By Elizabeth Trudel, Staff Writer
The Portland chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) received backlash from an event held last week surrounding the topic of the #MeToo movement and sexism. One USM student, Mariana Angelo, was asked to leave after she had allegedly violated their code of conduct by going over her time limit and interrupting others.
The event had started as a way to discuss the viral #Metoo movement. The #MeToo event description, given by the ISO, encouraged people to attend the event to learn how socialists understand sexism, and to discuss moving toward liberation for all women.
Caitrin Smith-Monahan, an ISO member, introduced keynote speaker, Camila Quarta. Quarta is a sexual violence activist and member of the New York City chapter of the ISO. She was one of the students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia University to the office of Civil Rights for an alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases in 2014. She worked alongside Emma Sulkowicz during her Carry That Weight movement, speaking out against sexual assault on Columbia University’s campus. Quarta gave a lecture which covered the history of the #Metoo movement and her experience as an activist for the cause.
When Quarta finished her presentation, Amy Gaidis, the chair of the ISO, opened the floor up to discussion. Angelo was second to raise her hand and speak. Angelo expressed her concern about the predominantly white turn out of attendees, expressing that a large majority of African-American students on campus saw the flyers for the event and were disheartened because they failed to acknowledge or credit the African-American woman, Tarana Burke, who founded the movement.
Angelo spoke directly to Quarta and stated, “I respectfully listened to what you had to say about the #MeToo movement but you left out crucial history. The black women that you failed to mention are the reason why we are sitting here right now.” She continued to express her perspective to the keynote speaker, the chair of the event, as well as the ISO members in the room.
“You claim to be an inclusive organization that supports all people, but I look around this room and I see only one ethnicity; white. You claim to be an organization that seeks social justice and wants to make a change. You claim to be an organization that wants oppressed people to have their voices, yet, currently there is a queer student and a transgender queer student standing right outside and they are being physically barricaded by two men from entering this event and none of you are doing anything about it.” Quarta remained silent. Gaidis then informed Angelo that she had exceeded her allotted speaking time and sought a new speaker but Angelo ignored her.
In response, a member of the ISO approached Angelo and asked her to speak in the hallway. She refused and exited the room. A handful of spectators followed her out. In the hallway, two ISO members then barricaded USM students Rowan Along and Iris SanGiovanni from entering the forum.
Angelo attempted to re-enter the discussion, but one of the members shut the door and stood in front of it from the inside so that she couldn’t enter. Another member remained outside of the classroom and blocked the door.
SanGiovanni stated that the two members from the ISO used their bodies to block and intimidate them from entering the room. She added that the ISO gave them several reasons for why they were not allowed to attend the event in response to the past International Women’s Day event that they allegedly disrupted, and that the organization created a policy to ban them.
Todd Chretien, a National Steering Committee member of the ISO, stated in a personal interview that SanGiovanni and Along were not informed that they had been banned from all future meetings until they attempted to enter the #MeToo event. He stated, “The individuals were informed at the door that they would not be allowed to take part in the event as well as any future ISO forums until they scheduled a meeting to discuss organization policy.”
The ISO made a statement on their website in response to the events that unfolded during the International Women’s Day event in 2017. They stated, “Individuals have taken to online platforms to characterize the International Women’s Day event, the ISO at large and individual members as violent, transphobic, and white supremacists… We entirely reject these allegations as well as the ongoing smear campaign by our critics, none of whom attended the event in its entirety, and some of whom did not attend at all.”
In a personal interview, SanGiovanni brought up what happened at the International Women’s Day event, feeling that it had a connection to the recent event #Metoo event. She stated that she is against the ISO holding public meetings on the USM campus.
“Mariana Angelo was forced out the room and then physically kept from the room by two white men. A whole room of people, mostly white ISO members, watched as this happened and said nothing. The ISO should not be allowed to use our public campus space or resources when they harm members of the public.”
Angelo, Along and SanGiovanni, took to social media after the #Metoo event, posting videos of the men who blocked them from entering the event as well as individuals who were entering and exiting the room.
Smith-Monahan expressed that Wednesday’s meeting contained sexual assault survivors and video-taping the meeting posed a threat to their safety.
The ISO countered the claims made on social media by the students with a post to their Facebook page stating, “There have been several claims made on social media about the content of our presentation. We’ve posted a video of the presentation in full which folks can consider for themselves on our Facebook page.” The organization claimed that there were two points that violated their code of conduct during the discussion, including abiding the time limits for speaking and interrupting others.
“When the chair asked them to respect those points on the code of conduct they walked out of the meeting,” the ISO mentioned in their Facebook statement.“The security team did not allow them to re-enter as these individuals had already violated the code of conduct. We remain committed to the policies outlined in our meeting code of conduct.”
Chretien stated in response to the occurrences of the #MeToo event, “Angelo is 100 percent entitled to her opinion. We have no problem with that. We have a code of conduct that was read for everyone to hear before the meeting started and she violated the code of conduct by speaking longer than the allotted time and by speaking over other people. After getting upset, the student left on her own will.”
Chretien stated that ISO meetings are open to the public, and that the meetings are spaces for people to express different points of view. He continued, “the organization uses meetings to plan protests and solidarity actions with unions, civil rights organizations and movements against oppression.”