The Honey Badger Brigade is now seeking legal advice to hold the Calgary Expo staff accountable for their acts of abuse and discrimination against us. We have made attempts in the past week to diffuse the situation by attempting to contact Mr. Kelly Dowd, president of the Calgary Expo. We have received no response.
On April 17th 2015, the Honey Badger Brigade was forcibly evicted and our booth ordered removed, despite our operating well within the rules of the Expo and its policies of conduct. We were not given a chance to dispute the alleged complaints. The organization violated its own stated policy in the process and has released conflicting claims regarding its reasons for our removal.
Those claims indicate that we were removed due to our Men’s Rights Activism and unpopular view of modern feminism. Therefore it is our belief that the actions taken by the Calgary Expo staff were of a political nature and contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in particular freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of association.
If so, this eviction was based in discrimination, an act that has defamed and abused us. While we would prefer to settle this outside of a courtroom, we are prepared to take every legal action needed to ensure that ourselves and other future exhibitors will be treated equally, and without such a denial of their fundamental human rights.
Our letter to Mr. Dowd:
Honey Badger Brigade
PO Box 990
Sent by: email and regular mail
April 22, 2015
Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo
720A Edmonton Trail NE
Re: Calgary Expo, Honey Badger Brigade ejection.
Dear Mr. Kelly Dowd:
Given the unfortunate sequence of events at your Calgary Expo this April 17th that led to the ejection of myself, my booth and fellow members of my group Honey Badger Brigade therefrom, I find it necessary to bring to your attention the following information for your immediate disposition.
By your organization ignoring the massive eruption of outrage by social media to your staff wrongfully and without just cause forcing us to evacuate our booth from the Calgary Expo, by not having any communication thereafter with us, I have taken the initiative to begin a process exploring a remedy thereto.
Summary of the incident in question, our ejection.
On Friday the 17th of April, 2015, I was ordered to remove the contents of my booth, BF3821, forfeit my Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo badge and was ejected from the Calgary Expo 2015 along with other members of my group, the Honey Badger Brigade. Their names are; Hannah Wallen, Karen Straughan, Anna Cherry, Rachel Edwards, Mike Stephenson and Brian Martinez. Also involved were volunteers, Jonathan Doyle and Sage Gerard as well as Anna Cherry’s cosplay partner.
Background leading up to the incident of ejection.
The Honey Badger Brigade booth was initially registered under the media group name I had considered for our group’s publishing efforts, “Insert media”; the link went to honeybadgerbrigade.com. We later decided that we would not use that name for our group publishing efforts and I requested that Exhibitor Coordinator, Ken Poole, update both the name and the link to Xenospora and xenospora.com, respectively on January 22nd, 2015. At that time the booth was planned to be primarily for Xenospora, the comic I wrote and all the other members of the Brigade have helped to support making it a reality, but would include work related to Honey Badger Brigade and an anti-censorship statement as well.
After our fundraiser went live but before we had fundraised the entire amount successfully, I asked Ken Poole if I would be able to update the exhibitor name on March 14th, 2015 using the firstname.lastname@example.org address. I included our booth number in the email.
After the Gamergate and Honey Badger fans funded additional members of Honey Badger Brigade to attend the convention I requested that Ken Poole update the booth name through the email@example.com address on March 31st, 2015. I inadvertently requested that he change “insert media” to “Honey Badger Brigade” at that time and did not provide a booth number. Despite the fact I had used insert media instead of Xenospora and had switched email contact addresses, Ken Poole was able to make the connection between insert media, Xenospora and Honey Badger Brigade and fulfill my request, regardless. He expressed no concern over our registration change or the final name, Honey Badger Brigade. I then attempted to update the link through the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo website interface.
Ken Poole never gave any indication that these name changes were a problem. Nor did he raise any concern over our group in any manner what so ever. The booth would be called “Honey Badger Brigade.” The comic would still be included and was still displayed in the front of the booth. “Honey Badger Brigade” is the name that Expo staff had printed on the booth’s display placard, placed at the top and center of the back curtain of the booth. It was also printed on the badges the expo provided to the group, in the booth listing in programs handed out to attendees and others at the convention, it was also the name we were listed under on the Expo’s website.
Description of the Incident
On Thursday, April 16th, 2015, the first day of the Expo an Expo staff member at the table across from our booth was overheard saying “we need to start shutting down some booths” by Hannah Wallen, who witnessed two ladies talking to the staff member, a man. One of the ladies replied “yeah, like that one” and motioned toward the Honey Badger booth. These statements could have been taken multiple ways, including as a joke. To clarify this, two members from our group asked the Expo staff member involved what it was about. He denied that the conversation had occurred and said he had not been a part of it. Our group members returned to the booth and after a discussion decided to start recording all interactions with staff and public under Hannah’s advisement.
I had previously requested permission to livestream(record) in our booth from Expo Media staff member Alex Kingcott using the firstname.lastname@example.org account with the name “Honey Badgers.” She replied that we did not need permission but thanked me for asking and mentioned that few do.
After the conversation that Hannah overheard, most of the members stayed with the booth the rest of the day.
Thursday evening, myself and Sage Gerard attended the Women Into Comics panel. Following Hannah’s suggestion and over her concern about potential false accusations, we took an audio recorder with us. During the panel discussion, in response to a statement made by one of the panelists about Men’s Rights Activists, I stood up and asked to speak and was given permission by the panel as I identify as a Men’s Rights Activist. I was given permission to speak both asking for it initially and again after identifying myself as an MRA (men’s rights activist.) She spoke briefly and a short discussion resulted from her statement. The audio of this, as well as a recording of the entire panel discussion, can be found on the Honey Badger Radio youtube channel.
After that, other members of the audience interjected with their viewpoints. At one point Sage Gerard raised his hand to speak and the Panelists granted him permission. At no point did it appear to be anything occurring of concern, but a lively discussion and demonstration of diverse viewpoints.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Everyone approaching the booth was either already a fan, interested in the artwork and the comic, or politely curious. There was no conflict or confrontation, no complaint, and no staff approached us to complain or warn the group about any behavior.
The first hint the Honey Badger group had that anything was amiss came when it was pointed out to us by others that there were people online bragging about getting the booth shut down and the group ejected. We had still not been contacted by any staff.
Sage Gerard, Hannah Wallen, Mike Stephensen and myself, took first shift at the Expo on April 18th Friday morning. We turned on our recording device again and entered the Big Four Building(where our booth was situated.) A little after we arrived at our booth we were approached by Expo staff member Shayne Henkleman, a female member of Expo staff and two security guards.
Previously Shayne Henkleman had given me his business card on Wednesday April 15th so I could send fire safety information to him in regards to the stretch fabric funnel structure we had set up. I did so via email@example.com and included our booth number. Shayne Henkleman had also approached our booth twice while we were setting up on Thursday April 16th first to ask again about the fire safety information, which I told him I had emailed him and also offered to show him and a second time to inform us our booth was not in compliance (due to part of the back exhibit protruding from the booth six inches). In both cases I complied with his requests immediately.
After approaching us on Friday morning, to our utter shock and disbelief, Shayne Henkleman ordered us to tear down the booth and remove it and ourselves from the premises. He refused to give us an on-the-record reason why we were being ejected.
I handed the recording device to Hannah who put it away in the booth. As a group we moved with Shayne Henkleman towards a side entrance. Shayne Henkleman stopped us and informed us that he would only speak to me and only if no recording device was being used. I asked if my husband could come with me and he allowed that.
Once I was alone with the Expo Staff they informed me I was to pack up the booth and leave the Expo with my fellow group members. In addition I was penalized with a 10 year company wide, nationwide ban from all of Calgary Expo’s affiliated events. Shayne Henkleman stated that harassing behavior at the panel discussion was the reason for the ban, but would not describe the specific behavior or explain how or why it was considered harassment. Shayne Henkleman stated that there were multiple complaints including 25 on social media. It is unknown to us how many (if any) of the social media accounts complaining to Calgary Expo belonged to actual attendees.
There was no investigation that we are aware of. The Honey Badger group was not asked for an account of any events during the previous day. No attempt was made to further inform the group or even give the group a chance to respond to the accusations. Shayne Henkleman aggressively repeated the eviction order. We were in shock, devastated by the action of the Calgary Expo staff. My husband, Jonathan Doyle, spoke further with Shayne Hinkleman while Hannah, Sage, Mike and myself attempted to comply with his draconian order.
After Shayne Henkleman had ordered us to leave, Rick(last name not known) approached us to indicate we should be out of the building by the time doors opened. That gave us ten minutes to disassemble a booth that took us 3-4 hours to put up. Security staff remained nearby as the group struggled attempting to comply without having brought the required tools or protective materials for the artwork and installation components. Expo Staff implied that if we were not quick enough about it we would be ejected without the material from the booth. The reason they gave for rushing us was that attendees entering and seeing the booth coming down would “look bad”. They had no concern about the damage to my art, or to our safety.
This incident contravenes the published policies and procedures outlined in Calgary Expo’s materials. Their own policies specifically state that verbal warnings and requests to cease the behavior should be the first step in the process of dealing with complaints about exhibitors and attendees.
Later, multiple accounts were released on social media in response to complaints and outrage from fans about our ejection, some of which contradicted each other. Expo staff at first repeated the accusation of harassment and claimed that the ejection was not political. Another source stated that the reason was due to the switch in email addresses during the initial communications while reserving the booth. This source claimed that despite approving the name change and using the new name on Expo-created material, Expo staff did not know the group was the Honey Badger Brigade. This simply could not be true. If that was the case it contradicts the earlier assertion that the ban was not political, as politics is the only reason why knowing the group’s name would result in rejecting the application for a booth including a comic artist’s work.
Calgary Expo has not provided us any information in writing or on the record as to why we were ejected or the extreme and severe punishment of being banned for 10 years. Their social media account initially retweeted an article on “The Mary Sue”, implying full or partial agreement with the account of events described in that article. The article itself suggested that HBB “tricked” the convention into hosting an HBB booth because the initial communication and registration was conducted through email addresses other than the HBB webmail. They posted a quote from our fund-raiser which was satirical in nature as “evidence” that we had been planning for decades to “infiltrate” the 2015 Calgary Expo and spread a “totalitarian” message in support of freedom of expression. The article also made prominent mention of our support of “gamergate” in regards to why we were ejected. That “retweet” has since been deleted by Calgary Expo.
This incident contravenes the published policies and procedures outlined in Calgary Expo’s materials. Their own policies specifically state that verbal warnings and requests to cease the behavior should be the first step in the process of dealing with complaints about exhibitors and attendees conduct.
Given that we knew many of our fans were planning to attend the Expo specifically to meet us, we arranged an alternate spot in a public park (Reader Rock Garden) near the convention grounds so that they would not be deprived of this opportunity. We convened there peacefully on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and chatted with the fans who joined us, some travelling 36 hours to get there.
On Sunday, security staff at the convention gathered directly across the street from us where about 25 of us were chatting, taking photos and enjoying the sun. At around 3:30, a police officer in a van pulled up and spoke to us. He informed us that Expo security had called police over concerns we might try to “crash” the convention and protest or otherwise cause trouble. We assured the officer that we were only there, in a public park, to meet those individuals who had purchased tickets and/or traveled to the convention in hopes of meeting us. He informed us that as we were members of the public and were not violating laws, we were welcome to stay in the park as long as we liked. In his words, “you seem like a really nice bunch of people. Have a nice day.”
Given the serious gravity of this situation including but not limited to a violation of our Charter rights, I request your written response by the end of business this Friday, April 24, 2015. Failing a response with a satisfactory resolution to this matter, will leave us no choice, but to pursue all lawful remedy to protect the interest of the Honey Badger Brigade, my intellectual property Xenospora and myself Alison Tieman.
Honey Badger Brigade
Founder/Creator, Honey Badger Radio
CC Naheed Kurban Nenshi – Mayor of Calgary
Stephen Harper – MP
Yvonne Fritz – MPP
In preparation for potential legal action we have started a legal fund. However, we do not yet have a funding goal as we are not yet able to assess the expense until we have more information. Anyone wishing to help us in our fight against discrimination and censorship can donate to it here:
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