Remarks at Cambridge City Council "comment period"
by Gary L. Dryfoos, 117 Harvard Street, Cambridge.
May 3, 1999
Mr. Mayor, Councillors:
Thank you for this opportunity.
I am speaking in relation to the City Council Mission Statement,
which calls for the city council to take care that "diversity informs
the fabric of our daily living." I hope that "diversity" includes
diversity of ideas.
Let me inform you that a local promoter had invited the SubGenius
Foundation to hold an event at a public Cambridge venue this past
For those of you who may not be aware, "The SubGenius Foundation"...
[At this point, the mayor asked which part of the city council's
current agenda the speaker was addressing. The mayor admonished the
speaker that "mission statement" was not considered a proper part of the
agenda, but allowed him to continue.]
For those of you who may not be aware, "The SubGenius Foundation"
sometimes called the "Church of the SuGenius" could best be described as
an artistic movement or social satire, with its own particular
philosophy and style of expression.
Someone, somewhere, didn't like that philosophy or style, and two
days before our event, the venue cancelled the group's appearance,
citing phonecalls, local pressure, and political pressure. As best as
can be determined, smears, rumors, and out-of-state phonecallers,
perhaps only two or three people, were responsible for getting our event
cancelled, and then after we found a new site with the assistance of the
Even a city councillor was unfortunately involved and used, and
The phrase "public safety" has been repeatedly invoked, for a group
that has performed safely and without incident for more than 15 years
all over the country, including twice before in Cambridge. We all can
remember how often "public safety" has been used as a smokescreen to
deny rights at lunch counters and public gatherings. Is it being used
that way now?
Cambridge needs to continue as a vigorous home of free speech.
I am asking the city council to look into this matter and to go on
record in favor of freedom of speech, of diversity of ideas, in practice
as well as in rhetoric, for our residents and our guests.
Thank you for this chance to defend a position I never expected to
have to defend in Cambridge.