Liberal students attack speaker for saying sex assault allegations are complicated
A group of Portland State University (PSU) students disrupted a panel on anarchy to protest a speaker they accused of “targeting survivors” of sexual assault.
Kristian Williams, an anarchist author whose career has focused on fighting against the state and police brutality, was supposed to be one of three speakers on a panel titled “Informants: Types, Cases and Warning Signs.”
But the event erupted into chaos — as seen in a video posted on YouTube — as any efforts by a panelist or moderator to speak were thwarted by chants including “We will not be silenced in the face of your violence,” and “Fuck you, pig.”
“You need to be accountable for all the people who feel unsafe by the words that you choose … and the way you cast doubt on people who have survived traumatic issues,” one student shouted. “It’s not OK, and you shouldn’t be given the space to speak,” another yelled.
Williams’s controversial writing, “The Politics of Denunciation,” states that factions of feminism have made questions about sexual assault “off limits” because it has become widely accepted that the answer is always “whatever the survivor says it is.”
“Under this theory, the survivor, and the survivor alone, has the right to make demands … one obvious implication is that all allegations are treated as fact. And often, specific allegations are not even necessary” it reads. “It may be enough to characterize someone’s behavior … as ‘sexist,’ ‘misogynist,’ ‘patriarchal, ‘silencing,’ ‘triggering,’ unsafe,’ or ‘abusive.’”
When those present were told that the police would be coming to deal with the situation, the panelists left because they believed that a police presence would have put both them and the protesters in danger.
“As speakers, we have had two security priorities throughout this entire experience: 1) ensuring that the cops did not get involved, and 2) ensuring our ability to speak about an issue we believe is critically important to our struggles,” Williams and the co-panelists wrote in a joint statement about the event on his website.
“In the end, we resigned ourselves to sacrificing our second priority (our ability to speak) to ensure that the first was achieved,” the post continued. “Our exit from the room was the only way we knew of to ensure the safety of others who were present — including those who were
The protesters accused Williams of having called the cops, shouting things such as “Who called the cops, Kristian? Who called the fucking pigs?” and “Kristian Williams wants people to get arrested instead of walking out the fucking door.”
The panelists wrote in their statement, however, that it should have been “obvious” to anyone in attendance that this was not the case.
“None of us used our phones or in any way communicated with anyone else who used a phone during this time,” it reads. “We did everything within our control to prevent this from happening and were assured prior to the event that no one would call the cops and that no one would be arrested.”
The May 10 panel was part of the school’s Fifth Annual Law and Disorder Conference.
The students organized the protest through a Facebook event titled “Shut Down Kristian Williams!”
“Please come and support the survivors who Kristian Williams has targeted, support the feminists and survivor-supporters who Kristian Williams has deemed as ‘divisive,’ support a rad community that supports survivors and values women,” the description reads.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter @kctimpf