North Texas Daily

Denton citizens rally against threat of Return of Kings group

Denton citizens rally against threat of Return of Kings group

February 18
02:35 2016

Erica Wieting | Features Editor

@ericawootang

When self-proclaimed “pro-rape” and neo-masculine organization Return of Kings circulated plans to meet and assemble in Denton as part of an international movement, town residents and UNT students alike were quick to respond with a protest of their own.

The group of about 20 concerned citizens and students gathered Feb. 6 next to the Confederate statue on the Denton Square. Not a single ROK member was in sight, as far as attendees could tell, but the absence of the all-male coalition didn’t mean its cause was gone.

ROK members had publically cancelled their meet-up because of protests organized against them in various locations where they had planned to convene, but they continued to communicate through pages on their website.

“When I was in high school and I was learning about feminism, I found one of the Return of Kings articles that had gone really viral. It was something about, ‘Why to date a girl with an eating disorder,’” English junior and Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance special events coordinator Amy Viña said. “That was the first time I can really remember misogyny not being an abstract concept to me anymore, knowing that there were people that hated me and that wanted to hurt me.”

ROK creator Roosh Valizadeh officially founded the group in 2012. Since using what he called “Game” and “Pickup” in a February 2015 interview with A Voice for Men to “get laid regularly.” Valizadeh has published at least three websites and more than 16 books.

“The more media attention they get, they’ll just get more active and make people aware of what’s going on, so we need to get them out of mainstream media,” said political science senior Billy Poer, who attended the protest with a handwritten poster that read, “This is not Denton,” “#RapeIsNotOkay” and “#ConsentIsSexy.”

The ROK website currently reaches over 1.5 million page visits per month, according to Similar Web analytics.

18_ROK2WEB

Political science senior Billy Poer holds up his homemade sign at the Return of Kings protest. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

“That type of rhetoric does breed in our culture,” Viña said. “I think it does impact young men specifically. Even if we don’t see a direct action from this group, it’s putting speech out there, saying these ugly things and facilitating these hateful, dangerous thoughts.”

Denton criminal defense attorney Tim Powers said he was unaware of the exclusively male association until recently, when he read a news article about their recent plans to gather.

“In some jurisdictions they may need to get parade permits or assembly permits,” Powers said. “But those are given to other organizations that maybe a lot of people don’t agree with, such as the neo-Nazis and things like that. The Ku Klux Klan have made public protests before, and although many people find those ideals not constant with their own thinking, they certainly do have a right to assemble.”

A Facebook event started by sociology sophomore Christina Bridges, titled “#ThisIsNotDenton,” garnered more than 600 positive RSVPs from outraged and concerned people who cared about the cause.

Calloway’s Nursery employee and former UNT sociology student Drew Hairston, who was at the protest, said he discovered the event when a friend invited him to it on Facebook.

“[The Internet] can be used to get a good, positive message out there,” Hairston said. “But it’s also an easy tool for the Return of Kings and other websites to get their message out to a wide audience.”

Poer described the Kings’ failed meet-up as a “day of action,” and said the group’s most recent incitement propelled them into the public eye and granted them more recognition than they should be given. Acknowledgement of their existence, he said, only perpetuates the cause they’re trying to promote.

“[The meet-up] gave them national, and even worldwide, recognition,” Poer said. “I think the reaction to them was absolutely right. Their ideas shouldn’t be allowed to spread.”

Valizadeh has advocated for the legalization of rape on private properties, proposing in a 2015 blog post on his personal website that the “violent taking of a woman” should “not [be made] punishable by law when off public grounds.”

“The most dangerous thing about them is that their ideas aren’t new,” Viña said. “Rape was legal on private property for a very long time, and that was a large element of how society was maintained for hundreds of years. They’re trying to bring us back to something that hurts people.”

After the week-long speculation of possible confrontation with the ROK (Return of Kings), the Denton Police come to protect Denton County residents at the Square. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

After the week-long speculation of possible confrontation with the Return of Kings, the Denton Police came to patrol the Square. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

A post on the ROK site from 2013 titled “Three Signs she’s Making a False Rape Accusation” claims that women who say they failed to report rape right away due to shame or humiliation are voicing “complete bullshit.”

The same article is suspicious of any woman claiming to have been raped by a known assailant stating “a man looking to rape someone would not pick a target who could identify him to the police.” According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 80 percent of rape cases are committed by someone close to the victim.

“This entitlement to sex and women’s bodies, that already exists, and that needs to stop,” anthropology junior and FMLA secretary Kathryn Jimenez said. “It’s not just strangers in bushes all the time. It’s people who are known to the victim, and making it legal on private property just means that they could get away with it.”

In the aftermath of ROK’s threatened meet-up and the resulting protest, many citizens have expressed feelings of concern while others have found the task of brushing off the group’s existence to be a relatively simple one.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous,” Powers said. “Sexual assault is typically a state charge as opposed to a federal law charge. I can’t see any legislature in this country watering down abusive charges [for anybody], whether it be women or men in that situation.”

Whether the group of neo-masculine advocates will redouble their efforts remains to be seen, but Denton residents are staying vigilant.

“This is not something we’re going to allow to happen,” Hairston said. “This is Denton. This is who we really are, and this is what we stand for, which is equality, safety, love and compassion.”

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