Women’s Rights Group: ‘Sometimes We Get it Wrong’

Activists apologized for starting a protest against American Apparel after they mistook an image on a flag outside of a store for someone else.

Two groups of local activists who fight back against street harassment and unwanted sexual advances backpedaled on their demands to have a flag depicting American Apparel founder Dov Charney’s face removed from their store on Newbury Street after they found out it wasn’t actually him.

Hollaback! Boston and members of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center started a petition online this week asking the store to replace a flag picturing Charney, because having his face prominently displayed sent “a message loud and clear that they do not care about survivors of sexual violence.”

The only thing is, the flag on Newbury Street doesn’t show Charney’s face—it’s actually a picture of the founder’s grandfather.

American Apparel’s board of directors severed ties with Charney back in June, stripping the creator of the clothing brand of his role as chairman of the company, and notifying him of his termination as president and CEO, based on allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment.

According to the petition to have the flag removed, which had been signed by 60 people as of Friday afternoon, “choosing to put the face of a man who is known to commit acts of sexual violence in a public space has made the sidewalk outside of its store unsafe for survivors who walk by it.”

In a follow up message to people who supported the cause to have the flag taken down, titled “Sometimes We Get it Wrong,” members of Hollaback! Boston apologized for the mix up, however.

The group said they had called the store repeatedly before launching the petition and never received a response. But after the call for the flag’s removal went live, they heard back from the retailers.

“Since we published the petition, we have been able to confirm with the store that the portrait in question is, despite the resemblance, actually Dov Charney’s grandfather,” they said. “We want to apologize for jumping the gun in this particular case, but we appreciate the outpouring of support for our work to create safe public spaces in Boston and throughout New England.”

The group said some campaigns they lead, like the recent MBTA advertising project that warns people to put an end to street harassment, are thoroughly vetted, while others, like the flag outrage, crop up very suddenly.

“We respond as best we can, as quickly as possible, in support of those who share their stories with us. In this case, we got it wrong,” they admitted.