Statement re Controversy About the Brooklyn Commons
I’m writing this message personally and also on behalf of Brooklyn For Peace, of which I am the Chairperson. We are most distressed about the threat to the Brooklyn Commons as a space which has housed and nurtured progressive groups, including BFP, as well as the personal attacks on the integrity of Melissa Ennen, as a result of the controversy over her decision to allow Christopher Bollyn to speak at the Commons on Wednesday September 7.
Personally I disagree with that decision, but whether or not we agree about that, Melissa’s decision to proceed with allowing him to use the space does NOT mean that she is in agreement with any of his ideas or views. The way in which she is being “tried” in the court of public opinion on Facebook is only giving ammunition to whatever groups or individuals would like to see the Brooklyn Commons closed as a venue which has hosted progressive ideas and events over the years.
Melissa reports that there is an effort to convince groups which use the space at the Brooklyn Commons to pull out, and that the parents of children who use the space in the programs of the nearby “Mathnasium” are being called and advised to withdraw their children because “Melissa Ennen is an anti-semite and/or a neo-Nazi.” Who is doing this, and why?? Whose agenda is being served by this??
I believe that Melissa’s actions over the past 14 years that I have known her speak louder than any words. I met Melissa in the aftermath of 9/11, when she came to a Forum (January 2002) sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace attempting to mobilize community response to the disappearances of our Muslim neighbors, and their incarceration at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park. She joined us at weekly demonstrations in Sunset Park for several months. In the years that followed, she has made free or very low cost space available to Brooklyn For Peace for our Board meetings and public events. Nothing that she has ever said or done has made me think she is in any way anti-semitic, or would support anti-semitic, racist, or neo-Nazi views.
There is an urgent need for groups and individuals to step forward both to defend Melissa personally, and to defend the space at the Commons which has been so important to the nurturing of a progressive community in Brooklyn.
Charlotte Phillips, M.D.
Chairperson, Brooklyn For Peace
Sept 11, 2016
Resources on this issue:
It’s helpful to look at this pamphlet by Spencer Sunshine, published by Political Research Associates, addressing the problem of far-right individuals and groups infiltrating progressives groups and spaces.
It’s also helpful to look at this article by Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs, addressing the question of how to respond to this problem, and posinb different alternatives.
If you missed the BFP Forum on Rise of the Right with speakers Chip Berlet and Bill Fletcher (May 9, 2016, at the Brooklyn Commons), you can check it out on BFP’s YouTube channel:
28 minute segments, aired on Brooklyn Public Television in June, July, and August: