City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

GamePolitics readers may recall our extensive coverage of the politically-charged situation surrounding Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal. His Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that U.S. policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal, a U.S. citizen and a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to display his work at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy but was abruptly ordered off campus after the school’s College Republican Club raised objections to the game. Bilal was then offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at a nearby gallery, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy’s Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch (left). Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union offers comment on the suit from Melanie Trimble of the NYCLU’s Capital Region Chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery’s executive director. The NYCLU has posted a press release on the suit.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint from the NYCLU website

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  1. Ratros says:

    Sterotypes do not represent the entirety, they just represent the loud obnoxious ones that nobody likes.

    I once had a dream about God. In it, he was looking down upon the planet and the havoc we recked and he said unto us, "Damn Kids get off my lawn!"

  2. Father Time says:

    I hope he loses or at the very least feels the pressure from the courts.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  3. Speeder says:

    Too bad that here in Brazil noone can do like there and sue the government for banning more videogames than China (yes, Brazil banned more games than China! Where China nowhere say that censhorship is banned, and Brazil constitution has a clone of first amendment, clearly saying that censhorship is illegal)


  4. F__ked up says:


    It sucks for the tax payers when idiots like this run these departments. The tax payers suffers not this guy. Isnt there a way to get this guy to foot at least 75% of the bill. Its time that these officals start paying out of their own pockets for their stupidity. If you dont want the responsibility then do NOT take the position.

  5. Neeneko says:

    I can think of a lot of groups that will be watching this case closely.

    Building Code Violations are a classic way for local government to shut things down that they find politically inconvenient yet no law actually exists against.  It has been used by Philadelphia many times on the BDSM, Burner/PEX, and Swinger communities for instance.  People are less willing to stand up for sexual deviation, but maybe a more artsy case like this (that more people will get behind) will set a useful precedent.

  6. Werrick says:

    Right, so we can blow the shit out of every Arab we see in ever modern shooter set in present day, and that’s okay, but playing an Arab who’s out to shoot at Americans is BAAAD!

    Yah… sure.

  7. londinio says:

    blaming hobbies like politicians do should be as much of a no-no as saying the n word in public. I’m serious

  8. loyoyo says:

    Regardless of the political affiliation of the misguided civil servants, I wanna point out this is a 1st amendment issue, like most restrictive videogame legislation attempts.  Whether or not you like the guy’s "art" he certainly has the right to make it and others have the right to display it.

    I rarely find myself sticking up for Republicans, but this pandering idiocy is truly bipartisan.  I’ve been watching politicians fighting our constitutional freedom by attempting to wrongfully legislate music and videogames since Tipper Gore was outraged by sexy lyrics and then-Democrat Joe Lieberman bemoaned the videogame violence.  Nader had some anti-games rhetoric in his platform also.  Going for the culture war win is a tactic employed by all parties, and it is anti-American IMHO.

  9. unique78 says:

    You are right. It’s not all republicans. It’s just the loud ones. I wish some of the fiscal republicans would speak up nice and loud to drown out these retarded moral republicans.

    And Hillary is scared of video games. She’s so old when she sneezes dust clouds rocket out from under her skirt.


  10. Adamas Draconis says:

    "Mirch began collecting signatures today on petitions for his re-election bid for the Rensselaer County Legislature. Mirch, a Conservative, is the legislature’s majority leader."



    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  11. Adamas Draconis says:

    *AHEM* Fortunately not all in Alabama are like that. (We just get drowned out by their yelling)

    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  12. mdo7 says:


    That kinda suck.  I know Brazil home of beautiful beaches and the ladies!! But banning game, god !!  I wish all the models would boycott this banning of game by protesting the government.  They could try no modeling business until video game ban lifted.  That would be a sure fire way to get the ban lifted.  I wonder how many politicians secretly look at monthly magazine full of hot models.   



  13. Father Time says:

    They are freedom figheters.

    Fire fighters fight fire, crime fighters fight crime, so of course these people qualify as freedom fighters (that joke comes from George Carlin).

    Although I wouldn’t use the actions of a these republicans to condmen all republicans.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  14. hellfire7885 says:

    Aren’t the people you speak of usually some of the first to try and silence speech they disagree with?

  15. chadachada321 says:

    Hillary Clinton and Jennifer Granholm both seemed pretty afraid of video games, didn’t they? =p

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  16. DarkSaber says:

    What about the Ebola virus? That’s quite a little thing indeed, but definitley something to be scared of!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  17. unique78 says:

    Republicans love to sound like they are couragous freedom fighters…

    But they are scared of a video game. Cowards they are.

    Everyone should just stop being scared of little things.

  18. hellfire7885 says:

    Well, finding a way to shut down the exhibit was clearly politiclaly motivate.d What goes around comes around.

  19. chadachada321 says:

    I hope the city loses. Sucks for the taxpayers, but the city had no right to deny him like that. Quite clearly politically motivated.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  20. Duffy says:

    Sigh, another sad sign of local government insanity. What’s depressing is how often this kind of stuff happens, a pity it’s not more economical to fight local government. Takes a ruckus like this to get enough attention to even have a shot.

  21. JustChris says:

    Oh, subtlety in art still exists, but these days an artist can’t do a famous exhibit without being part of a "cause" or a "movement".


  22. gamadaya says:

    Whatever happened to subtlety in art?


    Believe in something! Even if it’s wrong, believe in it! -Glenn Beck

  23. sirdarkat says:

     That’s what went through my mind right after I went well DUH give that man a cookie he figured out the suit against him is politically motivated after he used his position in power to shut down an exhbit due to his own political motives.

  24. arowe87 says:

    He called the suit politically motivated.

    Unlike the building code violation shutdown.

  25. Wormdundee says:

    What a slimy politician. I was wondering when something like this would happen in regards to this display. Seriously, this kind of thing sounds like what the Mafia would do to put pressure on someone. Pay or threaten a well-placed politician to shut down someone who is resisting them.

    No, I’m not accusing anyone of having Mafia ties, I’m just saying it sounds kind of like some sort of Mafia movie.

  26. hellfire7885 says:

    Shuutting down the entire building due to a door code is as asinine as shutting down an entire amusement park because one gate on one ride has a rusty hinge.



  27. Monte says:

     ""Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t comment on what I haven’t seen,” Mirch said."

    Wow… just wow…

    call me crazy but i think speaking out and leading protests against the game qualifies as "commenting on it"

    Let him burn in court

  28. Brokenscope says:

    I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner.

    I wonder if this is going to garner major media attention.

Comments are closed.