On Tuesday night, a massive article dropped on the website Yellow Scene Magazine (YS). It ostensibly provides backstory about sexual assault allegations against Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson. The writeup is grossly intimidating to victims who may otherwise come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against him.
The article was coauthored by YS publisher Shavonne Blades and community activist Mona Cedillo. Cedillo is key: At a June 10 protest against DPS’s handling of the allegations, she was livestreaming and mocking the event when she interrupted three teenaged girls, including 18-year-old organizer Gigi Gordon, as they spoke.
Cedillo insisted she expected alleged Anderson victims to speak. Gigi never promised that. “Can I say something really quick?” one of the teens tried to say. “No, no, no, no,” Cedillo insisted. “It is so terrifying for those girls,” the teen added. Cedillo continued proving the teen’s point until quieted by protesters.
In a thread on Cedillo’s Facebook page two days later, Anderson’s close friend and paid 2019 “campaign consultant,” Hashim Coates personally attacked Gigi. On Facebook, he commented, “She is the age if not older then (sic) the man who carried out the Columbine massacres. So if that type of deviant behavior can be in someone so young, she is not immune from deviant behavior.”
Gigi “is much, much more dangerous,” another replied. “She is a white girl who masters crocodile tears to manipulate others, and there will be the wreckage of many, mostly male, lives in her wake…”
Cedillo piled on: “not just males. Any females who reach out and try to befriend, follow help her.”
In a June 24 Facebook post, Coates referred to Gigi as “the lil lying ass racist.” At 11:52pm Tuesday, he commented on her personal Facebook page. Linking to the YS article, Coates said, “I and director Auontai Anderson wait for an apology and we’ll see you in court,” tagging Anderson.
The active intimidation by Cedillo, Coates and Co. provide crucial context. Blades and Cedillo claim “Victim Number One” – whose allegations first arose in a March statement by BLM5280 – had recanted those accusations.
“On June 13, 2021 while conducting a follow-up call with the alleged ‘Victim Number One,’ YS was informed they were recanting and not moving forward with their statements,” the article stated in bold font. Blades and Cedillo write that YS phoned the accuser on June 25 “to confirm that they were firm in recanting.” S/he purportedly offered to pass along contact information to her/his attorney. “YS has still not received a response from the attorney…as of press time.”
Blades and Cedillo don’t offer quotes, context or explanations for the meaning of “recant.” When they pressed the accuser again about “recanting,” s/he didn’t. If the alleged victim said “recant,” what did that really mean? Was s/he actually denying an assault took place? Or was s/he expressing intent not to press forward for fear of retaliation?
On Wednesday, YS updated the article: “When asked if they were recanting [the accuser] stated yes, but they also stated they no longer want to move forward pursuing that allegation ‘for safety and support reasons. They say they no longer have the support systems they did in the beginning, they are disassociating themselves from Brooks-Fleming, and feel threatened if they were to go forward with their story…”
Recanting – withdrawing and disavowing – an allegation is fundamentally different from not wanting to “move forward pursuing that allegation.” The alleged victim “[feels] threatened if they were to go forward with their story.” Why might s/he “feel threatened?”
Clearly there’s a reason for wishing to remain anonymous, but Blades and Cedillo extensively quote Anderson and his attorney, Christopher Decker, as they presented their own account after learning the alleged victim’s name.
If a website aggressively questions a young, anonymous victim about allegations against someone powerful, and the accuser fears retaliation by “#TeamTay,” why wouldn’t s/he feel intimidated? Nothing chills reporting more than destroying a victim or making that victim fear destruction.
On Wednesday, YS managing editor Johnathan DeLaVaca Duran opened up. “I don’t know about you but I didn’t see any proof that the victim recanted,” Duran posted on Facebook. “I do know that BLM5280 emailed Shavonne Blades to say the victim hadn’t recanted, but SB did not include that in her story. She had that info at press time.”
According to source code, Blades and Cedillo’s article was published at 8:38pm Tuesday night. At 9:18pm, Anderson tweeted his statement expressing “potential vindication” by YS. Mainstream news media picked it up. The speed with which Anderson was “made aware” of the article, drafted a statement and tweeted it out is striking. Coincidence — or coordination? All things considered, it’s no wonder a young victim might not want to put herself out there. I probably wouldn’t. Would you?