What Really Happened at That Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago Meeting…? November 6, 2009

What Really Happened at That Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago Meeting…?

I posted the other day about friction that evolved into chaos between Sunsara Taylor and the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.

In short, as I reported it, Sunsara was invited to speak to the group on the topic of “Morality Without Gods,” then later uninvited when her other political/social views became known (and it was understoof that some of those views would work their way into her talk). Sunsara got quite a bit of support from individuals (including me) who found it ironic and “unethical” that a speaker at an ethical society would be uninvited for holding views such as Communism.

Sunsara staged a protest the morning she was supposed to speak, inviting EHSC members to hear her talk at another member’s house. A videographer was on hand to capture this… as were a couple cops, who arrested the man with the camera. It wasn’t pretty.

Members of the EHSC board feel they’ve gotten a bad rap from this and much of it is due to misinformation being spread.

They wanted a chance to clear this up and sent me the following email. With their permission, I’m posting it here:

Dear Mr. Mehta,

We don’t know if you know all of what has happened since your letter of support for Ms. Taylor but we wanted to give you the history of all that has transpired. All of the signees of this letter contributed their shared experience to this account.

Our Sunday speakers are chosen by a committee of nine people. In July, at one of the committee member’s nominations, Ms. Taylor was provisionally invited to speak on a topic of “Morality Without Gods” on November 1. The official confirmation letter was withheld until the committee was provided with a written description of her talk.

The written description was finally received on October 13. Some of the committee felt that the description provided was far outside the topic that was originally proposed. Ms. Taylor was contacted about adjusting her talk to fit what the committee originally thought they were getting. She understandably refused to adjust her talk. The committee decided by a vote of 7 to 2 to cancel Ms. Taylor as a speaker and the cancellation, with apologies, was emailed on October 19.

We are democratically run organization and the vote isn’t always unanimous; some members were disappointed. A petition was started to let the invitation stand of which only about 20% of the members supported. In the end we stuck with our democratic principles.

From October 19 onward Ms. Taylor and her people demanded she be given the November 1 platform. Attempt after attempt was made to find a solution that, although not ideal for either side, was palatable for both. The society bent over backwards to appease Ms. Taylor. She was given an October 31 workshop that was well attended and a member of the society offered her home for Ms. Taylor’s self proclaimed “speech in exile” on November 1. Notice of the “exile” speech was even made through the Society’s list serve. The only thing we would not agree to was having her speak at the society on November 1. All we asked is that she not disrupt the Sunday platform. She did not budge an inch; there was no effort at compromise from her or her people.

One plain clothes police officer from the Skokie police department was at the society the morning of November 1 because some members felt threatened by the fact that Ms. Taylor would not commit to not disrupting the Sunday program. We had no idea what a Sunsara Taylor inspired protest would entail so the decision was made to err on the side of member safety.

When Ms. Taylor, her cameraman and 20 plus followers showed up on Sunday they were asked not to enter the building, they ignored this request but no action was taken by the society and they entered private property.

After entering the building and our auditorium, Ms. Taylor started to give her speech and her camera man started taping. They were asked to stop and let us continue our event in our building repeatedly. They refused and it is then that we asked the single plain clothes officer for support.

When the cameraman acted aggressively toward the police officer he called for backup on his radio. Uniformed officers responded to that call. This man continued to resist police attempts to get him out of the building. It finally took five police officers using mace to subdue him. One police officer was injured.

What you do with this information is of course entirely up to you, but we thought you should be aware.

Respectfully,

Matt Cole – President

John Ungashick – Board Member

Lisa Crowe – Board Member

Sue Walton – Board Member

Laura Drower – High School Youth Advisor

Sharon Appelquist – Sunday School Director

Joe Burck – Program Committe

Susan Burck – Program Committe

Evan Kane – Member

Katie Merrell – Member

Ed Drower – Member

Tom Hoeppner – Member

Not that they needed to, but they also sent me copies of their email correspondence, which confirms the statements in their letter.

I extended an invitation to Sunsara to see if she’d like to respond in kind. I haven’t heard back yet, but if she would like to issue a public response, this forum is available to her.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ron in Houston

    What they’re saying sounds reasonable, but there are always two sides to a story and a truth somewhere in the middle.

  • There is a lesson in jumping to conclusions, if this is correct. At the same time, they should have released a statement much sooner to counter her story.

  • Christophe Thill

    Sorry, I have to disagree. You can use the police’s help when you have thieves around, or threats of violence. But to settle a private matter: sorry guys, if you’re grown-ups, you do it on your own. “Feeling threatened”, really? As opposed to actual threats, I suppose? If so, I really feel sorry for you.

    Also we’re told that the guy with the video camera got what he deserved. Could we know precisely how he “acted aggressively”? In my home country (France), like in yours I guess, yoou can go to court for saying something to a policeman that he didn’t like (it’s an offence in itself, and the policeman defines it). What did he do and say?

    Yes, the Society has every right to choose who will speak at their event, and to reject any given speech. It’s not a matter of freedom of speech. Allowing Ms Taylor to communicate about her “speech in exile” was nice, and she should appreciate. But the thing with the police is just one big mistake.

  • Proud Member of Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago

    Mr. Till, you are having a private gathering in your house. A guest you did not invite shows up – with several of her friends – anyway. She walks into your house, despite entries from you that she not do so, and begins to make a speech, in which she vilifies you and your house. You, understandably, have other plans for the gathering. You repeatedly ask her and her companions to leave. She refuses. What do you call this? I call this trespass and it is illegal. When an illegal act is being committed, the police are empowered to interfere.

  • JD

    Wow. Doesn’t look good for Sunsara, hopefully she can present her case and present some evidence to back her side.

  • Brian Macker

    Humans are fallible and cannot be held to be “unethical” because they correct a mistake. The mistake here was in trusting an extremist to stick to the topic of the invite.

    There was absolutely nothing unethical about disinviting her when she decided not to follow the topic that was the basis for the invite, or even if they decided for any other reason like the fact that she is an extremist. She had two weeks notice.

    Then they let her speak on Oct 31, anyway. Despite the fact that she is an extremist who spews class hatred of the kind that caused the deaths of tens of millions. Based on empirical results Marxism was the most destructive ideology ever fabricated.

    EHS acted with the highest standards of ethics. In fact, lots of people owe them an apology. Not giving one would be unethical.

    I also like how one of the on the other article here called what EHS did “evil” while at the same time making excuses for Marxism. Marxism is evil.

    The whole reason why Taylor et all were trespassing is because they don’t recognize property rights in the first place. The idea that they can be kept off private property is totally alien to their philosophy. They only recognize the force being used to protect those rights.

  • Sandra S

    Christophe,

    So, if a bunch of people trespassed on your private property and refused to leave, you wouldn’t involve the police?

    I’m so sick of people saying you shouldn’t involve the police. Of course you should, trespassing is against the law and so the ones that uphold the law should deal with it. It ceases to be a ‘private matter’ once any side commits a crime. Dealing with it privately will usually be downright ugly with a stubborn party, and surely would just end in more injuries.

  • steve

    Does this make Ms. Taylor an unfriendly atheist?

  • I don’t know Sunsara and after watching her speech “in exile” I thought that she might be just over reacting to something and I was inclined to take the side of the Ethical Society. But after reading their account, I owe Sunsara an apology. According to the Ethical Society’s letter, they invited her and then uninvited her because of her political views. They also over reacted by attempting to bar her from their meeting. Did they really fear for their lives that this woman was going to cause physical harm? Really? That is their story? Very sad!

  • Evan Kane

    @William Brinkman

    It would have been nice to get a statement out sooner, but we (unlike Ms. Taylor) do not have a publicists or a blog army.

    I would also like to add that we have received vile hate mail, there are people at the society who are afraid to put their name to our letter.

  • Evan Kane

    @DangerousTalk

    I am wondering if you could point me to the part of the U.S. Constitution that gives individuals an absolute right to enter and remain on private property to exercise their right to free expression?

    The ethical and legal thing for Ms. Taylor and her people to have done would have been to picket on the sidewalk outside the building.

  • Miko

    My reaction to the initial article was that the EHS was being reasonable, Taylor was being unreasonable, and the police were being insane. With the new details provided, I still feel essentially the same way about the situation.

    I would, however, be interested in hearing what her prospectus said that her talk would be about.

    I call this trespass and it is illegal. When an illegal act is being committed, the police are empowered to interfere.

    Sure, but there is such a thing as a proportional response. Just because I think it was probably right that the police were chasing Richard Rodriguez doesn’t mean that I think they were justified in kicking him in the head.

  • @DangerousTalk, would you rather someone who wasn’t police try to kick her out? It was the cameraman’s stupidity that made it escalate to an altercation. Last time I checked, when a cop tells you to leave, you leave. Take him to court if he violated your rights but it’s his job to maintain order.

    And they only “provisionally” invited her. Have you asked if this is normal for them or did they only do this to her? We still don’t have all the facts to say that they treated her unfairly because of her political views.

  • To Ron in Houston… though there are always two sides (or more) to a story, the truth doesn’t always lie somewhere in between. Sometimes the truth is firmly on one side or the other.

  • Miko

    @Brian Macker: Based on empirical results Marxism was the most destructive ideology ever fabricated.

    This is more communism than marxism. While I agree that marxism wouldn’t work in practice either, there’s no empirical evidence on this point, since it’s never been tried. Marxist rhetoric talks focuses primarily on the “withering away of the state,” while communist rhetoric focuses on a “dictatorship of the proletariat” (as a disguise for the eternal and absolute dictatorship of the powerful, naturally). Of course, Marx used the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” too, but in a slightly difference sense. Plus his work is as self-contradictory as the Bible, so you’ll often find that self-labeled marxists do as much picking and choosing as self-labeled Christians. As a result, marxism can look quite different from communism.

  • Miko

    @Doubting Foo:

    Last time I checked, when a cop tells you to leave, you leave. Take him to court if he violated your rights but it’s his job to maintain order.

    If this situation qualifies, then you have a strange definition of order.

  • Evan Kane

    @Miko

    What is insane about what the police did?

    They didn’t kick, punch, club or tazer this guy. Had he just not resisted the lone officer he would not have been arrested.

    Out of the 20 people that were technically trespassing this guy was the only person arrested. What might that infer?

    There were not multiple police at the building when this started. It took five police officers because the cameraman wouldn’t leave the building.

    Do we really expect the lone police officer to have not called for backup? Was he supposed to handle the guy mano-a-mano?

  • If this situation qualifies, then you have a strange definition of order.

    Someone is asked to leave a private gathering and won’t leave. Yes, that qualifies.

    I think what will help is if the video is released. Has anyone seen it?

  • P

    I was wondering about this whole case. Something about the initial story just didn’t sit right. I’m glad more of this has been let out so we can get a better understanding of just what went on that day. I’ll be checking for Taylor’s response.

  • Evan Kane

    @Doubting Foo

    No speaker gets the conformation letter until after a written description is received and reviewed.

    Had Ms. Taylor sent her written description in July, August or September the cancellation would not have been two weeks before the event date.

  • Evan Kane

    I think what will help is if the video is released. Has anyone seen it?

    That’s a good question. Why hasn’t Ms. Taylor released the video of the cameraman being arrested? She has been very quick to release everything else.

  • JD

    Where can I find video of this instance of alleged police brutality?

  • When a group has a meeting it is normally open to the public and is usually not private affair. My first question would be, “Was this meeting advertised to the public in any way?” I bet it was. Does the group have the legal right… yes. Do they have a moral responsibility to follow through with their commitments regardless of the speaker’s unpopular opinions? I think they do especially when they call themselves an “Ethical Society.”

    The provisional invitation seems disingenuous to me. She was apparently under the impression that she was invited since she made flight arrangements. Besides, again it is a moral issue dealing with the value of free speech. If they are going to invite someone “provisionally” we need to ask what were the provisions? If the provisions were that the speaker had to only speak about certain controlled topics with certain approved opinions, that is certainly legal, but is it ethical? I don’t think it is. Either invite or don’t invite, but if they tell her that they are inviting her provisionally, that seems ethically questionable.

    With that said, I still think her “Speech in Exile” was a bit melodramatic. She didn’t make a strong case for herself. But the Ethical Society also did not make a strong case for themselves. The really sad part about this whole thing is that neither side has represented themselves well. If we are to represent against the larger theist community, we really need to do better.

  • SL8ofhand

    EvanKand: Mano-a-mano does not mean Man-to-man as I believe you are using it, but rather hand-to-hand, which no police officer would resort to until all other tools at his/her disposal had been eliminated…

  • I understand the position of the EHSoC. I really don’t understand what Sunsara thought she had a “right” to do. Does anyone have a right to give a speech to any group. Until she received the confirmation letter (which she never did, according to the letter) she wasn’t even officially asked. They had only inquired.

    Reminds me of a photographer mishap we had for our wedding. We contacted two photogs, one got back to us, the 2nd didn’t. At all. So, we hired the first. Suddenly, a couple days before the 2nd photog things he’s going to show up and take photos. An original inquiry is not an agreement.

    If Sunsara wants to be a speaker, she needs to be honest with the people she’s speaking to and either tailor her speech to what they want, or accept that you don’t have the product they want and bow out. Demanding that you speak simply because they inquired is not going to make any else ever want to have her speak again.

  • That_which_doesnt_destroy_us

    @Dangerous Talk

    Re: advertising the talk — in fact, the EHSC had NOT widely advertised her Nov 1 talk. By the time the newsletter and calendar for Nov were set for distribution, a different talk had been scheduled. Taylor’s blog kept ‘advertising’ her Nov 1 talk, but the EHSC didn’t — they did, however, advertise her Oct 31 workshop at the same venue. (I think the newsletters, etc. are downloadable at their website.)

  • Evan Kane

    @SL8ofhand

    I stand corrected, I meant man-to-man or one-on-one.

  • I didn’t say advertise this particular talk. I asked if they advertise any of their meetings. If they do, then it is not a private meeting, it is a meeting open to the public. She is part of the public. You can hide behind the term “widely” but the fact is that it was a open to the public and it is simply unethical to discriminate against her because the society disagrees with something she was planning to speak about.

  • TXatheist

    Proud member of Chicago ES, in Texas, we’d shoot them if they did that in our home(you all can think I’m exaggerating if you want but that is the law here).

  • ThatOtherGuy

    @ Dangerous Talk

    Even assuming she were “part of the public at a public meeting,” that does not give her the right to commandeer the event and make a speech the event doesn’t include. That’s it.

    Also, I have no idea why you don’t seem to get that she was disinvited because they were looking for talks about subject X and her talk was not about subject X. It’s not about what her talk WAS about, it’s about what her talk WASN’T about, and that’s why they didn’t want her to speak. That’s all.

    Seems to me Sunsara’s being a huge, uh… what’s the word. Oh, yeah. Petulant bitch.

  • Polly

    it is simply unethical to discriminate against her because the society disagrees with something she was planning to speak about.

    Does an organization have the right to determine the topic of its meetings or are they ethically obligated to let anyone take the podium and speak on any topic they wish?
    The EHSC gave their reasons:

    The written description was finally received … Some of the committee felt that the description provided was far outside the topic that was originally proposed.

    Now, if you have evidence that the EHSC was censoring on-topic but divergent opinions that would help.

  • DangerousTalk said:

    According to the Ethical Society’s letter, they invited her and then uninvited her because of her political views.

    Do they have a moral responsibility to follow through with their commitments regardless of the speaker’s unpopular opinions? I think they do especially when they call themselves an “Ethical Society.”

    You can hide behind the term “widely” but the fact is that it was a open to the public and it is simply unethical to discriminate against her because the society disagrees with something she was planning to speak about.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. What letter did you read? The reason for the un-invite was quite clear:

    In July, at one of the committee member’s nominations, Ms. Taylor was provisionally invited to speak on a topic of “Morality Without Gods” on November 1. The official confirmation letter was withheld until the committee was provided with a written description of her talk.

    The written description was finally received on October 13. Some of the committee felt that the description provided was far outside the topic that was originally proposed. Ms. Taylor was contacted about adjusting her talk to fit what the committee originally thought they were getting. She understandably refused to adjust her talk.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with her political views. She was invited to give a speech on a specific topic, and she refused to stick to the topic. Why on earth is it unethical to cancel the invitation? You’re reading into this something that absolutely is not there. It almost seems like you’re trying to turn her into a poor, oppressed martyr.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    DangerousTalk, I’m pretty sure that a private organization has the right to remove or bar a disruptive or potentially disruptive person from a meeting, even if it is open to the public, or otherwise request that certain conduct not occur at the meeting, and even if the judgment that said person is or may be disruptive is rather subjective (although not off the mark in this case).

    It sounds to me that Ms. Taylor was trolling for some kind of publicity generating stunt. And she got it. I hope she’s happy.

  • If the Ethical Society needed to send a letter of cancellation, that implies that she was invited. As I understand it, she was going to be speaking about Morality without God and in that talk she was going to include a lot of pro-Communist opinions. As I understand it, the ES did not agree with those views and wanted her to cut down the Communist rhetoric. She refused and they sent her a cancellation letter.

    As I stated, she handled the situation poorly, but the ES also handled the situation poorly. The Ethical thing to do is to give her a forum for her original speech and then bombard her with questions about the content of that speech.

    They should have perhaps googled her a bit before sending her anything. If they didn’t they would know her views and know how she was going to tailor her talk. The fact is that she has talked about this topic before and would likely use much the same speech.

    But to be honest, when you ask a speaker to speak, you really shouldn’t be so controlling about the speech. Sure there are topics of interest to the group and the speaker should know that, but the content of the speech should be left to the speaker. If the group can’t trust the speaker to do that, then they shouldn’t have “provisionally” invited her to speak in the first place.

  • @Dangerous Talk

    I asked if they advertise any of their meetings. If they do, then it is not a private meeting, it is a meeting open to the public. She is part of the public. . . . it is simply unethical to discriminate against her because the society disagrees with something she was planning to speak about.

    Please read the letter again. According to them they did NOT discriminate against her. They in fact LET HER IN. The event was open to the public and as a member of the public she was allowed to attend. It was only when she began to disrupt the event by grandstanding that she was asked to leave. And that is NOT based on her political views but on her actions. Previously I said their late retraction seemed rude but if it was late because she didn’t respond then it would not be rude. Lo and behold that was the case. They short notice was because of her delay so they were acting prudently.

    The Ethical thing to do is to give her a forum for her original speech and then bombard her with questions about the content of that speech.

    Which is precisely what they did. They gave her a forum October 31 and even advertised it.

  • Parse

    I feel somewhat better about the Ethical Society after reading this. If what they say is correct, they invited her to speak on a specific topic. Ms. Taylor presented a summary that either didn’t match the topic or didn’t cover it well enough. Therefore, the Ethical Society rescinded their offer of speaking at that particular function, and provided other opportunities for her to speak at.

    I am glad that Sunsara acted honorably at first, by being honest about her intended topic. We’ve all heard about graduation speakers who submit one speech but give another. However, the stunt that she, her cameraman, and followers pulled on November 1st was little more than offline trolling. On several of the less-‘Friendly’ nonbeliever sites I read, one of the most prevalent types of trolls are those seeking ‘martyr-cred’. Those are people who come by, drop a load of passive-aggressive logical fallacies, typically crowned with some flavor of Pascal’s wager and No True Scotsman. When the regulars respond and refute – and oftentimes mock when they’re obviously trolling – the original poster responds with claims of “You’re so mean!”, “You obviously hate Jesus!”, or the like.
    Sunsara and her followers went looking for a conflict, and wanted to make sure that they were seen as the ones persecuted for her beliefs. She could have waited until the event was concluded before starting her speech. Her group could have attended the event peacefully. Instead, they refused to listen to the hosts, insisted on being disruptive, and acted aggressively towards the police officer when the hosts stepped in. How can that not be seen as seeking martyr-cred?

  • mack

    It doesn’t matter what the ethical society tried to do in reference to censoring her speech; Sunsara had no right to interfere in a private meeting in a privately owned meeting. If the ethical societies letter is accurate, she ends up sounding like a petulant child acting out her parents for attention. Sure its lame that they canceled her speech because of her political affiliations, but they are of course well within their rights to do so. If Sunsara didn’t like it she should have held a public protest somewhere else. What a baby.

  • Christophe Thill

    I’ve taken a look at Sunsara Taylor’s site and seen the speech summary she sent. Now, please note that 1) I haven’t 100% proof that this is really what she sent and 2) I’m only giving my personal perception here, and keeping in mind that any private organisation can choose who will give what speech during their events.

    But I don’t really see how she proposed to “stray away from the topic”. For her, apparently, the question of “morality without gods” implies a clear opposition to the attitude that says that morality comes from gods; an attitude that is linked to fundamentalist religion, which resurgency has strong links to the current evolution of the world (globalisation, etc).

    I for one see only a logical and credible reasoning in this, though one with which, of course, one can disagree (I don’t).

    Also she mentions that her us of the phrase “Christian fascists”, for instance, has been either misunderstood or (her belief) distorted, in order to make her appear in contradiction with the goals of an “inclusive organisation”.

    Again, I don’t know how much is true in this. If the phrase was used to mean that Christian are fascists, one could agree. But, from the summary, it seems clear to me that what she means is that some Christians show characteristics (intolerance, faith and obedience placed above everything, use of violence…) that qualifies them as fascists. I don’t disagree with this, and I don’t see who could.

    Now I fully realize that I have no special right to require the Society to give explanations on these points. If they just say “that’s what we think, period”, well, so be it. But if they’re willing to say anything more explicit, I’d be ready to hear it. I’m only, genuinely curious to hear all sides.

  • DangerousTalk said:

    As I understand it, she was going to be speaking about Morality without God and in that talk she was going to include a lot of pro-Communist opinions. As I understand it, the ES did not agree with those views and wanted her to cut down the Communist rhetoric.

    Where on earth did you get this from? Like I said, you are reading things into this that are not there. You’ve literally invented this bit, or you’re carrying it over from her side of the story, where she CLAIMED that this was the reason for canceling the talk. Seeing how Hemant has been given the proof that this was not why they canceled the talk, and that they were willing to be more than accommodating for her, I’d be a little more skeptical about her claim that it was about her views.

    The Ethical thing to do is to give her a forum for her original speech and then bombard her with questions about the content of that speech.

    They did. From the letter:

    The society bent over backwards to appease Ms. Taylor. She was given an October 31 workshop that was well attended and a member of the society offered her home for Ms. Taylor’s self proclaimed “speech in exile” on November 1. Notice of the “exile” speech was even made through the Society’s list serve.

    Did you even read the letter??

    But to be honest, when you ask a speaker to speak, you really shouldn’t be so controlling about the speech. Sure there are topics of interest to the group and the speaker should know that, but the content of the speech should be left to the speaker.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that it’s more than reasonable to ask someone to speak on a specific topic. She was not asked to speak on a topic of her interest. She was asked to speak on a specific topic, and she refused to do so.

  • Epistaxis

    All of the signees of this letter

    In ethical Chicago, letter signs you!

  • From her blog:

    Today, progressive and radical thinkers across the country are routinely dis-invited, their speech is routinely suppressed, they are pressured to self-censor, the are fired or denied tenure, and the discourse of this society is routinely kept within “safe” limits that do not challenge a bloody status quo.

    To go along with this, and to contribute to this, is to do great harm. Indeed, the ideas that are allowed to circulate in society and the ideas that are suppressed, have everything to do with whether the crimes of this world will be allowed to continue or whether these will be called out, resisted and stopped.

    Apart from quoting in its entirety the same letter that is posted here, her blog is oddly silent on the fact that they gave her a platform to speak, and advertised it for her.

    Her only mention of the workshop on the 31st is that, during the workshop, she said she’d still come to the event the next day, and that she made a statement about being in exile.

    It sounds to me like she’s blown this far, far out of proportion, and that she brought along a sympathetic cameraman to catch footage that would make her seem like a martyr.

  • I am not “on her side” nor am I “against” the Ethical Society. I think that BOTH sides acted unethically and should both be ashamed.

    Sunsara was clearly looking for attention and clearly wanted to use this to push a larger issue. That was and still is unfair and unethical.

    The Ethical Society should not have sent her a letter of cancellation. This was unfair and unethical of them.

    It was unethical for Sunsara to disrupt their meeting.

    It was also unethical of the ES to have her camera man arrested.

    My understanding of this issue comes from reading both sides and doing my best to reconcile both statements.

    We are all on the same side here and both sides should really work to find an acceptable middle ground. That middle should be to re-invite her to speak and question her content.

  • The Ethical Society should not have sent her a letter of cancellation. This was unfair and unethical of them.

    She was asked to speak on a specific topic. She wanted to speak on a different one. They asked her to reconsider. They accommodated. They worked with her. She refused to budge. Cancellation was the last option. Nothing unethical there. Not that there would be anything unethical about rescinding an invitation for any reason. She doesn’t have a “right” to speak at their event – she was being extended a privilege. It isn’t unethical to decide that you don’t want a person to speak at your event. I can’t understand your claim that it is.

    It was also unethical of the ES to have her camera man arrested.

    He was not arrested until he assaulted a police officer. He disobeyed a direct order from an officer (which you can be arrested for), he was accused of trespassing, and he injured an officer. The other people who were there with her were not arrested. Nothing unethical there. Not to mention that the ES didn’t “have her camera man arrested” – they just asked him to leave. The police arrested him. The ES wasn’t responsible for the police’s actions.

    We are all on the same side here and both sides should really work to find an acceptable middle ground. That middle should be to re-invite her to speak and question her content.

    They DID provide a platform for her to speak. They advertised it. I’m still not certain that you’ve actually read the letter, because this is pointed out in explicit detail.

  • mack

    It isn’t unethical to arrest someone who is causing a verbal and physical disturbance on private ground. If the letter is right the camera man deserved to be arrested.

  • jtradke

    I am not “on her side” nor am I “against” the Ethical Society.

    Despite your quotation marks, no one ever made either of those statements about you. You are ignoring everything MikeTheInfidel has been saying.

  • FYI
  • Sunsara Taylor on the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago, or…
    Why I Was Dis-Invited, Why I Did Not Just Shut Up And Go Away, and Why It Still Matters

    The woman who coordinated my speaking engagements in Chicago has written an account of what transpired leading up to and on the day of my cancelled talk, November 1st, 2009. This includes a robust eye-witness defense of my videographer who was brutalized and arrested. Please read her statement here: [http://sunsara.blogspot.com/2009/11/true-story-of-sunsara-taylor-and.html] as well as the statement from a lawyer who was present here [http://sunsara.blogspot.com/2009/11/statement-from-attorney-martha-conrad.html] and join in demanding the charges be dropped!

    My invitation to speak at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago traces back to a talk that I gave on a panel at Columbia College last year entitled, “A Communist, A Buddhist and a Priest Sit Down to Discuss… Morality to Change the World: With or Without God(s)?” [which you can listen to here and here].

    The diversity of views among the panelists, along with robust challenges and deep questions from the audience, made this an exhilarating evening. I spoke openly of being a communist. Drawing from Bob Avakian’s book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, I brought alive how his further development of communism places great importance on the need for the methods and means of all who struggle for liberation to be rooted in, and consistent with, our ends. In other words, if we want a world where the needs of humanity are valued above individual gain, where women are fully liberated, where all peoples and a diversity of cultures are respected and valued, and where critical thinking, the unfettered search for the truth, and individuality are fostered – then we must begin to live this morality now and we must struggle to bring that world into being. Others spoke from their own perspectives. Hundreds of students and others stayed long after the scheduled end, standing in the back and squeezing in on the floor in front.

    That night, a member of the EHSC Program Committee approached me and let me know that he intended to approach other members of his Committee and invite me to speak.

    Anyone who googles “Sunsara Taylor” can see quite easily that when I speak of morality I speak as a communist. I expose the immorality of a global system based on profit, a system that has patriarchy and the oppression of women woven into its very fabric, a system that thrives off of wars of aggression and legalized torture.

    In one of the easiest talks of mine to find online, an exchange with Chris Hedges entitled, “Atheism, God and Morality in a Time of Imperialism and Rising Fundamentalism,” I began with the story of Placide Simone, a Haitian woman who – like millions around the globe – was struck hard by the recent global food crises. I quoted news coverage, “’Take one,’ she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. ‘You pick. Just feed them.’” I made the connections between this real world nightmare and the “need” people feel for the illusory comfort that religion provides in the almost unimaginably unbearable condition of vast swaths of humanity under imperialist globalization. I further argued that religion, the weight of tradition and superstition (including the notion of “sin”), only adds to this suffering.

    I speak publicly on these and other matters not, as some now claim, out of a desire to “be in the spotlight.” I do this because I understand that even people who today often close their eyes to truths that seem too difficult, too big, too disturbing to confront, can be won to open their eyes, to think, and to act. To find that part of them that, together with others and the irrefutable evidence of both what is wrong and of the possibility of change, can be part of making those changes to this world and to ourselves in the process.

    All of this is informed by my worldview as a communist. At the same time, because this communist worldview is rooted in confronting the world as it actually is and as it actually can be, there is tremendous room for others, coming from their own worldviews but similarly committed to the betterment of humanity, to be enriched through an engagement with these views on morality.

    From all this, it is clear that the EHSC knew I was a communist from the very beginning. But, as the date of my long-scheduled talk approached, some began a drive to cancel my talk exactly because of these views.

    In his objections to allowing my approved talk to go forward, Anil Kashyap, the co-chair of the Program Committee of EHSC on October 13th wrote, “we specifically stipulated that it [her talk] was NOT supposed to focus on the revolutionary communism.” The actual focus of my talk, as it was clearly described and submitted to the EHSC, was to look at the profound changes that have been brought about by imperialist globalization and the moral crises this has contributed to, to look at the resurgence of virulent, fundamentalist religions in this context and to explore how this can be countered with a secular morality. Of course this was informed by my perspective as a communist.

    In further arguing to cancel my talk, Anil Kashyap, who is also a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a consultant to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, wrote, “A talk that claims morality is inconsistent with a global economy is nonsense. The first order fact that cannot be ignored is that the greatest anti-poverty program in history is the growth in China over the last 30 years. That was only possible because of globalism. That transformation has lots of problems, but more starving and desperate people have been lifted up faster than ever in human history.”

    This notion, that the last thirty years of capitalist restoration in China has been the “greatest anti-poverty program in history” is one I would have gladly disputed in an open exchange. I probably would have pointed out that between the years 1949 and 1976, under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung, life expectancy in China rose from 32 to 65 years, medical care was brought to the vast country-side, women were brought into education, the workforce, and public life, and for the first time in the history of China the food problem was solved. I would probably have pointed out that since capitalism was restored in 1976, 200 million peasants have become displaced and now cast about through the country, vulnerable to the grossest forms of sweatshop exploitation and that by some estimates as many as 20 million women have been driven into the sex industry for mere survival. Kashyap might have challenged me and I would have responded. In my view, this would have been great – giving people the chance to compare and contrast and form their own views.

    Rather than air his very different and strongly-held views on these issues, Kashyap and others argued for the cancellation of my speech. This is in keeping with, and contributes to, a broader chill on discourse that challenges the status quo and it is in keeping with a particularly virulent resurgence of anti-communist McCarthyism.

    A member of Obama’s team was recently pilloried for having once quoted Mao Tse-Tung, Glenn Beck regularly rants about so-called “communists” and “socialists” that are packed into the administration, and Obama himself is targeted as a “socialist” for considering any form of healthcare reform.

    To be clear, I am no supporter of President Obama and Obama himself is no socialist or communist. But I am a communist and this has everything to do with why my talk was canceled.

    To the degree that this cancellation was driven by the fear of any association with an actual communist at a time when such associations are being used to discredit people and drive them from their jobs, this is neither ethical nor practical. One does not stop anti-communism and repression by capitulating to it. Such behavior only fuels the hysteria, encourages those on the witch-hunt, and intimidates others. To the degree that those who suppressed my talk did so out of fear that my challenge to the morality of capitalism might have resonated at a time when so many are experiencing such a profound crises of confidence in capitalism, this is also indefensible. This cuts against stated principles of the EHSC as well as basic ethical standards.

    Today, people everywhere are groaning under the weight and the horrors associated with the current world order. The female half of humanity is routinely beaten, raped, disrespected and demeaned in a thousand ways and from every side. Millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands of lives have been stolen by U.S. wars just in recent years, with no end in sight. Hundreds of millions of children are caught up in life-draining labor, with no chance of a childhood and no prospects for a future of anything more than continued suffering. Here within the U.S., millions are forced out of their homes by foreclosure, an epidemic of police murder and brutality stalks the lives of Black and Latino youth, and the government routinely spies on its citizens emails, phone calls and public spaces. All of these, and countless other unnecessary nightmares, are part of the great moral dilemma of our times.

    Yet, out of fear of conflict, out of fear of sacrifice, out of fear of standing out and having to struggle for one’s principles and ethics, these and other crimes continue, even though millions disagree.

    It is the phenomenon described so saliently in a poem by Yeats, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

    All too often these days, people voice their disagreement with these wrongs… but then they go about their lives. They acquiesce. They tell themselves that they couldn’t have won anyhow – but we can never really know that. Such “wise council” might have told the same thing to the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement, the soldiers who refused to fight in Vietnam, or the women who won the right to abortion.

    Today, progressive and radical thinkers across the country are routinely dis-invited, their speech is routinely suppressed, they are pressured to self-censor, the are fired or denied tenure, and the discourse of this society is routinely kept within “safe” limits that do not challenge a bloody status quo.

    To go along with this, and to contribute to this, is to do great harm. Indeed, the ideas that are allowed to circulate in society and the ideas that are suppressed, have everything to do with whether the crimes of this world will be allowed to continue or whether these will be called out, resisted and stopped.

    I ask that each of you reading this now add your voice against this act of suppression. Spread this letter. Send statements to the addresses below. Help open up a platform to these all-too-infrequently heard ideas by inviting me to speak. Write and call the EHSC and the Skokie police department to demand that charges be dropped against my videographer.

    Contact the EHSC at: office@ethicalhuman.org and 847.677.3334.

    Send copies of your letters, and make contributions to the legal defense by contacting: sunsaratour@yahoo.com

    To all in the Chicago area, join me this Sunday at the Best Church Of God: http://www.bestchurchofgod.org/.god/

    And, because you really have been lied to about communism, join me in catching Raymond Lotta at U of Chicago on Wed, November 11th, 7 pm Kent Hall Room 107. “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong! Capitalism Is a Failure. Revolution Is the Solution.”
    Labels: anti-communism, censorship, ehsc, sunsara taylor
    posted by Sunsara Taylor at 10:21 AM

  • The True Story of Sunsara Taylor and the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago
    From Sue B., Volunteer Tour Coordinator for Sunsara Taylor in Chicago

    Since the cancellation of Sunsara Taylor’s long-scheduled talk at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago [EHSC] and the subsequent brutal arrest of her videographer on November 1st at the EHSC, there has been an avalanche of lies and distortions spread by members of the EHSC. While there are simply too many lies to refute them all, in this letter I will take apart the core elements of the mythology surrounding these events that has been constructed by the EHSC.

    I believe that part of the reason EHSC is persisting in deliberately misrepresenting what happened and spinning a story that fortifies an untruthful account is because they don’t want to confront the reality of how ugly this whole thing has been, how much it goes against their own principles.

    The unethical behavior of the EHSC began with the motivation of some on its program committee to cancel Sunsara’s talk based on crude anti-communism and disagreement with its content. In order to obscure these scandalous motivations, Sunsara’s words were taken out of context so as to invert their meaning and cause confusion. When many respected voices began to disapprove of the EHSC’s dis-invitation of Ms. Taylor, the EHSC shifted their rationale for this to a discussion of “process” and their “right to choose” who their speakers will be. When Sunsara continued to insist that the record be set straight on the real basis and motives of this cancellation, as well as the broader chill in society that it fits in with, the EHSC began to go after and slander her character. They whipped up a whole atmosphere of fear, justified only by the hysteria and the rumors that they themselves had created. Then they called in the police and set in motion events that would lead to the brutalization of a volunteer videographer and a situation where he is facing serious charges.

    Are they really willing to put a man away in jail to justify this and cover their mistake? Just how disposable is a person’s life, their freedom, and their reputation to these “ethical” people?

    One of the EHSC’s core arguments is that they have the democratic right to decide who their speakers will be. But Sunsara has repeatedly stated, “I have never challenged their bureaucratic ‘right to decide’ – I have challenged the wrongfulness of their decision and the dishonest and unethical way in which it was made. Even if they have the formal right to dis-invite me, that does not make their decision to do so morally or ethically right, any more than the fact that California voters have the legal right to ban gay marriage made their decision to do so morally or ethically defensible.”

    What are the “dishonest and unethical way[s] in which” the decision to dis-invite her was reached?

    As documented previously by me [http://sunsara.blogspot.com/2009/10/open-letter-from-chicago-tour.html] and in a separate letter by Sunsara today [http://sunsara.blogspot.com/2009/11/sunsara-taylor-on-ethical-humanist.html], those who initiated the process that led to her cancellation were driven by anti-communism and a belief that Sunsara’s condemnation of globalization was “non-sense.” Additionally, Sunsara’s words were wrenched out of context and strung together in such a way as to imply that she opposes the rights of women and of immigrants. It was in the context of these lies and this anti-communism that a vote was very aggressively rushed through to finalize Sunsara’s dis-invitation before there could be any official back and forth with her and before any thorough discussion could take place.

    This unprecedented vote took place through an admittedly ad-hoc process, over the internet and phone, and without any formal record of the deliberations. It was only then, after the dis-invitation had been formalized, that individuals from the EHSC began to construct a procedural rationalization for this cancellation.

    One of the EHSC’s insistences that this has been about “process,” is their claim that the invitation to Sunsara had only been “provisional” and that their request to her for a talk description was because the Board was still deliberating over whether to approve her. In a letter issued on November 5th and signed by their president and several members of their board, they claim: “In July, at one of the committee member’s request, Sunsara Taylor was provisionally invited to speak on the topic of ‘Morality Without Gods’ on November 1. The formal invitation was withheld until the committee was provided a written description of her talk.”

    The only problem is, there was nothing “provisional” about the invitation. Sunsara’s November 1st talk on “Morality Without Gods” was confirmed in July. It was then listed in the EHSC’s October calendar that went out in September.

    After Sunsara submitted her talk description, she received the following note from the the co-chair of the program committee: “Thanks, Sunsara, for your reply. I appreciate your decision to speak on the original topic of morality without gods, though, of course, you might still touch on the topic of human nature, however you feel it is relevant. From your description of your talk, I will write a brief item in our November newsletter. It should stir up a lot of interest. It’s an aspect of humanist and secular thought that is not commonly heard.”

    In this same letter signed by the EHSC president and board members, the claim is made: “From October 19 onward Ms. Taylor and her people demanded she be given the November 1 platform. Attempt after attempt was made to find a solution that, although not ideal for either side, was palatable for both. The society bent over backwards to appease Ms. Taylor. She was given an October 31 workshop that was well attended and a member of the society offered her home for Ms. Taylor’s self proclaimed ‘speech in exile’ on November 1. Notice of the ‘exile’ speech was even made through the Society’s list serve.”

    None of this is true.

    In actuality, the Saturday workshop was set up last summer at the same time as the Nov. 1st talk, by a different Society committee, on a different topic, “The Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of Humanity.”

    Then, when Sunsara wrote to the EHSC to set the record straight about the many lies members of the EHSC had spread about her, the EHSC responded not by addressing the substance of her letter, but by raising the specter of canceling the Saturday workshop as well. On Sunday, Oct. 25, Matt Cole announced to his congregation that Sunsara’s Saturday workshop was “under negotiation” (as opposed to “scheduled”) – to an audible gasp in the audience. An emergency special board meeting was hastily called for the next night (against the EHSC’s internal rules as set forth in by-laws). The reason the Saturday workshop went forward is not because the EHSC was trying to make amends for canceling Sunday’s program, but because enough board members and others wanted to see this workshop go forward.

    Further, the “talk in exile” only happened because an individual stepped forward to provide a space at her home. This individual was so disgusted by the way in which Sunsara was dis-invited that she has formally resigned from the EHSC. For the EHSC to suggest that they arranged this location so as to accommodate Sunsara is the height of dishonesty as well as cynicism.

    By the time we get to November 1st, the EHSC has whipped up into a make-believe world of “threats” and “fears” entirely of their own making. They write, “Taylor would not commit to not disrupting the Sunday program. We had no idea what a Sunsara Taylor inspired protest would entail so the decision was made to err on the side of member safety.”

    The idea that fear and police repression are justified because someone who has never given any indication that they would carry out disruptive acts has not promised not to commit such acts is absurd and outrageous. Since when is it acceptable for people to be assumed guilty and repressed unless they jump through hoops constructed by the very people who have spread rumors and whipped up an air of fear about them?

    Sunsara made clear on Saturday, October 31st that, “I will be attending the Sunday gathering, tomorrow, right here at the EHSC prepared to give my talk and giving the EHSC the chance, up until the last minute, to do the right thing. If they refuse, I will be giving my talk in exile and asking others to join me at the house of one of the members of the EHSC nearby.”

    There were no “safety reasons” to move Sunday school off site. There was not “Sunsara Taylor inspired protest” to fear. There was no legitimate reason for police to be called in advance of Sunday morning’s program.

    For a basic account of what happened around Sunsara and her videographer, please refer to the statement from a lawyer who was there. (link)

    I was there and I can attest that Sunsara was never asked to leave the premises, never asked to stop speaking and that Sunsara (contrary to the claims of the EHSC) did not disrupt the Sunday program. Sunsara concluded her brief statement and left to give her talk off-site BEFORE the Sunday replacement program had even begun.

    It was during this brief statement that a plain clothes officer and a uniformed officer, without warning or justification, grabbed the videographer by each arm and pulled him out of the room. I, like most people present, thought the police were coming for Sunsara. Instead they went for the one documenting her statement, at the direction of the EHSC’s president.

    Given how many lies and how much unfounded fear had been whipped up around Sunsara, it made perfect sense that she would want someone to get a record of exactly what she did and did not say and do.

    If Sunsara were truly creating a dangerous disturbance, why did no one tell her to stop, arrest her, or insist on getting her actions on tape? Why, instead, did the EHSC president insist that the one person documenting what transpired be arrested and detained?

    The videographer was not told to leave, did not resist arrest, did NOT assault a police officer. He faces 3 serious charges of criminal trespass, resisting arrest, and battery on a police officer. But it was he who ended up in the hospital being treated for injuries to his head, eyes, and wrists. The police sergeant himself had called an ambulance to the jail out of concern for his injuries.

    The complaint of criminal trespass is brought by Matt Cole. A police officer was overheard asking him, “Are you sure you want to press charges?” If there had been no charges pressed by Matt, there would be no charges at all. It is very typical in cases that involve police brutality that charges of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer are piled on to guard against being sued for the brutality.

    ***

    People are looking at this whole sick situation and think there must be some more reasonable explanation, it is just too bizarre — and, too frightening. But this is the unvarnished truth. Best to look at it. This is the logic that gets unleashed when censorship leads to lies to justify it; where anti-communist fear and distancing generate more fear and hysteria. People get vilified and driven off committees. Others get scared and shut up, or lose heart and patience for the arduous struggle to guard the truth and stand on principle against this. One man has been brutalized and charges have been pressed against him with serious potential consequences.

    Unfortunately, this situation is not over.

    We all have choices about what we will do now — and responsibility.

    Please contact EHSC and the Skokie police to demand these charges be dropped.

    Contact: office@ethicalhuman.org or call: 847-677-3334.
    send copies of your correspondences to me at: sunsaratour@yahoo.com.

    I invite your comments, criticisms, inquiries and support at: sunsaratour@yahoo.com.
    posted by Sunsara Taylor at 10:13 AM

  • Statement from Attorney Martha Conrad Regarding November 1st at the EHSC
    I am a lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois for the last 23 years.

    I was present at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago [EHSC] on November 1st. I personally witnessed the entire incident leading to the arrest and can lay out the salient facts of what occurred at EHSC that day.

    That morning, I entered the building behind Ms. Taylor and others about ten minutes before the 10:30 am program was to start. No one at any time told Ms. Taylor, the videographer or anyone else that they could not enter the event, which was advertised as being “free and open to the public.”

    I was close to Ms. Taylor and the videographer the whole time. Ms. Taylor entered the auditorium and sat down. A man, who I later learned was the director of EHSC, came over to talk to Ms. Taylor and told the videographer who was videotaping the interaction to turn off the video camera. He did so. At no time, did the director or anyone else ask Ms. Taylor or the videographer to leave. After talking briefly to the director, and before the official EHS program was to start, Ms. Taylor stood next to her chair and began making a short statement challenging the decision by the EHS to “disinvite” her. At no time during her statement was she told to stop. After approximately two minutes, the police came into the auditorium and Ms. Taylor stated, “I’m going to be leaving now.” At that time the videographer appeared to be recording Ms. Taylor’s statement with a cell phone. I then saw a uniformed police officer and a man in a baseball hat grab the videographer by each arm. I didn’t hear either give any instruction or warning. They proceeded to roughly pull on his arms as they took him out of the room. (Later, the man in the baseball hat identified himself to me as a police officer who had been hired to be there.)

    I followed them to the hallway, and saw officers repeatedly batter him. I turned away for a moment, and when I looked back the videographer was down on the floor. The police pulled him down the hallway and out of my sight. I pushed past some other people in the hallway and entered the foyer. I saw 4-5 officers piled on top of the videographer as he lay face down on the floor. I loudly announced I was a lawyer, and called out to them that the man had done nothing illegal. I demanded that they stop battering him.

    There were so many officers on top of him that it was difficult to see him. But I did see the officers bash his head against the floor at least twice. They twisted his arms behind his back and handcuffed him. A couple of minutes later, after the officers had taken the videographer outside and were putting him in the police car, I observed that one side of his face and neck was scratched up. One of his eyes was violently red and tears were pouring out of that eye and down his cheek.

    At no time was the videographer aggressive toward the police officers. At no time did he resist arrest.

    A sergeant on the scene approached me and claimed, gestering to EHSC and the EHSC people in front of it, “These people here are doing this. It is not us.”

    I went to the Skokie police station, where the videographer was taken. When I arrived I saw an ambulance there. I identified myself as a lawyer, announced my concern for the videographer’s medical condition, and demanded to see him. I was not allowed to do so. The same sergeant who I had seen at EHSC came out and spoke to me in the waiting room. He told me he had called the ambulance due to the videographer’s injuries. The videographer declined going to the hospital in the ambulance and flushed his own eyes of a chemical spray they had used on him.

    The videographer is charged with criminal trespass to property, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. These are very serious charges and totally unwarranted. Later that afternoon, the videographer was released after a collection was taken up to pay his bond. Immediately upon his release, he went to Skokie Hospital where doctors treated his multiple injuries to his head, chest and wrists. His case is set for November 18th, and I ask that you join in demanding that these unfounded charges be immediately dropped!
    Labels: arrest, ehsc, lawyer, police brutality, videographer
    posted by Sunsara Taylor at 9:54 AM

  • ThatOtherGuy

    Sorry, Sunsara, but you’re still being an attention-seeking, petulant, whiny drama queen who blows things out of proportion for her own personal gain. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

  • ThriceGreatMe
  • A Mile of Bad Road

    If all you have is spamming the comments with copypasta’d garbage, then you are not worth listening to.

  • ThriceGreatMe

    If all you have is spamming the comments with copypasta’d garbage, then you are not worth listening to.

    I was only attempting to draw attention to PZ Meyers take on the situation, believing him to be someone whose opinion is highly respected by many readers of this blog.

    I apologize if I have have failed to conform to your expectations of proper commenting etiquette. I promise that, in the future, I will limit my activity to immature, content-free sniping.

    Your welcome.

  • Pretty sure they meant the copy-pasted stuff from Sunsara’s blog, not you.

  • muggle

    But still…

    Why do people act like PZ Myers is infallible? Honest to God, so many Atheists act as if his word is the be all and end all of everything, every time. He’s a pretty smart guy and all but he, like everyone, has his biases and short comings.

    And they’re showing here.

    I hope I never hear Sunsara’s name again. What a self-entitled brat!

  • muggle

    C’mon, tell me in this room full of skeptical thinkers, I’m not the only one finding it mightily suspicious that her site is only showing a still photograph of the arrest and not all that went on leading up to it even though it was being videotaped.

    Even in the still, the guy hardly looks abused, just under arrest — as he should be for not leaving private property when asked to do so and for assaulting a police officer.

  • muggle

    You invite my comments Sunsara? Why? So you can quote them out of context — rather like that pathetic still of someone being arrested touted as police brutality? You need help, hon.

    And I don’t mean legal. Though there’s a great deal of irony in someone promoting communism screaming for her rights like a baby having her candy yanked away from her.

  • No, muggle, you’re definitely not alone. I saw that photograph and thought, “this is just a guy being subdued because he was resisting arrest.” The sort of stuff I’m hearing from Sunsara’s camp reminds me strongly of things I’ve heard from Scientologists.

    Not that I’m saying the EHSC is innocent, but I’d bet that the truth is likely closer to their story.

  • David D.G.

    Ron in Houston wrote:

    What they’re saying sounds reasonable, but there are always two sides to a story and a truth somewhere in the middle.

    Ron, please tell me you’ve never had to serve on a jury.

    Just because there are “two sides” to a story doesn’t mean that the truth is necessarily somewhere in between them. A person on one of those “sides” could be simply mistaken — or could be lying like a rug.

    For example, consider the “manufactroversies” surrounding such topics as vaccination, evolution, and global climate change (not to mention the issues relentlessly raised by Birthers, Truthers, and Moon-Landing Hoaxers). The credulous media reporting “both sides” doesn’t necessarily mean that the truth lies somewhere in the middle; often, it means that one side is either lying or simply delusional.

    ~David D.G.

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    ThriceGreatMe: Tone down the self-righteous indignation. That was directed at the copypasta’d walls of text, not at you.

  • Evan Kane

    Spoke with the Skokie police today and learned two interesting bits of information.

    1. The supposedly docile cameraman who was maced and arrested for “no good reason” has a long arrest record that not only includes violent crime but he has even been convicted of homicide.

    2. The camera that he was using to record the even was NOT confiscated by the police. What is on this tape that the Sunsara Taylor people don’t want us to see? They sure are quick to post everything else.

    The police report is now public for anyone interested in getting it.

  • Proud Member of Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago

    I will try to get a copy of the police report. Meanwhile, according to the following police blotter, the cameraman did resist arrest:

    http://www.pioneerlocal.com/skokie/news/1870011,skokie-blotter-111209-s1.article

  • Sue B.

    Here is a completely appropriate response to Evan Kane’s post, from PZ Myers on his blog, Pharyngula:

    Posted by: PZ Myers Author Profile Page | November 8, 2009 8:22 PM

    Mr Kane:

    “The supposedly docile cameraman who was maced and arrested for “no good reason” has a long arrest record that not only includes violent crime but he has even been convicted of homicide.”

    The fact that someone has been convicted of a crime in the past does not mean that the police can beat him up and mace him at will, nor does it imply that he was not docile.

    You’re making it worse for yourself. That kind of poisoning the well argument is meretricious and a disgrace.

  • Brian Macker

    P Z Myers is well know for his dubious thought processes when it comes to trespass.

    He for instance likes to disrupt religious ceremonies, asking people to steal communion wafers from them.

    “Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.”- P.Z.Myers

    How is anyone supposed to get consecrated wafers without stealing them from a ceremony? The wafers are given out with limited intended use during a ceremony, not for handing over for some demonstration of religious hatred.

    Myers is only justifying this kind of behavior, trespass, because he’d likes to do worse, like the above (without the guts to trespass and steal himself). After all attending such a religious ceremony with the intent to steal a eucharist would be trespass.

    Besides I think Myers has leftist leanings because he’s said “My least favorite political/economic group is the Libertarians, …” That would put Marxists, Facists, and Nazis higher on his list of favorites. He sympathizes with the Marxists as they are on his side, and he hates the more libertarian contingent of the EHS who found Sunsara’s switched speech unacceptable.

    The point wasn’t that the trespasser with the camera can be arrested and maced at will wherever he stands. Myers sets out a straw man as he often does when he’s in debate mode. The point was that the guy has a history of reacting violently to others. In this case, the trespasser resisted eviction from someone else’s property. He should have left when the officers asked him to, the drama queen.

    Make no mistake going onto someone else’s property and refusing to leave is the use of physical force, and is abuse of property, and therefore entails violence.

    You have to have several sheets to the wind to be a Marxist in the first place. Any kind of Marxist because Marx himself was an evil crackpot.

    Also the Gregory Koger, the trespasser in question, has stated on his website, “On my attorney’s advice, given the pending serious charges I face, I am not commenting and I’ve made parts of my website private until after the legal proceedings are resolved and I can speak freely.”

    In other words there were statements on his website that his attorney decided are incriminating, show him in a bad light (perhaps as advocating violent protest), or otherwise, that he needs to hide.

    Pointing out his violent history also goes to show the kind of people Sunsara hangs out with so that perhaps there was good reason to have the police there.

  • @Brian Macker — Not sure what PZ has to do with any of this… but someone sent him that wafer. He didn’t go into the church. Furthermore, how is it stealing when the church gives you the wafer? What you do with it is your decision.