On a warm November day, a couple of hundred men gathered in the gymnasium of a downtown Kansas City university for a lecture titled “How to Stop the Violence of the Mind.”
The room was packed with students from the University of Kansas in the United States, including a few of the students who were in attendance.
They all seemed to be there for the same reason: to get a lesson in what to do if someone on the internet is being abusive.
“If someone is saying things like ‘you have no right to be here,'” one of the participants said, “you don’t have any right to say something like that.
But you have to be careful, because if you are a person on the Internet, there are people who are using your name, or your information, or some information you’ve provided, or maybe even your gender.”
He was referring to the many accounts of people using names and images of people who look like them to attack them.
The man, a member of the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), said that his group was founded in 2010 and that it has “tens of thousands” of members.
He said the organization’s main goal was to help women, but that they also try to help men and “other marginalized groups.”
The men and women in attendance had gathered for the first lecture of the month by a prominent feminist leader, Sherrilyn Ifill.
The day before, the event had been disrupted when a young man had threatened to kill the woman who was a leader of the NOW chapter at the time, an incident that resulted in a lawsuit.
“We had a student come in with a knife, and he was able to get in, and then he was like, ‘I’m going to kill this person,’ and he went into a classroom,” Ifill said.
“And we all started crying and saying, ‘What’s going on here?’
And then we realized that the woman he was talking to was a young woman who we knew well and had been a mentor of mine, and she had come to us for help.”
Ifill told the story of how she and a friend of hers were on a date in October when the man came in and threatened to shoot the woman if she tried to intervene.
“He was saying, if you call 911, you will not get to him, you are going to get your throat cut,” Ifills said.
The woman said that she had no choice but to call 911 and, when the police arrived, she was escorted out of the building, handcuffed, and led to the car by a male officer.
Later that day, the university released a statement announcing the event and saying that the men who had been present at the meeting were removed from campus.
In an interview with The Verge, Ifill did not elaborate on what she meant by this, but said that “if you can’t trust people on the Web, it’s really difficult to have any kind of dialogue.”
The next day, ifill posted a video on Facebook, detailing the events that led up to the threat and how she was forced to leave campus.
“My husband was like a shadow of his former self,” she said in the video.
“I went into the bathroom, and I looked at him and I saw a look of anger on his face, and my heart just sank.
It was like my heart was going to explode.”
The video went viral, with more than 2.4 million views and over 2,000 comments.
It also led to a petition to the university, which had a chance to review the situation, and if the student involved is still in the room, the petition has been signed by more than 11,000 people.
The university later apologized and offered the student a spot on their team, but if he was still in attendance, he was no longer allowed to take a course.
The student’s name has not been released.
What happened next, though, was a very different story.
Ifill is an outspoken critic of the way internet platforms handle their users’ data, and her comments sparked a wave of outrage from women, including one of her colleagues at the NOW.
In response, Ifills wrote a letter to the president of the University, calling for the school to investigate the threats and harassment that she said occurred in October, and to allow a new team of students to be added to the campus to help combat online harassment.
But instead of responding to her letter, the school did nothing, according to Ifills.
“They didn’t take the steps that I needed them to take,” she told The Verge.
The next morning, a man called her and told her that he had been threatened with a gun, and that if she called 911 he would shoot her.
She had no other choice but tell the police and go to the police station.
She called the police at 2:30 a.m.
That same day, she called the university again