in the interest of civil liberties, encourage lively debate amongst those who truly want an end to oppression for ALL women. And this, should issue an apology to StopPatriatchy.org for calling in repressive forces to silence these views.

WOW! A civil liberties conference got people ARRESTED for using their RIGHT to Free Speech? This says a lot about the kind of organization you wish to be and are!

What a shame to hear that organizers of the CLPP conference resorted to police force to suppress the free speech of fellow progressives! This is so completely inappropriate, I am at a loss as to how this was approved and not immediately condemned. Please issue a public apology for this abhorrent behavior. Thank you.

I would understand forcing a group to leave if they were disrupting the conference or distributing hateful or otherwise harmful material, but this obviously wasn't the case here. Stop Patriarchy should not have been kicked out simply because the organizers didn't agree with their viewpoint.

Are women's rights NOT to be objectified and commodified, and no longer protected under civil liberties??

No conflict of ideology can ever justify the calling of police among movements. Involving the police is very serious and highly dangerous. The world is not a safe space for women, largely because of the industry built on selling the enslavement and degradation of half of humanity. CLPP made their conference unsafe by calling the police on SP activists.

It is outrageous that a "civil liberties" organization would sic the cops on someone for questioning the pornography industry! CLPP must think about this and make amends.

Scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds. Using the ruse of a "safe space" to suppress ideas you find objectionable is a tactic I have witnessed in Providence with Brown U. students. It is not only intellectually dishonest, it reflects poorly on the character and integrity of the organizers. You are judged by what you do and not by what you say. You can delude yourself, but you are the people you rail against. Own up to your mistake.

We have to uphold our right to the freedom of speech and assembly since these are inherent to all. Unacceptable. Utilizing the State to remove women opposing the filmed debasement of females is the mindset of a pimp—and we don't need any more of those. Fix your sh*t, A Feminist

The work of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy should be celebrated not silenced. At a time when few dare to speak out against the degradation of women that is glorified by pornography; the work of StopPatriarchy.org is precious. CLPP is supposed to be a place where ideas are wrangled and where the status quo is challenged; not where oppression is rationalized under the guise of empowerment and those who speak out are forcibly removed. There is no "safe space" in this society from porn. Every day of our life we contend with a society where pornography has become more violent and mainstreamed. I urge the organizers to seriously think about their actions and its implications.

It is utterly against any notion of public good to suppress the free speech against pornography. Civil liberties must work for women too.

Just totally outrageous what happened here! To those people who say that it is "their choice" to engage in porn, the question must be asked—Does a 9 year old girl in Thailand "choose" to go into the sexual slavery of the international porn industry when her family faces the "choice" of starvation or sending her into the cities, thinking that she'll get to go to school or at least earn an honest living working as a servant? CLPP must issue a public apology to Stop Patriarchy for what they did to SP. What is CLPP afraid of?

I can't believe you called the campos in the kind of situation described by Sunsara Taylor. Have you released any statement of explanation?

The use of police force to silence dissent is not conducive to creating any meaningful change in society. If you value your own views and struggles then you ought engage with those poised as allies rather than dismiss them out of what appears to be great ignorance and closed-mindedess.

Wow! What a ridiculous situation, how offensive, and what a disappointment. Shame on you Mia Sullivan!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This action on your part violates the most basic and essential standards of any movement against oppression. The police are the armed enforcers of a highly oppressive and repressive state. There is a long and brutal history of the role of the police—from the murder and wrongful imprisonment of Black Panther Party members in the 1960s to the more recent coordinated brutality inflicted on Occupy protesters across the country—in attempting to crush, punish, and demoralize those who would lift their heads to fight against oppression. No one who calls on the police to suppress and physically threaten others who are fighting against oppression can legitimately claim to be doing anything other than the work of this highly oppressive, violent, and repressive state.

I am very disappointed to see "safer space" rhetoric being used to justify the silencing of feminist viewpoints and using the threat of state force against people who were simply expressing an opinion. What happened here was unacceptable.

I was not at the conference. Nonetheless, I have heard about the stifling of debate at the CLPP conference and am appalled. I believe that we are all strengthened by vigorous discussions and benefit from hearing opinions that run counter to our own. I hope that this matter will be investigated so that nothing like this ever happens at the CLPP conference again.

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