Breaking the Silence with #MeToo Post-it Notes in the Subway

Attendees stuck some of the Post-it notes on their clothes and posters at Columbus Circle station (The Ink/Galie Darwich)

On Saturday, as the first snow of the season turned the streets white, Katelyn Sturgill, 23, was in the Columbus Circle subway station standing side by side with around 15 other women. They were in front of a colorful wall plastered light yellow Post-it notes containing messages from survivors of sexual assault and their supporters.

Sturgill stuck four Post-it notes on her gray sweater (The Ink/Galie Darwich)

“Consent is mandatory #MeToo,” one note read. “My body, my choice #MeToo,” another person wrote. Sturgill, who lives in New York, stuck some of the notes on her gray sweater, including one note from an anonymous survivor that read “#MeToo he wasn’t a celebrity, he was my mother’s boyfriend.”

The subway rally was part of a larger demonstration that drew about 100 other protestors across the street from Trump International Hotel, a block away. Protestors who wanted to share their opinions walked to the subway station at 2:30 p.m. after the rally.

The wall demonstration, meant to be a visual representation of the #MeToo movement, was organized by Alyssa Cannizzaro, 24, special projects manager at the National Organization for Women’s New York City office. She said the idea came from one of the organization’s members, who is 70 and admired the online #MeToo campaign but couldn’t participate because she doesn’t have a computer and is not on Twitter. She wanted to make sure that people like her had a place to share their stories.

Cannizzaro said that the woman was inspired by the post-election “Subway Therapy” notes posted in Union Square a year ago, which are now archived at the New York Historical Society.

But, Cannizzaro said, “this is not just for people who do not have internet or a computer. It is for people to see it because this #MeToo conversation needs to be have people need to listen. Men in particular need to listen to what we have to say.”

Sturgill, a graduate student in women’s history at St. Lawrence University, handed out Post-it notes.  “When they were organizing this rally, I was very excited and then just came out,” Sturgill said. “I was handing out Post-it notes for people to share their stories.”

Cooper at the #MeTooRallyNYC across the street from Trump International Hotel (The Ink/Galie Darwich)

Ann Leigh Cooper, a 30-year-old filmmaker and activist, said that survivors and their supporters no longer are going to be silent. “I am a survivor,” Cooper said. “So, I’m #MeToo and I want us to rise and have a voice.”

Although she didn’t write a note for the wall, she wanted to tell her story.  “I was raped last year,” Cooper said. “I never got justice even after I reported it.”

Ayers holding his poster at the #MeTooRallyNYC (The Ink/Galie Darwich)

Robert Ayers, a 64-year-old retired university professor, said his wife is a rape survivor and he was at the rally as a supporter. “I have been very active in the resistance to Trump’s regime,” Ayers said. “It strikes me that what it is happening today is very much part of the same movement. You know we have a president that among his many other failings, is clearly a sexual predator himself.”

Annmarie Haubert, 24, a co-organizer of the rally, said she wanted people to take away from the rally the feeling of solidarity. “That feeling of being together and I am not alone,” Haubert said. “I see this person, they see me. We have this thing that bonds us together. And that supporters are seen too. People who have not had their own ‘me too’ stories but support our cause that they are with us and that we see each other.”

Masae Satouchi, a 38-year-old survivor and Japanese geisha performer, was near the wall at the subway station and she said she believes that instead of being ashamed, survivors and allies should come together to make a change. “It was wonderful to meet people who had the same experiences,” Satouchi said. “I’m so happy that people started to do this movement.”

Ayers said that he hopes people have a greater sense of purpose and encouragement after the rally. “I hope they come away rejuvenated,” Ayers said.

Haubert added that it meant a lot that the #MeToo movement and women who have spoken up about assault and harassment were chosen as Time magazine’s “person of the year”  because it made them feel acknowledged. “I feel like nobody is telling me I don’t believe you anymore,” Haubert said. “I feel believed and I feel like this is the time we need to be recognized.”

A police officer takes down the Post-it notes as Cannizzaro, middle, and Sturgill, right, collected them. (The Ink/Galie Darwich)

The Post-it notes on the subway wall from survivors and allies stayed up for about 10 minutes before New York Police Department officers took them down at 3:00 p.m. “The NYPD said we are not authorized to put this up on the wall and we had to take them down,” Cannizzaro said. “That was his boss’s order.”

Sturgill said that the police action toppressed women. “The fact that these sticky notes were taken down is a silencing action,” Sturgill said. “A systematic oppression against women and our voices because when Trump was elected people started to post notes up in Union Square and they stayed there for months.”

Cannizzaro said that organizers hope to find a wall where the notes can stay up. “People need to see these stories,” Cannizzaro said. “They need to listen because we need to change our culture where sexual harassment and sexual assault are a thing in the past, we are speaking up. We won’t take it any longer.”

Cannizzaro, survivors and allies gathered the notes that were taken down from the wall and stuck them on their clothes. “We are going to keep protesting,” Cannizzaro said. “We are going to keep having rallies.  We will keep sticking Post-it notes up because we need to change culture.”