Tag Archives: the Sanctuary for Independent Media

“The use of benign law to an illegitimate end…”

13 March 2008

The Honorable Harry J. Tutunjian
One Monument Square, City Hall
Troy, New York 12180
Dear Mayor Tutunjian,

I am writing you to express my sincere concern over the closure of the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY. I understand that the center was closed for violations of the building code; however, I feel that the circumstances surrounding the center’s closure raise very real concerns of denial of freedom of expression and procedural due process.

It is my understanding that the Sanctuary for Independent Media was closed for code violations after it agreed to host the artwork of Wafaa Bilal. I confess that I am not familiar with Mr. Bilal’s work; however, I gather that many people find it to be very objectionable. The fact that the work is objectionable, provocative—perhaps even repugnant—is what lies at the heart of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment concerns raised by the City’s actions.

We live in a nation of laws. And the knowledge that the law applies equally to the sinners as to the saints, to the rich as to the poor, is what underlies the rule of law. There may well have been building code violations when the center was shut down, but I am certain you realize that closing an art gallery for a code violation immediately after a controversial exhibit opens reeks of selective enforcement.

This poses perhaps an even greater danger than were the City of Troy to close down the Sanctuary for Independent Media for obscenity or sedition. Where this the case, only abuses of power would be at issue. The use of benign law to an illegitimate end is an abuse of the law itself. The virtue of our system law is that we are all equals before it, but selective enforcement is a use of the state’s police powers to destroy that equality. It leads us to question the law and those who enforce it. It forces us to be suspect of any exercise of legal authority. The very building codes at issue have been used as a source of positive rights, by guaranteeing that everyone who rents an apartment has the right to a safe and habitable dwelling. But if we fear the evils that the law may do, it may force us to abandon the good that it can accomplish.

The Supreme Court has consistently stated that strict scrutiny is demanded when the actions of government impinge on our fundamental rights. I must therefore urge you to articulate why a compelling and immediate need to close the Sanctuary for Independent Media arose at the peculiar time it did, or that you announce the establishment of independent forum to conduct an open investigation of the Constitutional issues raised by the closure of the Sanctuary by the Department of Public Works.

Best Regards,

Ryan H. White
Candidate for Juris Doctor
Northeastern University School of Law


Pissed Off Upstate NY Resident

President Jackson and Officials of Troy, NY

I can’t believe this is happening right here in upstate NY!!!
You mean to tell me that something amazingly thought-provoking finally
comes to our pathetically culture-dry region, and you have the non-
sensibility to shut it down? What are you thinking!!!
Oh, that’s right, you are not thinking. You are following. Following
the trend of racial hatred and division that this country was founded
I can’t imagine what hideous local, political, funded, hatred-bearing
forces could have brought you to this decision and I am annoyed to
know that they exist in my own backyard. That alone is worth our
thoughts and concern!!! It didn’t stop with you however, this cancer
of prejudice is everywhere, even in the City of Troy, as was shown by
the extremely lame excuse used for shutting down the Sanctuary for
Independent Media.
As a resident of nearby Canajoharie, NY, I am disappointed and angry.
Here Troy had a chance to provide a place for much needed dialogue and
instead it becomes a place of shame.

Julie Sadler
Collage Clearinghouse
Canajoharie, NY

The Sanctuary for Independent Media

Dear Mayor Tutunjian,

I am writing to express my dismay at the unfair closing of the Sanctuary for Independent Media yesterday. You have been working hand in hand with Steve Pierce and Branda Miller towards the remediation of all code violations as the funds are received by the Sanctuary and work proceeds.

Because of the controversial nature of the show by artist Wafaa Bilal – Virtual Jihadi – your official called immediately before the show was to open citing code violations to close down the Sanctuary. This action is censorship pure and simple.

I am very saddened that your office does not support freedom of speech our constitutional right.

I hope that you will rescind this egregious action and recognize the important cultural work that is done at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.


Pauline Oliveros
Deep Listening institute. Ltd.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute