Troy's Heavy Hand of Censorship

In two previous posts I reported on RPI banning an art installation by Iraqi-born, US-citizen Waafa Bilal and its re-opening under the aegis of The Sanctuary for Independent Media. I was there on Monday night, and there was indeed a counter demontrarion (under that old slogan of “Freedom is not Free”) by some 25 people. Bilal’s presentation & talk went ahead without any trouble, however, in front of a large audience that filled the space to capacity. It was an exhilarating occasion, living proof, it seemed, that freedom of speech & First Amendment rights were not completely extinguished in Bush-land. But then, this morning, The Sanctuary sent out the message below – extremely disheartening & shocking. Please help The Sanctuary survive by making a contribution to its fund.

Perhaps you’ve heard the news that the City of Troy, citing code violations, has shut down The Sanctuary for Independent Media effective immediately.

This happened the day after a top Troy official, who is also a Rensselaer County legislator and a constituent liaison for Senator Joseph Bruno, organized a protest condemning Wafaa Bilal’s work and our decision to present it on Monday night.

We have been working on our building since we first occupied it and throughout have been in close communication with the city about our plans, so this sudden closure- following the censorship of Wafaa’s work by RPI last week-came as quite a shock.

You can hear the phone call from the City of Troy here, along with a clip from Wafaa Bilal’s talk, and make up your own mind about the motivation behind the City’s action.

We have contacted the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and private practice attorneys for assistance on the First Amendment aspects of this situation.

This crisis has created an urgent need to raise funds for building improvements: if you can manage it, it would be greatly appreciated if you could make a secure online financial contribution at here, or send a check payable to The Sanctuary for Independent Media to PO Box 35, Troy NY 12181.

Under the circumstances, the remaining three programs in our “Art, Freedom, Democracy” series are in jeopardy as is the rest of the Sanctuary season. We will let you know shortly whether our presentation of The Yes Men next Tuesday, March 18 will proceed as planned, and if so, where.

Many thanks for your support in the past; if you can offer further help in this moment of need, please reply to this message (or email). We’re creating a separate email list for Sanctuary activists to avoid burdening this one, so let us know if you’d like to be on it.

Hope to see you soon!

–Your Friends at The Sanctuary
for Independent Media


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