Missouri History Museum cancels solidarity event planned by students
An updated version of this article can be found here.
The Missouri History Museum has cancelled an event exploring the similarities between social movements in Ferguson, Ayotzinapa and Palestine after organizers refused to remove Palestinian activists from the panel of speakers.
Co-hosted by Washington University student group AltaVoz, Latinos en Axion STL, the Organization for Black Struggle and the Saint Louis Palestinian Solidarity Committee, the “Ferguson to Ayotzinapa to Palestine: Solidarity and Collaborative Action” event scheduled for Thursday night was intended to draw from across St. Louis. Organizers said that most of the predicted attendance would come from St. Louis community members rather than Wash. U. students.
In a public statement released Wednesday afternoon, the museum claimed that the event was cancelled because it had “significantly change[d]” from its initial format as presented in an email from senior and organizing AltaVoz member Sourik Beltran.
But Beltran said that while Palestine had not been mentioned in his initial communication with the museum, the inclusion of Palestine in the event was made clear in subsequent exchanges and on promotional materials posted to the museum’s website.
A page promoting the event on the museum’s website included the event’s full name and information on the panelists, which contained references to Palestine and the Saint Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, respectively. As of Wednesday afternoon, that page had been taken down, with the URL directing users to a “page not found” notice.
“They posted our flyer online, they posted the title online, they posted the event description online—all of which had Palestine in it—so there’s no way they didn’t know,” Beltran said.
In an update to its statement posted around 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the museum acknowledged, “We were initially open to the changes and posted information about the program on our webiste [sic]. However, after much consideration we decided the complexities of this issue could not be adequately addressed in this format.”
Beltran said that he received a call from a representative of the museum on Tuesday explaining that the event would be canceled unless the Palestinian activist panelists were removed.
“They gave us an ultimatum, either that we don’t include Palestine or that we don’t do the event. So at that point we said that we weren’t going to do the event,” sophomore and event organizer Bradley Schlesinger said.
Organizers said that they still plan to have attendees meet outside the museum on Thursday night to support the Palestine Solidarity Committee and that they are considering new venues to host the panel.
“All we know is that people feel like they’re being silenced, people feel like the Missouri History Museum is stifling conversation—conversation that needs to be had,” Beltran said.
UPDATED: 4:55 p.m., after the Missouri History Museum updated its public statement.
Editor’s note: This article has been amended to correct the name of the student group organizing the event.