The MARS Collective regrets to announce that the Dinner & Bikes event scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday 9/25, will not be taking place at the Minnehaha Free Space. Here’s why.
We were recently made aware, through a comment on our website, of unresolved issues of emotional abuse by one of the participants in the event, Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing fame. We researched the situation and found overwhelming evidence, such as through statements from his ex-partner and support network, that Biel has not responsibly addressed his history of relationship abuse or his ex-partners stated boundaries in the matter. (Two starting points for more information are here and here.)
The Dinner & Bikes Tour did not make the Free Space, nor the local event organizer, aware of Biel’s history of abuse and the ongoing questions surrounding his accountability. We feel this shows blatant disregard for the ways this might impact the safety of our space and the inclusiveness of this event.
We contacted the local event organizer, and through them, the Dinner & Bikes tour. We were excited about this event and would have been happy to host it without the presence of Biel, but the tour refused this option and was unwilling to discuss options for acknowledging the issue at the event. Therefore, the event will be held at another location to be determined.
We find this situation especially disheartening because we were very excited about this event, in particular the locally produced documentary Dudey Free Zone, featuring women’s and transgender bike spaces in the Twin Cities. One major barrier to the participation of women and trans people in the Twin Cities bike community (and many other communities) is the unchallenged presence of abusers in community spaces such as bike shops. We celebrate local initiatives like the Grease Rag, which empower women/trans/femme cyclists while striving to create safer space.
While MARS does not claim to offer a fully “safe space,” we are committed to the ongoing process of making it a “safer space” for everyone. We think survivors of emotional abuse, physical and sexual assault, and other forms of domestic violence should be able to feel welcome in our space, and we are unwilling to provide a platform for the voices of those we see as acting irresponsibly in these matters. We do not take allegations of abuse lightly and believe the default position should be to trust survivors. Therefore, we feel it would be disrespectful to host this event as planned.
Moving forward, we feel this is an important opportunity to engage in critical, constructive dialogue about assault, abuse and accountability and to build our capacity to deal with these issues. We are interested in hearing feedback about the way this situation was handled and intend to host a discussion about broader related issues in the near future. We recognize that we are responsible for hosting events that contribute to a safer space, and are committed to better researching presenters in the future.
Relatedly, for those interested, we encourage you to attend the Open Mic Night hosted by the organizers of SlutWalk and MARS Collective, this Wednesday, September 28 from 7-10pm at the Minnehaha Free Space. This is one opportunity for all survivors, supporters, and individuals interested in challenging sexism, misogyny, patriarchy and rape culture to share their experiences in a safe, nurturing and respectful space.
We apologize for any inconvenience, disappointment, and confusion due to the change of plans. But we hope you will join us in standing firm against relationship abuse–in our space, city and and the radical community more broadly.
the MARS Collective/Minnehaha Free Space
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