Remarks at Cambridge City Council "comment period"
by Gary L. Dryfoos, 117 Harvard Street, Cambridge.
May 3, 1999
Mr. Mayor, Councillors:
Thank you for this opportunity.
I am speaking in relation to the City Council Mission Statement, which calls for the city council to take care that "diversity informs the fabric of our daily living." I hope that "diversity" includes diversity of ideas.
Let me inform you that a local promoter had invited the SubGenius Foundation to hold an event at a public Cambridge venue this past Friday.
For those of you who may not be aware, "The SubGenius Foundation"...
[At this point, the mayor asked which part of the city council's current agenda the speaker was addressing. The mayor admonished the speaker that "mission statement" was not considered a proper part of the agenda, but allowed him to continue.]
For those of you who may not be aware, "The SubGenius Foundation" sometimes called the "Church of the SuGenius" could best be described as an artistic movement or social satire, with its own particular philosophy and style of expression.
Someone, somewhere, didn't like that philosophy or style, and two days before our event, the venue cancelled the group's appearance, citing phonecalls, local pressure, and political pressure. As best as can be determined, smears, rumors, and out-of-state phonecallers, perhaps only two or three people, were responsible for getting our event cancelled, and then after we found a new site with the assistance of the ACLU, re-cancelled.
Even a city councillor was unfortunately involved and used, and probably misled.
The phrase "public safety" has been repeatedly invoked, for a group that has performed safely and without incident for more than 15 years all over the country, including twice before in Cambridge. We all can remember how often "public safety" has been used as a smokescreen to deny rights at lunch counters and public gatherings. Is it being used that way now?
Cambridge needs to continue as a vigorous home of free speech.
I am asking the city council to look into this matter and to go on record in favor of freedom of speech, of diversity of ideas, in practice as well as in rhetoric, for our residents and our guests.
Thank you for this chance to defend a position I never expected to have to defend in Cambridge.
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