Violence Scars Summer '99

by Hillary S. Condon, Communications Intern, 
and Lisa Bennett-Haigney, Publications Manager


NOW Chapter Responds to Woodstock Assaults

The New York City chapter of NOW decided to take action when it seemed few others were.  After the 1999 Woodstock concert ended in flames, reports started growing that women  and girls were assaulted and raped at the festival.  Angered by the promoters' seeming lack of  response, NOW NYC President Galen Sherwin and local members stepped in to get some results.

"The official response on the part of promoters has been to Deny, Dismiss, and Blame: deny the rapes occurred, dismiss their importance, and blame the victims," Sherwin said.  (Some of the more indifferent comments from promoters and security can be found on NOW NYC's web site at

The chapter's news release was picked up by USA Today. The chapter held an Aug. 11 news conference that drew an impressive media turn-out. At the conference, Sherwin displayed a large poster signed by hundreds of people as a "statement of protest."  Many of these signatures were gathered at the Aug. 6 Lilith Fair concert where attendees were already greatly disturbed by the reports of violence at Woodstock.

NOW NYC called for an immediate investigation into the allegations that both security and the production office ignored violence against women. While the Woodstock promoters quickly responded to NOW's public outcry, they still seem "clueless" to the seriousness of violence against women, says Sherwin, underscoring the need for Congress to "ensure that the Violence Against Women Act '99  becomes law, and that its crucial treatment, training and prevention programs are continued fully funded into the year 2000 and beyond."

Hate Crimes Have Disturbing, Easily Uncovered Connection

On Aug. 10 white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. opened fire on the North Valley Jewish Community in Los Angeles, Calif., injuring three small children, a teen-age girl and an adult woman. Outside the center Furrow shot and killed a postal worker he admits to targeting in part because the man was of Filipino descent.

Over the July 4th weekend, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith committed suicide after allegedly killing two and wounding eight people, all Asian-American, African-American or Jewish, in a rampage through Illinois and Indiana.

Just a month earlier, three Jewish synagogues in the Sacramento, Calif., area were vandalized and set afire, allegedly by brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams.  And on July 1, a prominent gay couple in nearby Redding was murdered as they slept by the same pair, according to authorities.  However, authorities have been reluctant to connect the same men to arson at a building housing a women's clinic in Sacramento.

These horrific crimes are all related, linked together by a network of hate. The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), what many call the fastest-growing hate group in the United States today, bestowed a "Creator of the Year" award on Smith for his tireless efforts to distribute racist propaganda in Indiana and Illinois. WCOTC literature was found at the charred sites of all three of the defaced Sacramento synagogues. The WCOTC has an effective hold on young and impressionable minds via the Internet, where the group's leader Matthew Hale has designed a web site for kids as well as adults.

NOW consistently works to educate the public that all acts of hate are connected, pointing to the fact that many white supremacist, anti-lesbian and gay, and "pro-life" groups intersect, both in viewpoints and membership. The crimes perpetrated by followers of these groups must be addressed both nationally and locally. NOW chapters are encouraged to report hate crimes in their areas to the National Action Center.

Return to Fall 1999 National NOW Times
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