Sunday, October 10, 2010

Protest Against Autism Speaks in Columbus

On Sunday, October 10, ASAN-Central Ohio/Ohio State protested Autism Speaks' Walk Now for Autism on the Ohio State campus, a protest that lasted four hours and attracted media attention from ABC-6, 10TV, and independent journalists. (See the end of this post or click here for video footage of the protest.)

Approximately 15 Autistic individuals and cross-disability allies protested Autism Speaks' lack of family and community support, its high executive pay, its lack of Autistic representation, and its eugenic aims. Protesters heavily emphasized that Autism Speaks only gives 4% of money raised to families and local communities.

Protesters face the crowd of walkers.

During the first half of the protest, protesters faced incoming traffic and held signs with slogans such as Listen to Me, I Have Autism, First Class Autistic, Second-Class Citizen, and Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me. Several interested individuals approached the group, some kind and supportive, others not. One such negative encounter involved a walker who claimed that Autism Speaks can't have Autistic leaders or board members because Autistic people are incapable of making important decisions.

From left to right, top to bottom: Benzion Chinn, Ross Edelman, Elizabeth Brewer, Justin Rooney, Erika Strandjord, Jessica Roeder, Noranne Cochran, and Melanie Yergeau.

During the second half of the event, protesters faced 18,000 walkers, many of whom were far more belligerent than those encountered during last year's protest. One walker screamed, "Are you all stupid?! You're all stupid!" This particular walker lunged toward the protesters and had to be pushed back by a friend and a walk official.

Others screamed, "You're a bunch of idiots!" and "How do you sleep at night?" Additionally, toward the end of the protest, a car full of walkers swerved at ASAN-OSU's faculty advisor as though they were going to hit her, and then drove off laughing. When protesters engaged in a dramatic reading of Jim Sinclair's "Don't Mourn for Us," a group of parents booed and yelled, "Go home! You suck!"

Protesters march in line formation.

Protesters chanted at several intervals, with slogans such as Nothing about us without us! We don't need a cure! and Autism Speaks needs to listen! At one point, a group of cheerleaders grew quite loud in their chants, and protesters responded with, 2, 4, 6, 8, Autism Speaks discriminates!

Campus police and certain walk officials took great care to protect ASAN's first amendment rights, for which the protesters are incredibly grateful. So too did State Representative Ted Celeste stop by, listen, and share kind words with the protesters. The reporters were also very gracious and willing to listen.

Faculty advisor Cynthia Selfe and student Jessica Roeder

ASAN-Central Ohio/Ohio State thanks those who were involved in the protest, including those who attended and those who assisted in planning. Individuals across the United States called and wrote cross-disability allies and Columbus media affiliates on our behalf, and many more spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media. So too did international members of the cross-disability community provide support and encouragement. Thank you. We appreciate all that you do.

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Clarissa said...

Good job, guys! You are doing something extremely important. It's shocking how many bigots and simple ignoramuses there still are out there. It's very sad that there were walkers who turned against you. The horrible "Autism Speaks" campaign is discriminatory and offensive. More people need to start learning the truth about it.

Adelaide Dupont said...

It seems that the passion on both sides has grown.

Great to read about the protest and its results.

codeman38 said...

And yet neurotypicals still say we autistics are the ones with the empathy deficit...

Anonymous said...

Idk if they are lacking empathy, if they are for this, you would have to say both sides are, both bash eachother (this, meaning the walk in general not some particular insults) that sounds pretty nasty.

Just to clarify those idiot/stupid comments were referring to them protesting, not them simply being autistic, in case nobody saw that.

That person who said autistics can't make important decisions really needs to do their research o_O

Hmm.. So extreme.. May have been extremely defensive because they know about the jokes and bashes opponents make against speaks and they knew the protestors were def not friendly in this :P also the fact that autistics themselves were doing this would seem even more ya know, "vs" "combative" nd more intimidating (not saying they went to maliciously intimidate)

I don't think their causes are hidden (someone implied they were, first poster I think) they are open about those (saying people need to learn the truth)

On the bright(Er) side, not too bright, its not just a group full of people who are for simply curing all autistics, if you talk to some they may something like "I don't want to force a cure on all, I don't want all cured, but there are "severe" (word may be offensive, but that is what the guy said, and hell, it is used in the autistic community as well and you know it :P) autistics like my son and I would really like that helped (nd there are others on there with autistic children that might see it that way).

So even if they were to find one, let's not automatically fear that autistic culture will die out and there will be no more (the real main reason people have an issue with it)

London Autistic Rights Movement said...

We have to get the perspective right.

So, when parents want to cure children, that means they want to change their brains into something that is not natural to them.

It is not a case of autism being a good thing. Relatively speaking, in the frame of reference of our society, it is very bad. Disfunctionality. In many cases, people who are so deeply introverted they cannot look after themselves.

In the case of autistics like me, things are different. We can function in many independent ways. Some extraordinarily so.

We need to make a distinction as to what 'curing' means, and involves.

Thanks, Paul Wady.

Anonymous said...

My son has Autism and until I read this page I honestly thought Autism Speaks was about support. Thank you for bringing the truth to those of us still trying to understand.

Anonymous said...

I can't find that horrible, offensive 2009 "Autism Speaks" PSA video anywhere online. I came across a good resource: Codeman38 (Cody B.), much applause for your tedious, painful accomplishment. Cody B. created this transcript of the video. For me, it is much easier to read a distressing statement than to watch a distressing video. (Yay, reduction of abusive sensory input!) Thanks, Cody B., for stripping this autism-unfriendly video into a sensory-friendly form so that those it damages most can deal with it!!

Blessed by Avery's Angels said...

the parents that I have met through autism speaks that are extremely active have their own children that drive their passion for this organization. I do agree with all of you in that the video and some other videos that some of autism speaks members have put together have portrayed this ability as a "whoa is me" campaign.

I am the mother of a wonderful son of great abilities with autism. I am blessed every day by him. I also see the benefit of research into autism. Not all aspects of autism are gifts. The isolation that he would experience if he was not in the community that he is in, the sensory issues that he experiences, the communication delays that he has that keep him from developing the type of in depth relationships that he yearns to have.

Our family agrees with you that the video from 2 years ago was sad. I do feel that the organization is not. I see great goodness in what they have accomplished for the community.

I love my son, and I love the autistic community. You are all such a Blessing to us.