Today's guests, Mary Paterson and Christa Erwin, are members of the Seattle Anti-War Coalition, which was the principal organizer for a planned speaking event in Seattle by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink and long-time critic of US foreign policy and militarism. The following account of the event's cancellation from two different venues is from an article "Activists denounce ‘censorship’ after canceled Medea Benjamin events" on the progressive news site Real Change News.
Benjamin was initially slated to talk about her book at the University Book Store on March 14, but the event was canceled less than a week before. Organizers scrambled to find an alternative venue at the University Congregational United Church of Christ, which agreed to host.
However, just hours before it was meant to begin, the church pulled the plug, citing the precedent from the book store. In the end, about 50 supporters of Benjamin held an impromptu protest outside of the bookstore and church, denouncing the cancelations as a form of censorship.
Peace activist and 350 Seattle member Mary Paterson helped organize the original event. A member of the Seattle Anti-War Coalition, Paterson said that University Book Store claimed that not enough people signed up for the event to justify it continuing and that they didn’t have enough trained staff to handle attendees with different viewpoints.
However, Paterson said that the local peace activists had more than enough experience with de-escalation and that it would have been preferable to hold the event as a forum for dialogue.
“We wanted to be in dialogue with people who were complaining because it wasn’t just that we wanted to have our event,” she said. “It was that we wanted to hear the complaints and be able to share our views as well.”
Paterson has worked since 2016 with Solutionary Rail and Climate Rail Alliance advocating for electrification of existing rail networks as a climate and pollution solution. In the antiwar sphere, she helps represent 350 Seattle on two organizations, Washington Against Nuclear Weapons and the Seattle AntiWar Coalition, emphasizing the intersection of the climate crisis and militarism.
Erwin works mostly on peace, healthcare and climate issues with the Seattle Anti-War Coalition, Whole Washington, National Nurses United, and 350 Seattle organizations.