Solidarity against Police brutality towards POC participant; an open letter to ImPulsTanz
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Dear Ishmael Ivo and Karl Regensburger,
We are writing to you in your capacity as the founders [a]and directors of Impulstanz Vienna International Dance Festival. We, the recipients of the danceWEB Scholarship Program of 2017 whose signatures are present below, feel that the handling of the police brutality against Mohamed Yousry Fathy Saleh (also known as Shika), one of this year’s dance webbers, has been dismissive and subpar.
On the 22 of July 2017, Shika was stopped by the police for allegedly running a red light. During this interaction Shika was taken into custody, told he was being treated as a terrorist suspect, had his possessions taken from him, and was pushed and intimidated by the police “for full details of this incident please see attached protocol”.
Following this experience, Shika requested a meeting on the 23 of July 2017 in the danceWEB room at the arsenal. This meeting was attended by Shika, several supporting dance webbers, and Rio and Hanna, as the representatives of Impulstanz. At this meeting, Hanna and Rio expressed sincere concern and a commitment to supporting Shika in his quest for justice. These concerns included a commitment to contact a lawyer, go directly to the police station with Shika, and to hold a meeting with us about the police and our rights, and finally to go public about the injustice if it came to that.
These expressed sentiments and stated plans of action have been avoided, and our attempts to call attention to this avoidance have been dismissed. Shika has only heard from Impulstanz representatives when he has initiated contact. He was never escorted to the police station for support as was promised. We as webbers are still uninformed by Impulstanz about our rights and the local laws. And finally it is clear that the legal advice Impulstanz sought out was in regards to protecting the festival and not in respects to taking action and using your agency to fight local racism and brutality against your invited guest. [b]
This experience is all too reflective of the systemic racism that is at the bedrock of the institution of ImPulsTanz, despite the best efforts of the festival to present itself as a space of radical inclusivity. Although Impulstanz regularly programs artists and instructors working diligently on anti-racist and decolonizing practices/modalities, this gesture falls flat when white leaders fail to do the work of listening to and respecting the needs of artists from BIPOC communities. We have witnessed multiple actions that lay clear this discrepancy, such as this meager support for Shika and regular racist and exoticizing content in the performances and workshops.
At the meeting on July 23rd, the representatives of ImPulsTanz stated that they would bring this issue to public awareness should it become necessary; given that it is nearing the end of the festival and no concrete action has otherwise been taken by ImPulsTanz we the undersigned have decided to make this letter public.
We view the public disclosure of this letter as a basic gesture of acknowledgement of the harm done to Shika and as an expression of solidarity at an institutional level we feel the Impulstanz representatives and administration have fallen short.
Our hope is that by clarifying the details of Shika's detainment and harassment by the police, as well as the festival's response, we can pave the way for a discussion to take place not individually between concerned danceWEBers, but on the adequate institutional level of festival administration and programming, as well as the city of Vienna and its police.
With thanks for your already made efforts and optimism that we can work together in the fight against racial injustice.
Greenmay Mayson Tong
O. Hyunsin Kim
Tamar Ben Cnaan
Hugo Le Brigand
Carmel Ben Asher
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