Common Decency in the Face of the Far Right: A Call to Boycott the Brooklyn Commons

In a time of skyrocketing hate crimes and aggressive organizing campaigns by far right groups, the Brooklyn Commons has now advertised itself as a platform open to racist and fascist speakers. This has occurred after the space’s sole owner, Melissa Ennen, chose to host Christopher Bollyn, an anti-Semitic speaker and Trump supporter with neo-Nazi ties, in September 2016. She has since said she would welcome members of the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups to use the space. While it is Ennen’s legal right to collaborate with the far right, we will not assist her in this.

Common Decency is therefore calling on all people who are interested in equality and justice to boycott the cafe and event space at the Brooklyn Commons until their policy is changed to disallow its use by openly racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other far right speakers, organizers, and organizations.

The boycott is a last recourse after months of stonewalling by Ennen, an heiress who owns the building outright and controls all aspects of it. She has repeatedly refused to meet with activists who have reached out to her to discuss their concerns; stood idly by while both her employees, and affiliates of organizations that rent from her, have physically assaulted her critics; and has intentionally spread misinformation about what has happened at each step. What’s more, she has gone on the radio to explicitly offer the Brooklyn Commons as a platform to David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

safe space copy.pngIn fall 2016, when “raging anti-Semite” Christopher Bollyn was booked to speak, numerous people attempted to contact Ennen well before the talk. She refused to answer calls, emails, or requests for meetings. During a demonstration at Bollyn’s talk, Ennen’s cafe and security employees physically threatened and hurled sexist insults at protesters. During a later open mic night, Jewish community members who staged a specifically non-violent intervention were violently attacked and sexually harassed by participants in Brooklyn Commons’ projects, while Ennen again called the police on the non-violent activists who had intervened (this incident was recorded on video).

Ennen has refused to take responsibility for her actions; instead, she has painted herself as a victim. In fact, she has chosen of her own free will — and enabled by her significant wealth — to aid in spreading far right ideologies. While Ennen may not be not a neo-Nazi, she has made it clear she is willing to support them. Ennen may not be a white supremacist, but she allows them a platform. She may not be a violent person, but she allows her staff to enact violence on her behalf. And when community members peacefully protest, she calls the cops on them. Meanwhile, she holds her tenants hostage, using the reduced rent and the ever-rising costs of space elsewhere as a crude way to divide the leftist community, and thereby dodge any accountability for her actions.

Before the decision to issue this boycott call was made, Common Decency reached out to Ennen once again to provide her with an opportunity to sit down and talk to us. She stonewalled us every time, dragging this out for months. In time, defenders of Ennen have started to gaslight those who have discussed a boycott: falsely claiming we have threatened and harassed her, while in fact, we have very patiently attempted to engage her in dialogue. None of our members has ever called for harassment or violence against Ennen or her family, which runs counter to our forming this group and reaching out to her. We have done this peacefully and patiently, while it has been Ennen’s staff and some of her tenants who, with her tacit consent, have assaulted and harassed us.

Ennen’s actions are not the actions of an ally to the progressive community. They are not actions in solidarity with oppressed people, who are facing the existential threat of a Trump presidency. They are not the actions of a responsible adult who takes responsibility for their actions. They are not the actions of a rich, white woman who wants to use her advantages to help the community at large. They are the actions of a bully who seeks to use us for their own gain, divide us in a time of danger, and profit from the results. And she is not unique in this. Far right activism can only flourish when those who do not share their views are willing to collaborate and share resources with them. Ennen’s actions are the symptom of the larger problem of how anti-Semitism, racism, and conspiratorial ideology are allowed to flourish in our communities and our community spaces.

In order to dispel falsehoods that have surrounded this controversy, including untruths that Ennen and her supporters have spread, we have set up an FAQ. Unlike Ennen, our members are available to discuss any specifics with concerned community members.

A Call to Boycott the Brooklyn Commons

Brooklyn Commons owner Melissa Ennen has shown that her space is a welcome platform for racist and fascist speakers, organizers, and organizations, as well as for physical assault and sexual harassment against community members by her employees and members of projects based there. Ennen has repeatedly refused invitations to discuss the concerns of Brooklyn’s progressive community or potential resolutions. Therefore, until we are assured that the Brooklyn Commons will refuse to host racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, or otherwise far right speakers and organizers, we are calling for a boycott of the Brooklyn Commons event space and the Commons Cafe. We are also calling on Brooklyn Commons cafe manager, Robby Hecker, who has physically assaulted critics of the space, to go through an anger management class and restorative justice process, or to be removed from the space.

Please note that we are not calling for a boycott of the organizations that rent from the Brooklyn Commons, only the spaces under the direct control of their landlord. We stand in support of the many organizations that call Brooklyn Commons their home, and we invite them to join this boycott as they are able.

INITIATING GROUP:
Common Decency

ENDORSING GROUPS:
Anarkoartlab
Antifa International
Anti-Fascist News
BashBack NYC
Copwatch Patrol Unit – Brooklyn Sector
Cosmopolitan Antifascists
IfNotNow
L.I.F.E.E. Organization
Muslim-Jewish Antifascist Front
NYC Anarchist Black Cross
NYC Anarchist Book Fair
NYC Antifa
NYC2StandingRock
One People’s Project

If you would like to add your group’s name to the list, please send us an email at commondecencynyc@gmail.com.

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