Troy City Officials Wield Building Code to Shut Down Game Art Exhibit

City officials in Troy, New York apparently used the municipal building code to shut down a controversial video game art exhibit.

As we’ve been tracking on GamePolitics, Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to present at – and then abruptly booted from – Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute.

Following his RPI expulsion, Bilal’s Virtual Jihadi exhibit was moved to the nearby Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. On Monday night, a local Republican political figure, Robert Mirch (left), led a protest against Bilal’s work outside the Sanctuary. Mirch, by the way, also happens to be the Public Works Commissioner for the city of Troy. In that capacity, he is responsible for enforcing building codes.

On Tuesday, as reported by the Albany Times-Union, the Sanctuary for Independent Media was shut down by city code enforcement officials. Sanctuary spokesman Steve Pierce told the newspaper:

They put us out of business. They said we had doors that were not up to code.

Pierce made additional comments to the Schenectady Daily Gazette:

The only thing different between the day before and [Tuesday] is we have an Iraqi artist protesting the war. The next day, the city sent code enforcement to us and we were cited.

City Councilman Bill Dunne said:

This isn’t the first time that code enforcement has operated in a fashion like this. It certainly on the surface smacks of political retribution.

Kathy High, an RPI Arts professor, added:

I guess we could cycle through all of the art galleries in the city and have the city shut them all down. This will make people afraid to show the exhibit and that is very wrong.

GP: Whether you like Bilal’s work or hate it, to see political officials in the United States wield the power of law to shut down controversial expression is scary stuff, indeed.

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  1. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hehe, at least Q gave the illustion of free choice.

    And Americans arent afriad of terrorism till a politican goes “Terrism MAY hit us!” Till then no one gives a care. Politicans bring it up when ever someone says “We need to fix America’s problems!”

  2. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    Hehe I thought it was rather appropriate. Quite a coincidence that I happened to be watching that episode and reading GP at the same time.

    Well unless Q was involved I guess…

  3. 0

    A terrible breach of personal liberties, a supposedly illegal social injustice swept under the proverbial rug, a frightening blow to freedom and democracy, all summed up with an obscure Star Trek quote.

    I love geeks. We’re awesome.

  4. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    I can’t help but see parallels in the Star Trek episode I’m watching

    With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.

    The Drumhead

    A pathetic and petty link, this man’s actions, but its still a link.

  5. 0
    Michael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s funny (well … not really) that people call the US the Land of the Free. I’m sure once upon a time, it used to be.

    Now, it’s become so scared of terrorism that the terrorists have won. The ultra-conservative “powers that be” have inch-by inch intruded so far on your civil liberties, that you’ll soon be just another fascist state.

    The Thought Police are waiting for you.

  6. 0
    Coravin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regardless of how anybody feels about a demonstration that is nonviolent and does not call for anything threatening to the U.S. security, stopping it for political reasons is wrong. As in, unconstitutional.

    And we might as well be IN “1984” if a computer depiction of opinions differing from those of a government that has violated so many liberties and international laws is politically strong-armed to be banished while torture both unlawful and useless on top of violating human rights continues on its merry way.

    For those who will argue that torture isn’t useless, you’re disproven by every historical and current study on torture, all of which reveal that the information derived (from those overzealous extraction methods that would be perceived as torture by anyone receiving them) is almost entirely unreliable and consistently costs lives when acted upon.

    Which we’ve known for decades, but why would the president listen to the experts on interrogation when he could just fearmonger instead, and use the tactics of an organization that has never studied torture’s effects because it doesn’t have lives hanging on the information it receives (CIA)?

    Perhaps for the same reason politicians in this government abuse their authority to illegally stop the sharing of an opinion they find threatening but which actually neither poses nor encourages any harm to national security.

    Too bad “for the sake of national security” can’t be Godwin’s Law-ified.

  7. 0
    Are'el ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When the exhibit was removed from RPI, I accepted that action as within the rights of a private institution. There was nothing wrong with that, other maybe than a sad statement on the unwillingness to let people judge the video game for themselves.

    However, the government abusing its power to shut down the exhibit at the Art Gallery is totally unacceptable. If they weren’t willing to enforce building code violations before the exhibit, then they were only using them as an excuse to censor Bilal.

    The two incidents are completely different. When a private institution refuses to host something, it’s their freedom of expression (or their freedom not to express). When the government shuts down something because they don’t like it, then it is censorship.

  8. 0
    Clever ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We must remember that freedom is a two way street. Just as Mr. Bilal is free to express his viewpoints others must be allowed to disagree. But that’s where it ends – at the disagreeing stage. A protest is entirely permissible however what has occurred is tantamount to somebody coming into your house and forcing you to stop looking at a painting. What goes on in the private sector, especially as it relates to art, is entirely beyond the reach of any government be they local or federal. The aptly named sanctuary are (or rather were) private citizens who wished to display the exhibit in a building they owned and completely removed from the public arena – to deny them this on a technicality that was never an issue before is so morally bankrupt on so many levels it’s to difficult to even know where to begin.


  9. 0
    ~the1jeffy says:


    Right, so would I. But I’m not, and neither are most of the ouraged people here. This is a LOCAL issue. And a small one at that. And by the looks of it, won’t end well for Mirch. What a measly thing to end your politcal career over, eh?


    If you can’t see the parallel between my anecdote and the article’s issue, I can’t help you. Both cases are how local zoning/building code laws are (mis)used to protect a vocal minority’s sensibility.

  10. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “Building codes/zoning laws have been used to stop personal pet peeves for as long as I can remember.”

    Sad but true. Still, if I were a resident of Troy, I’d be protesting against such an abuse of power, no matter what it was used for.

  11. 0
    Gameboy says:

    @ ~the1jeffy

    So what if they’ve used the same tactic for similar reasons before? That doesn’t make this issue OK. That’s all the more reason to fight them on this occasion. I can’t abide corrupt politicians using their position to bully citizens and curb freedom of speech. I may not like what everyone says, but I can always walk away.

  12. 0
    Serrenity ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Proud to say I just wrote Mr. Minch a strongly worded (but still incredibly civil) email expressing my concern over his actions ….

  13. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Troy center may sue over “Virtual Jihadi” flap

    Civil rights activists will meet with the Sanctuary for independent Media Thursday to discuss whether the organization wants to sue the city of Troy for closing the arts center shortly after it premiered an controversial art exhibit….

    Trimble will meet with Steve Pierce of the Sanctuary for Independent Media at 11 a.m. to discuss the city’s actions and whether a federal or state lawsuit should be filed….

    The Sanctuary has received numerous offers of assistance from attorneys and other concerned people, Pierce said. Carpenters were at the Sanctuary building Wednesday to look at the doors and begin work….

    Pierce said the city was informed about the Sanctuary’s efforts to comply with code requirements over the past year. He said there was no contact from the city until inspectors showed up in reaction to the complaints made Monday.

  14. 0
    ~the1jeffy says:

    Forgive me if I shrug this off. Building codes/zoning laws have been used to stop personal pet peeves for as long as I can remember. I must have been 12 or 13 when a porn store was going to move into the area where I live. Because of the collective outrage of a vocal, religious minority and the press, the local zoning board decided to have an emergency rezoning of just that lot of land, making it impossible to open a retail establishment. Ironically, a Christian Bookstore opened there several years later.

    I remember, at that young age, thinking, “Why don’t people just not shop there, so these evil people don’t get money?” While I was obviously naive about both the evil nature of porn and how successful that industry is, my line still holds true.

    So, let the man’s message stand on its merits. It’s a rather trite little game. However, all the fuss just gives it more weight. And more publicity. So really Bilal got more than he could have hoped for from all the hoopla, right?

    I guess I can’t muster any outrage over what is really a local politics issue, and not my local. National issue, I think not. I’ll let the voters of Troy figure out how to deal with it. /shrug /me doesn’t care.

    I’ll worry about the Mayor of Pittsburgh misappropriating Homeland Sec funds for use of an DHS SUV for a tailgate. That issue, I can, and did, effect.

  15. 0
    Jonathan, aka Soul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is just plain ridiculous and idiotic, just let the guy show his work you bastards. I highly doubt what he made is as bad as they think >_>.

  16. 0
    Vinzent says:

    @Pixelantes Anonymous

    I’m not saying his actions make him Hitleresque nor Stalinesque. I’m saying that from the photo provided here on GP, the guy looks like Hitler.

  17. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Are we talking about the same incident here? The exhibit was suspended, not a student. The artist was a guest invited from another college…

    I can see some confusion though, due to the fact that the FBI pulled him out of a classroom to question him. But he was speaking to the class, not attending it. :)

  18. 0
    mlucky says:

    this reeks of abuses of power to silence an opposing view point.

    1st: the exhibit, that protests the war, is taken down.

    2nd: the kid is suspended and then expelled

    3rd: the new location of the exhibit is shut down by the guy leading the protest against the exhibit.

    this is what a baby police state looks like.

  19. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Jabrwock

    Unless you live in Cambodia during Pol Pot. It was Usally a knock on your door, question asked “Hi, did you go to school?” if yes THEN you were shot. If no then torture, false trial THEN shot.

  20. 0
    F**ked Up says:

    What sucks about this is that the tax payers are going to end up paying.

    I say that the government officials involved should pay out of their own pockets. They knew they were doing something wrong and still did it, the people shouldnt have to pay for their actions.

  21. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “Most just blow people’s brains out at the same time though.”

    Nah, first they put them through a show-trial, to set an example. Usually on charges of “corruption”. THEN they blow their brains out…

  22. 0
    BlackIce, Dragunov Marksman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union, The PRC, Iran.. All of which do the same as this. Most just blow people’s brains out at the same time though.

  23. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Such a sad time we live in, politicaly correct or we can be sued, can’t say how we feel or we’re “offending someone’s sense of decency.”

    Ya know if we wanted to be politicaly correct we shut up. But even then some one would be offended. Things like this makes me sick that the US “The Land of the FREE home of the BRAVE” has become the land of the repressed under the banner of “protected freedom”

  24. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    More fun:

    The Albany chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union may file a lawsuit against the city over the alleged violations, said Executive Director Melanie Trimble….

    [Deputy Mayor] Buell said city officials did visit the sanctuary Monday afternoon and gave the OK to allow it to present the display Monday night “as a courtesy.”

    Somebody’s changing their story… If it was such a health and safety hazard, you bent the rules “to be nice”? And if so, why not tell the Sanctuary then that it would only be open for a single night? Why wait until the next day to tell them “oh btw, we forgot, you’re shut down”.

  25. 0
    Ghost Coins ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Class action would be difficult. We have to show that we’ve been hurt by a product or action. So far, the only ones who could be considered would be those who wanted to see the exhibit. The artist and owners of the property stand a better chance on their own in court. We can support the hell out of them though. I still say getting the state involved would be the best solution. There is an addendum to the laws, to my understanding, that allows Committees to be exempt from their Civil Service Laws. Mayhaps it is time to have those fine individuals in NY come together and petition their state senators and representatives to repeal that little ditty and make committee memebers and their subordinates accountable for their actions. Elected or not, there is a higher standard expected, and pissing on someone because of a political belief and trying to prevent them from having their work shown when there is an apparent public interest is detrimental to even the most basic of civil discourses. This is a scared man pulling a BS tactic because he can. If his superiors won’t bring a hammer down on it, then I would suggest their superiors bring a hammer down on them.

  26. 0
    Ghost Coins ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Still, I’m right there with you Vinzent. I’m hoping the ACLU drops a ten-ton hammer on those clowns. One would think that if they saw this, they would be quick to act in getting this gent to answer for what he’s done, least it get to a court. Then, all hell is going to break loose. Imagine if this went to the high court. Ohhh, and all because some gent wanted to force his political view on the public arena.

  27. 0
    Vinzent says:

    I can’t……HE LOOKS LIKE HITLER! I mean just look at that photo! The guy looks like Hitler! Now that I got that off of my chest…

    I hope the ACLU crawls all up into Troy. If they can freely use the code inspectors like a hammer, you can bet there’s even more criminal activity going on in their local government.

  28. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    @ LAG

    I am glad that you sent the email. I wasn’t trying to sound patronizing or anything. To me it seems that the corruption goes all the way to the top in Troy.

    Surely it could help if enough people were to send in complaints. But to me it would not seem to be worth it.

    For one, most of us are not residents of Troy.

    Two, they seem pretty set in their ways and will be unwilling to change if there is not imminent danger to their political positions.

    But by all means write them. It is better to speak out than to sit bakc and keep your mouth shut.

  29. 0
    jkdjr25 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Now this is way out of line.

    Protesting peacefully is one thing. I agree with that because its just the people expressing their displeasure.

    Using the law to shut someone down on a technicality is just an abuse of power.

  30. 0
    Ghost Coins ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    nuts….screwed up the bold text. The line in that is of interest is in the third bullet:

    “State employees may not use their state authority or offical position…to influence the political action of any person or entity”

  31. 0
    Ghost Coins ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Found it, but it’s a bit of a long shot:

    Civil Service Law §107 protects State employees from discriminatory practices based on their political affiliations.

    * Employees’ appointments, selections to or removals from office or their employment status may not be affected or influenced by political opinions or affiliations.
    * State employees may not use their State authority or official position to coerce, intimidate or otherwise influence other State employees to give money or service for any political purpose, to influence the political action of any person or entity, or to interfere with any election.
    * State offices may not be used for soliciting or collecting any political contributions.

    again long shot, but it does fall under the New York State Ethics Commission. If he wanted to send a minion out to do it, and claim he had no idea the closure had taken place, then he has to answer for why such an action was able to take place under his watch. I mean, the sudden lock-down of an independent art gallery within a 24-hour period after a political ousting at RPI over the same display should raise flags.

  32. 0
    Dog_Welder ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I lived in the Albany area for a couple of years and this is politics in that area. If someone is doing something you don’t like, have the building shut down and closed with a BS excuse.

    I don’t support the exhibit in any way, but as long as public funds weren’t contributing to its display I don’t have a problem with it being shown. This is nothing more than political bullying.

  33. 0
    Gift ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Not much of a Sanctuary, what a disgrace, someone is itching for a first amendment smack down. Talk about underhanded tactics, much like Wafaa Bilal I’m left speechless… :(


  34. 0
    Zachary Miner says:

    An article from the Troy Record says:

    “Mirch … stated that he did not know the building had been closed to the public until he was contacted by several local reporters.”

    I wonder if he’s just lying, or if someone else did it without his knowledge. It could be both that he had a lackey do it so that he wouldn’t have to take the fall when/if a lawsuit is filed.


    It also says, by way of politicians who are against the decision:

    City Councilman Bill Dunne, D-District 4, noted that the administration had enacted similar code enforcement with past residents who had opposed their views, including Democratic counsel Victor DeBonis and city resident Jim deSeve.

    “It looks like the city is using code enforcement officers as some form of political retaliation,” said Dunne, who noted that the City Council may be within their authority to subpoena code enforcement officers to inquire who sent them and why it was done on that day.

    “The administration can put any spin on this they want, but this looks like censorship,” said Dunne, who believed there was a chance the city could be sued over the action.

  35. 0
    Neeneko ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is why when someone says ‘Oh, don’t take that law so litterly, no one will every use it that way! it’s harmless!” they need to be smacked.

    Our legal system allows people in power to shut down pretty much anything they want. Philly has had repeated problems with alternative lifestyle spaces being shutdown via dubious ‘building code violations’ or ‘business permit violations’.

  36. 0
    LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    You may be (read “are probably”) right. However, that’s why I came back here and posted. I was not looking for approval, or brownie points, or anything like that. I was hoping that others, such as Mr. Miner above, would follow suit. Hopefully sheer volume will at least turn a few heads…not everyone on the Troy City Council can be a complete maroon.

  37. 0
    OtakuMan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think this is going to get ugly.

    *munches on popcorn*

    I personally want to see the ACLU take Bob Mirch to task. This simply is not right on many levels. Video game inclusions or not, this is simply not fair!


  38. 0
    Ashton ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “People have been disappeared by the Chinese government in recent memory. It might not be happening as frequently at the moment but it has happened, it does happen and it will happen again.”

    Can you name a few examples? I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything, it’s just that I’ve heard my share of baseless claims and whatnot about the country, and I’m lived here for a while and it’s nowhere near what most Westerners attempt to make it out to be.

    “Even if that does happen as often as incidents like Mirch’s abuse of power it is still too much. There is a huge difference between having some jackass local politician close down an exhibit and having a government in power that is willing to and has in the past removed people from society who promote alternate viewpoints.”

    Except my point was that, much like Mirch, this would be an act of an individual acting on his own. Most of the time when an alternate viewpoint is expressed it is silence in a rather obvious method (e.g. replacing that particular TV spot with an ad or something) but I’ve never actually seen anything like “This guy said something and the next day he’s gone.”

  39. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    @ LAG

    I would love to think that submitting comments of protest to the Troy website would help. Unfortunately it seems that they condone his actions, as they used the same tactic to shut down criticism of their mayor. So I feel that any outrage sent through that method will fall on deaf ears and into the delete folder.

    @ The Bobman

    I am better now. Just had a Hulk moment there.

  40. 0
    Zachary Miner says:

    Submitted as feedback on the Troy website, posted by LAG:

    I would like to express dismay at the actions of Public Works Commissioner Bob Mirch in unfairly applying building codes to the Sanctuary for Independent Media. It is no secret that the building needed repairs in order to meet code, but Sanctuary staff had been notified that they had until April to complete the repairs. Mirch’s decision to strictly enforce the code just days after he personally lead a protest against one of the exhibits being held there smacks of bad intent, to say the least.

    I urge the City Council, and other city officials, to take action on this matter and address Mirch’s conduct. If this situation is not dealt with swiftly and decisively, the city of Troy will undoubtedly receive a great deal of bad publicity – and potentially even be the target of legal action – due to the actions of a single official’s personal agenda.

  41. 0
    Madorc ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The only thing they achieved by doing tha is giving more publicity to that event. If it wasn’t for that kind of knee jerk reaction from those people, only a handful of persons would be aware of Bilal and his exposition.

    By trying to censor the Bilal, they’ve just achieved to do the opposite…

  42. 0
    Davian2k5 says:

    @ JB:

    Thankfully, so far, the court system hasn’t let that happen. While I understand the sentiment, I do think it’s a bit far-fetched so far. You’re also looking at the difference between showing that exhibit in a public place, and playing a video game in the privacy of your own home.

    I’m not defending the fact that the city shut down that exhibit – not at all, it was censorship and an abuse of free speech. But there is a distinct difference, in everyday life and I believe in legal opinion, between showing something in public and your own house.

    Example: Run around naked in public, you’re getting hit with public indecency/indecent exposure. Run around in your house naked, and it’s just freaking fun.

  43. 0
    Davian2k5 says:

    @ Tom

    I definitely agree with you about that the Iran/China comparisons are completely inaccurate. The fact that people have the ability to make this hyperbole in a public setting is proof that we’re not that bad. Unfortunately, it seems to be in the nature of many people to cling to certain phrases, like that comparison, 1984, or yelling that someone is a Nazi at something (Am I Godwin’s Lawwing the convo. for pointing out it’s overuse? Hrmm…)

    Sounds like we’re pretty much in agreement – some hyper-conservative jackass with sand in bad places censoring something doesn’t compare to any of the afore-stated abuses.

    Hopefully, the next news we see about Mirch is him leaving office.

  44. 0
    JB ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    With stuff like this becoming more common how much longer do you think games like World in Conflict or Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is banned by politicians for being “unpatriotic”? What’s the difference between these games and Virtual Jihadi?

  45. 0
    LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just posted the following feedback email on the City of Troy website:

    “To whom it may concern,

    I am deeply disturbed by the recent activities of your Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch. The citing of the Sanctuary for Independent Media building for building code violations yesterday, coincidentally the day after he led a public protest of an exhibit housed therein, smacks of political retribution and censorship. While he, or for that matter I, may not agree with the exhibitor, wielding one’s position as a public official to censor free speech in the manner that Commissioner Mirch has done is at the very least unethical. I have to wonder if the city of Troy should remain affiliated with the great nation of The United States of America, where the last I checked free speech was protected by law and constitution, a fact that apparently has escaped the notice of Mr. Mirch.”

    For those interested, the URL of their feedback page is

    The phone number of the Code Enforcement office is (518) 270-4584.

  46. 0
    Tom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Jabrwock

    Point taken. Mirch’s lunacy shouldn’t last long, then.

    @ Ashton

    People have been disappeared by the Chinese government in recent memory. It might not be happening as frequently at the moment but it has happened, it does happen and it will happen again.

    Even if that does happen as often as incidents like Mirch’s abuse of power it is still too much. There is a huge difference between having some jackass local politician close down an exhibit and having a government in power that is willing to and has in the past removed people from society who promote alternate viewpoints.

  47. 0
    Pixelantes Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @shady8x, You couldn’t be more accurate…this sort of stuff is EXACTLY what’s going on in Russia now. Political opponents’ offices get shut down for building violations just before press conferences, political rallies, elections or all of the above.

    It really is something that a Republican would resort to the same sort of tactics the new communists in Kremlin are.

  48. 0
    Ashton ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “When people who present viewpoints that oppose the government start disappearing you can claim that it’s like being in Iran or China.”

    Er, that doesn’t happen in China. Surely, there is a humongous censorship problem, but what you say happens about as much as incidents like this one: a jackass flaunting his power. Unfortunately little can be done about such people here.

    I hope that won’t hold true for this case.

  49. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “the building should be given a period of time to fix it’s code violations so that it won’t interfere with the exhibit.”

    It was, when it was first cited. It had until this coming April to fix the issue of the doors (apparently minor demolitions are involved…), as long as exhibits above a certain crowd size got cleared with the fire marshal and building inspectors first. Which they did, until Mirch abused his position.

    The taped conversation with the building inspector who shut them down apparently ignored that agreement, and stated that nobody was allowed in.

  50. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “My point was that selective enforcement like this is an abuse of power and the city officials can be taken to task for it. You need to enforce laws for everyone or no one, you can’t pick who and under what circumstances.”

    I understand, my point was that they were going even further than just selectively enforcing the rules. The Sanctuary had already called the Building Code department, and the fire marshals, and both had cleared the exhibit prior to it opening, even with the known code citation from last year (which was in the process of being remedied).

    So Mirch was being doubly nasty. First to the Sanctuary, for showing a history of selectively enforcing code only when it suits him politically. And secondly, for basically insinuating that his own staff is a bunch of incompetent retards who can’t be trusted to do a proper building code inspection. If I was on his staff I’d be pretty cheezed right now.

  51. 0
    mogbert ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    See, on the other news items, I had posted this wasn’t a free speech issue and that he was free to show his exhibit elsewhere… however, they have just crossed the line. This went from “school decides what their campus can and can’t be used for” to “corrupt official uses his office to close down an exhibit he doesn’t like on a technicality.”

    On a related note, I was reading some other articles on this matter and one person called the exhibit “un-American.” Now, I want you to think about that for a moment. It is a word that MEANS ‘not American,” but rather then have the litteral definition, it is used and defined to people as something bad. Obviously ‘American’ = good and ‘un-American’ = bad. Guess what, he ISN’T AN AMERICAN. You know, other people in the world have an opinion on this was as much as we do. Are we the only ones that are allowed to express our opinions? Are people only free to express themselves as long as they are in agreement with the government?

    In the end, the person who abused his power to shut down an exhibit he had a personal conflict with should be repremanded and the building should be given a period of time to fix it’s code violations so that it won’t interfere with the exhibit.

  52. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Illspirit

    Cornell FTW! 😀

    I guess you must go there. I have a friend I’m very fond of who goes there as well. I’m wondering if you may have run into her.

  53. 0
    Tom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Jabrwock, kurisu7885

    I’m not defending Troy city officials. This is clearly censorship because city officials used their authority to stifle free, legitimate expression. My point was that selective enforcement like this is an abuse of power and the city officials can be taken to task for it. You need to enforce laws for everyone or no one, you can’t pick who and under what circumstances.

    @ Davian2K5

    I’m just bothered by people who constantly claim that any miscarriage of justice here in the States is paramount to the way things are in Iran/China because it does a disservice to the horrible conditions that many people live under in those regimes. When people who present viewpoints that oppose the government start disappearing you can claim that it’s like being in Iran or China. When some low-rent local politician gets his panties in a twist over some kid’s art exhibit and abuses what meager authority he wields to shut it down that’s just some lone jackass showing his true colors.

    1984 is the go-to comparison when any government figure does anything dubious and it’s overuse decreases the value of the idea. I agree with you that the Patriot Act and, to a greater degree, the bullshit wiretapping law that Bush has a hard-on for are real examples of a 1984 Big Brother mentality creeping into our society. Again, though, some moron in Troy who’s getting into a frothy rage over an idea is not an example of “1984.”

  54. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This guy Mirch bothers me more than JT does. Unlike JT, who will have been completely neutralized come April (hopefully), this guy actually wields some influence.

    And I have to wonder, since he’s apparently flush from success with this, if he might get it in his head to become a “crusader” as well. Who’s to say he won’t go after something else he doesn’t like? After going after an independent artist, don’t you think he might set his sights on bigger targets?

  55. 0
    Void Munashii ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It must be nice to be in a position where you can use technicalities to shut down speech you disagree with.

    The doors? Seriously? He was able to shut them down over doors? OMFG! How does having doors that are 2-3 inches too narrow drastically endanger anyone now when it was not important enough to shut them down anytime in the last 14 months since they received the notice that the doors were too narrow?

    If the weather is suitable (not bad enough to damage the electronics involved), they should move the exhibit outside, then the building becomes irrelevant.

    It’s not a conspiracy by any means. It’s just one guy who happens to be in a position that allows him to abuse his power to hurt someone he has a political disagreement with.

    Because if you make the “enemy” seem like human beings just like us, then you run the risk of the public being against the war due to the slaughter of civilians and not just because of the wasted tax dollars, and deaths/injury of American troops. Then support for the war would drop even more.

  56. 0
    Pixelantes Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Walker, hhehe, city hall would definitely be great.

    In this case, however, it’s been the republicans, specifically one Robert Mirch, who controls the city code enforcement, who’s been doing this.

    I wonder if HIS office is up to code.

  57. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “I do wonder if the building’s doors really were not up to the code’s standards.”

    The Sanctuary admits they are not. They were cited for having 29″ doors (code is 32″) a year ago (the building itself is 108 years old). But they were given until mid-April of this year to fix it (among other things they were cited for), and could stay open as long as they didn’t have any “large” crowds in the building. The issue is that building inspectors and fire marshals were called out to “clear” the building for the exhibit, and they did, until Mirch’s department suddenly reversed policy and decided after the exhibit opened that it wasn’t cleared after all.

  58. 0
    Walker says:

    @Pixelantes Anonymous
    Why stop there, do Republican and Democrat, they both do this kind of stuff when it suits them. (though I think it would be funnier to do a public place like city hall)

  59. 0
    Zachary Miner says:

    Good frickin’ gravy. Mirch could have let this go – he chased the exhibit off-campus and forced it into an art space out in a moderately seedy neighborhood where very few people will ever see it. That would have been enough – he could have claimed victory to his supporters, RPI would have weathered the storm of criticism, Bilal would have been able to continue making art, and everyone’s lives would have gone on.

    But no – this jackass had to take things one step further and step over a Constitutional line. And yes, it does have to do with Constitutionality. Read:

    “I guess we could cycle through all of the art galleries in the city and have the city shut them all down,” High said. “This will make people afraid to show the exhibit and that is very wrong.”

    Chilling Effect: “A chilling effect is a term in United States law that describes a situation where speech or conduct is suppressed or limited by fear of penalization at the hands of an individual or group. For example, the threat of a costly and lengthy lawsuit might prompt self-censorship and have a chilling effect on free speech.”

    Fear of being targeted by the zoning commission, having your art space unable to hold gatherings until you (somehow) dredge up money to fix minor zoning code violations, all because you showed a piece of art that a person in government found objectionable? Yup, that sounds like a chilling effect, and that’s a violation of the First Amendment.

    Mirch deserves the legal retribution which is coming his way, via the ACLU. He could have let this go, and he chose not to.

  60. 0
    Pixelantes Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Now THAT is just completely out of line.

    I wonder if the Republican offices up in there are up to code? I think we should find out. We wouldn’t want the fine bigots^H^H^Y^H^H^H^Hrepublicans be unsafe in their offices, you know.

  61. 0
    Walker says:

    OK now I am fine with the RPI booting the exhibit from their campus because that’s their choice, the city has no right to down a private business that was willing to show the exhibit.

    I do wonder if the building’s doors really were not up to the code’s standards.

  62. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    Here is another one:

    For the past four years under Mayor Harry Tutunjian, the Action Team has removed blighted buildings, cleaned, plowed and paved streets and alleys, removed trash from vacant lots and given the Collar City a new sense of pride.

    fixed to:

    For the past four years under Mayor Harry Tutunjian, the Action Team has removed blighted buildings, cleaned, plowed and paved streets and alleys, removed trash from vacant lots, shut down controversial art exhibits and given the Collar City a new sense of pride.

  63. 0
    Benji says:

    @JB: In general I think it’s okay, and people have posted contact information of controversial figures before. The exception is JT, who will cry that Dennis is inciting harassment if he allows such posts to stay up.

  64. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    Here are some more fixes to his web page:

    We have worked hard in the City of Troy to protect neighborhoods and improve the image of the city we love. Everyday, we are in contact with the people of the city, hearing their concerns and resolving those issues

    Fixed to:

    We have worked hard in the City of Troy to protect neighborhoods from un-American speech and improve the image of the city we love by supressing negetive speech. Everyday, we are in contact with the people of the city, hearing their concerns and resolving those issues by silencing critics.

    My motto is ‘Their problem is my problem’, and we work to get those problems dealt with quickly and effectively

    Fixed to:

    My motto is ‘My problem is they don’t agree with me’, and we work to get those problems dealt with quickly and effectively

  65. 0

    @ JB

    I was considering that. I wouldn’t do it from work though.

    I love his web page:

    People throughout Troy know that Bobby Mirch is the man to call when you have an issue or problem. He has been a great friend and ally in the Legislature

    I think I will fix that:

    People throughout Troy know that Bobby Mirch is the man to call when you have an issue or problem with free speech. He has been a great friend and ally in the Legislature during attempts to silence opposing view points..

  66. 0
    Davian2K5 says:

    @ Jabrwock

    I haven’t really had a chance to read through any of the links, or really pick apart GP’s post in depth, so I didn’t catch any of that – I’m kinda sporadically posting at work and trying to hide GP, I’m bein’ all sneaky-ninja-like!

    But thanks for posting that – I’d give that, to my non-legal mind, a pretty clear example of abusing the system and evidence of bias if that’s the way they’ve gone about things. And I wasn’t saying I disagreed with the decision to sue – far from it, actually. Just outlining what I could see as some of the possible hurdles to jump on that path.

    I definitely agree this was driven by a petty, close-minded bigot who was abusing the system – just from my limited capability to peruse the links from work, I didn’t know how systematic and clear-cut it could’ve been.

  67. 0
    kurisu7885 says:


    All that was found wrong was with the doors. The doors could have been worked on and fixed without shutting the whole building down(and now I doubt they can even get the money to do that) but no, the ENTIRE building was shut down despite that there was nothing structurally wrong with it.

    I won’t call conspiracy either, but it seems ridiculous to shut down the entire exhibit for one problem that didn’t even threaten any lives.

  68. 0
    InsidiousMrMoo says:

    Whether we agree with what he has to say or not he has every right to express himself, I mean it’s not like he was forcing people to come and see what he had to say, looks like we are approaching a whole new “Red Scare”.

    Also it is completely unfair that Mirch can just throw his power around like that, it reminds me of a child who didn’t get his way, he was like “Stop doing what you are doing, oh you won’t well guess what your door violates building codes!”

  69. 0
    Robin says:

    Unbelievable. I hope this story continues to get media attention, and that Bilal keeps fighting to get a venue. Let’s hope this morally bankrupt fool Robert Mirch finds himself unceremoniously locked out of his former office before too long.

  70. 0
    Benji says:

    I wonder if the government’s overplaying its hand on this one. Before, this was just a controversial art exhibit, and it’s not like this country is any stranger to controversial art. But now that they’re using the law in questionable ways in order to silence a critic, they may be asking for some harsh retribution that they can’t deflect – at best a broadside from the ACLU, and at worst a lawsuit based on selective persecution. The city’s also threatening to turn this into a national spectacle as they fight over the line between free speech and treason. The city might have been better served by letting the exhibit pass quietly instead of giving it a lot of free publicity.

  71. 0
    Gameboy says:

    I haven’t seen the exhibit in question. So, I can’t say how good/bad it is. However, I believe strongly in Freedom of Speech. They had no right to manufacture a reason to shut the exhibit down. This is censorship. Plain and simple. I hope the people of New York see this for what it is.

    What is up with New York these days?

  72. 0
    Davian2K5 says:

    @ Tom

    I don’t think most people would say that it’s 1984, but I think that people are more than a little wary of the gov’t starting to move in that direction. While I agree with you on what it’s not, it seems like every now and then you see a move that seems to push the boundary a little more in that direction – the Patriot Act, to me, is one such move. This, I would say, comes down more to people swinging the “Show what I want or don’t show anything” club. It’s got a hint of moving in 1984ish directions, but I can think of several abuses off the top of my head that are much more 1984ish than this.

    The opinion needed here is that of a lawyer (besides JT) who knows what kind of proof would be needed to show that maybe there is motivation other than just actual building code. Yes, we all see it that way, but if it went to court it would have to be proven. If there’s a history of it, they might be able to show a recurring pattern, but if the building did actually fail their codes, then technically they’re within rights.

    I agree with you that it’s total BS, but using technicalities is something few politicians are above.

  73. 0
    Yuki says:

    I may not agree with the mans stance, but he had a right to say what he will. Doesn’t mean I have to agree, doesn’t mean I have to like it, but he still has the right to say it.

    Thats all I got to say about that.

  74. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Supposedly the Sanctuary is appealing for help from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Albany chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. No word yet on if there’s anything they can do.

  75. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    1984 it may not be, but read the article I posted. Code inspectors cleared the building the day of the exhibit, and only after the exhibit opened did they suddenly reverse position and insist that codes were being violated.

    If I was those code inspectors and fire marshals, I’d be pretty cheezed the mayor’s office stepped on my toes over a political stunt.

  76. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    You have to be feaking kiding me. The freaking nerve of this bigotted jerk. I normally don’t get this freaking outraged, but this cuts it.

    THIS IS CENSURESHIP! There is no question about it. When a critic of speech uses his political position to censure speech he does not agree with, he has opened himself up to lawsuits and firings.

    I hope that SIM and Bilal take this guy to court.

    You have to be freaking kiding me.

  77. 0
    Tom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is complete bullshit, but Iran/China and 1984 it’s not.

    If the building code hasn’t been enforced for a length of time and is suddenly an issue when a piece of expression that a member of city government has a problem with appears then it’s selective enforcement and could be considered as a government official abusing his privileges in order to infringe on an individuals right to free expression. I say they sue the bigot Robert Mirch, the city and whoever else facilitated this blatant abuse of authority.

    Actions like that are the last resort of the weak minded.

  78. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    [Sanctuary spokesman] Pierce said city code enforcement and fire marshals visited the Sanctuary building at 3361 6th Ave. Monday, before the exhibit opened, and allowed the show to proceed. “They went through the building and let us have the event,” he said….

    The city [previously] cited the Sanctuary, Pierce said, after it showed a film critical of [Mayor] Tutunjian’s policies on urban development last year.

  79. 0
    Davian2K5 says:

    @ GoodRobotUs

    With the Iraq war being as controversial as it is, any protest against it gets a sort of magnification it might not otherwise. Combine probably (unfortunately) a bit of racial profiling with a protest against the war, by a man from the country the war is in, and politicians begin to panic and try to keep people from seeing it. That, and it sounds like they have a strong Republican base there, who are sort of invested in having to support the war because of party lines.

    That’s part of why you see the term “un-American” thrown around, imo. It’s an attempt to get people to buy in against their better judgement for fear of not being seen as patriotic. The funny thing is, to me, there is nothing more patriotic to America than standing up for what you believe in and flipping the bird to authority when they try to stop you.

    Unfortunately, the law, which should be used as a shield, is all too frequently used as a club.

  80. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What’s next, a frivolous lawsuit against the next art gallery that tries to host this? Manufactured complaints to the police?

    These people should be ashamed.

  81. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Scary just about covers it.

    What concerns me most is why these officials are so scared of letting people hear the story from any perspective but their own?

  82. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Something else just occurred to me; I think this helps to settle the argument over whether video games are art. This whole thing kind of reminds me of the controversy that surrounded the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit years ago. Then as now, it was protested – under the grounds of course as to whether it was considered obscene or not.

    Still, the controversy over this exhibit has a similar ring to it. So I wonder, (Greek definition of art as quoted by JT notwithstanding) if part of the modern critieria of determining wehther something is art is its potential to offend in this way, then I think video games could definitely be considered art now.

  83. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ The1jeffy

    Evils of porn? I’m not seeing the connection between porn, and someone making a political statement, only to have the banner of “Protected Freedoms.” Besides despite the way American’s show a consirvative image, Americans really do love porn.

    I hate to tell people this but “Protected Freedoms” means that the freedoms we love are being stripped little by little in order to “protect the masses.” This censorship is just using that banner to settle a personal vendetta.

  84. 0
    illspirit ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Black Manta

    Nah, I don’t goto Cornell, they just have one of the easier to use US Code libraries on the net. Most of the others have dodgy urls, cached results you can’t link to, or have entire Chapters or Sections on one page.

  85. 0
    Ghost Coins ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You might not be able to do much by submitting a complaint to the City of Troy website, but I’m digging through the State Ethics Commission to see if he actually violated any regulations (and to see if the commission applies to him). If the council approves of his actions, you go their heads to the next highest tier. Once you get beyond a self-righteous gent like this, the impact of negative press tends to get the attention of individuals who have to actually be elected.

  86. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “not everyone on the Troy City Council can be a complete maroon.”

    Apparently some aren’t. There are a few councilors calling for an investigation into whether Mirch abused his position… Conflict of interest et al.

  87. 0
    Archgabe says:

    The ACLU better take this on. Politicians need a wakeup call that this illegal crap (yes it is illegal. Violating the constitution is the biggest illegal there is.) will not be tolerated any longer.

  88. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Also a Metallica lyric came to mind:

    Doesn’t matter what you see
    Or into it what you read
    You can do it your own way
    If it’s done just how I say

    Independence limited
    Freedom of choice is made for you, my friend
    Freedom of speech is words that they will bend
    Freedom with their exception

    – “Eye of the Beholder”

  89. 0
    JB ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    A quick Google search of Robert Mirch’s name quickly comes up with address/phone/fax/e-mail should anyone wish to voice their objections (reasonably mind you… no I’m gonna kill you bullcrap that makes us all look bad).

  90. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “Yes, we all see it that way, but if it went to court it would have to be proven.”

    They’re not even trying to hide the bias.

    -Last year the Sanctuary was cited for violating various codes and fire ergs after screening a film criticizing the mayor
    -They were given 18 months (until this April) to fix the violations
    -They’ve been doing construction for the last year to fix them
    -They were told to not have “large” gatherings until the items were fixed
    -But every time they’ve had a show, they’ve gotten city building code inspectors and fire marshals in to check that it’s ok for the crowd they’re expecting, including Monday morning (it was cleared for the exhibit)
    -Monday afternoon, around Bob “Head Building Code Enforcer” Mirch’s protest, the code dept “suddenly” received “numerous” calls complaining that the building was not up to code
    -Without inspecting the building, the code dept called the Sanctuary and told them they were in violation and couldn’t have a gathering

    City council Democrats are apparently crying foul, and threatening to launch an investigation into Mirch’s department for effectively selectively wielding the code inspections as a club.

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