Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press, June 3, 2014
Organizers of a controversial conference scheduled to be held in Detroit later this month said they must pay police to provide security during the event, because of threats.
The International Conference on Men’s Issues is scheduled to take place at the DoubleTree Fort Shelby in downtown Detroit on June 26-28, but thousands of people signed a petition calling for it to be canceled.
Dean Esmay is helping to organize the conference put on by A Voice for Men and said the group’s mission is to fight for specific issues confronting men and boys, such as homelessness, suicide prevention and incarceration.
But the group has been critical of feminism, and Esmay said the presumption that one is “guilty until proven innocent” is a problem men have in sexual assault cases and domestic violence cases. The group’s positions have drawn harsh critics locally and even internationally.
“The threats have escalated to include death threats, physical violence against our staff and other guests as well as damage to the property,” said a letter provided to the Free Press by a group official, who said it was sent by hotel staff.
The letter, dated May 29, said that a minimum of seven officers will be needed in the hotel at all times during the conference but that could increase and the group hosting the event will be responsible for the cost.
Meanwhile, more than 2,300 signatures appeared on an online petition Monday on change.org expressing opposition to the conference and calling for it to be canceled.
“The petition to cancel the conference has worldwide support, and we’re getting the word out almost exclusively through social media,” said Kelly Jackson.
She started the petition last week.
Esmay said more than 200 people are expected to come to Detroit for the conference that will feature 14 speakers. He estimated the cost for police will be about $20,000.
Based on some of what they’ve seen on social media and petitions, Esmay thinks there’s a good chance people will protest.
“We would welcome them if they’re peaceful protesters,” he said. “We protest ourselves. . . . It’s the American way.”