(NEW YORK)– In response to reports of death threats and intimidation experienced by Oregon Shakespeare Festival director Nataki Garrett and her staff, which have forced Garrett to maintain security protection when in public, Summer Lopez, PEN America’s chief program officer for free expression, issued the following statement: 

“PEN America stands in solidarity with Nataki Garrett and the staff of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and unequivocally condemns threats of violence against artists and leaders in the creative community. Such threats and intimidation are inherently anti-democratic, wielded in hopes of silencing the voices of artists and suppressing creative freedom, and they pose a danger to every artist’s freedom of expression. As we know from PEN America’s work to support those facing online abuse, however, women of color routinely face disproportionate and uniquely virulent attacks. In our increasingly polarized society, it is essential that we maintain space for open discourse about the arts, including trenchant criticism and ardent disagreement. But we must also speak out when discourse and debate cross the line into threats of violence. We recognize the courage of Garrett and others like her who persist in leading and creating even in the face of attempts to intimidate and silence. As we collectively seek to build a literary and artistic community that reflects the full, vibrant diversity of our country, we are also called upon to stand alongside those who blaze trails–and face new dangers as a result.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057