For the past six months I haven’t been comfortable with writing this blog. I’ve been posting occasionally, sharing information but I’ve left out most of my experiences this last half year. 

Documenting my personal experience from doing the Men’s Banner Project is really hard. That sucks because that’s the main goal of this blog. 

Since the folk festival, I’ve just kept myself going. Not wanting to give myself time to reflect. I’ve neglected being up to date in my activities.  
Anyway I hope to get past this by sharing.  

Saturday July 9, 2011 

I was at the end of the fourth day at folk fest. I had been standing in the sun the entire day covered in paint. I was tired but feeling really happy.  After putting away all my supplies I took off my Aboriginal dress and changed into regular summer clothes. 

The concert was just beginning at the main stage when I joined my mom at our tarp. I was really exhausted so I lay down in the middle of the tarp on a blanket.  I began to relax listening to the music when someone almost stepped on my head and then my leg. 

People sitting on a tarp near us kept walking back and forth across the middle of our tarp over top of me. Actually stepping on my hair right near my face.  I asked several times for them to walk on the grass beside us, which was the actual path for everybody.  I stopped one young woman from walking over top of me by sitting up and asking her to go around. 

This upset her father because he began plowing through the tarp saying they could walk wherever they wanted I had no right to this space. I sat up crossed legged thinking I’d be safer that way.

He came right through the middle, walking on our blankets, baby clothes, food and over top of me sitting up. I had to put my hand out to protect myself because he began to shove me to the ground.

Then he went to get a security guard to throw me out. He was mad I had touched his ankle when he had been pushing me to the ground, by grabbing my neck and shoulder.  It was bizarre; he told the security guard I had no right to the space I was sitting in. He said that over and over. 

The security guard was very nice and told the man to leave me alone. She told him to stop walking on me and my stuff and walk on the grass like everyone else.  She asked me if I was okay and said if he touched me again to get security right away.  After hearing this, the man turned to me and said some people think they’re so entitled!  He sat down at his tarp complaining loudly about me and my entitlement.

I didn’t understand that. I also didn’t understand why hundreds of other people all around me were allowed to sit and lie down on their tarps and blankets listening to the concert and I wasn’t. 

Right after that I left to go to my campsite. I didn’t feel safe to be there. I remember during my walk I couldn’t believe that actually happened. When I got to my tent I cried. 
I really have tried not to think about that. I couldn’t write about anything at folk fest because I didn’t want to have to think about what happened. It still upsets me.
The strange thing is I’ve had worse encounters than that. I had worse encounters at that folk festival. But what made it so upsetting was that I was just being me when it happened. 
When I do the Men’s Banner, it is a performance. It’s art.
I know talking about violence isn’t pleasant for anyone.  I know when I approach strange men to talk about violence and their particular behavior that I’m making myself vulnerable. So, each time I wear my Aboriginal outfit.  It represents my cultural identity and the missing and murdered women.  It’s part of the overall presentation I’m doing at the time and it is my protection. 
I would like to think that when I took it off I was no longer putting myself in that vulnerable position.

6 thoughts on “Violent Encounter at the Winnipeg Folk Festival”

  1. Guy sounded like quite a bully (my preferred term would be asshole, but bully is probably more defining). Man, I don't know if I'd be able to contain myself if someone was putting their hands near the throat of a friend of mine and acting that aggressive. I can only imagine how Yuri would have taken that.

    Anyways, I hope you don't have to go through that again, and make sure to have plan for safety in numbers if possible. Sometimes one other person who has your back is all it takes to make bullies think twice.

  2. Anna, thank you for sharing your story. Getting our stories out is so important as far too often our voices are silenced or ignored. This is a clear example of not only the sexism and racism that exists in our current society but also the violence and physical assault that takes place at Folk Fest. I have heard many women share experiences of feeling unsafe at this event – both in and out of the campground – facing sexual assault and harassment. Though it can be a fun, lively and magical place, we all need to actively participate in making it a safer space for all (that includes monitoring and examining our own actions but also calling people on their shit). Just because people are getting out of the city for a few days to enjoy music, nature, dancing and good vibes, doesn't mean that it will automatically be all good vibes… I mean, when checking bags for drugs or liquor when entering the festival, no one is checking for oppressive values and asking you to leave them at the gate…which you have clearly illustrated. Projects such as the Men's Banner are vital in raising awareness and taking steps towards making the festival (and this world) a safer place. I hope that FF realizes this and includes your important project this coming summer. I would be sad and angry to not see it there. You are strong and courageous Anna. Thank you for your commitment to ending violence against women and raising awareness about missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

  3. I am sorry that this happened to you Anna and I think it is great that you will be sending this story to the folk festival. It is scary that this man felt so "entitled" to "his" space that he felt comfortable physically assaulting a woman for taking up space and then comfortable enough to tell the security guard assuming that they would take his side. This experience is exemplary of the mass victim blaming and violence that is so normalized in a grand scale in our society. I have been going to the folk festival for the last 10 years, and have found that the campground has increasingly felt less safe to me. Projects such as the men's banner project are so important for bringing awareness about these issues and I hope that the folk festival acknowledges that these issues are present within their festival and campground as well as acknowledges your project as a priority to include.

  4. Anna I am so sorry you went through that, it makes me sad that things like that continue to happen to women everywhere. Violence to women and blatant racism angers and frustrates me and I hate to know that it is going on everywhere we go,even in places we hope will be safe havens. As a mother of sons I work hard to make sure they will never be like that and that they will be a good example to others around them.

  5. Thank you for the comment. I do plan to send this to the organizers as well as apply to have the Men's Banner as part of the festival. I don't want this experience to keep me from what I want to accomplish.

  6. Sorry you had to put up with such ridiculous BS, Anna. You are NOT alone in feeling unsafe at the fest. It is not a safe space for women, particularly. Racism? Also rampant. I guess when you get that many ppl together in a space, the morons tend to come out full force as well. The year before, I got chased halfway across the dark campground getting spanked by a stranger, despite my very clear message that he needed to stop. Furthermore, sexual assault is common place, particularly in the campground and my camp-mates and I heard a few accounts first hand, the night it happened. You might want to send this blog to the folk festival organizers. The folk festival prides itself on being a positive, ethical and friendly space. That is just no longer the case, and something needs to change. Thanks for the post.

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