Return of Kings, a men’s rights group led by Daryush Valizadeh, has allegedly cancelled its Feb. 6 meetups in all locations, including one stated to be held in Nickels Arcade in downtown Ann Arbor, according to the group’s website.
“I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time,” Valizadeh wrote in a post. “While I can’t stop men who want to continue meeting in private groups, there will be no official Return Of Kings meetups.”
Valizadeh initially announced worldwide meetings for men who read his website on Jan. 22. On their website, ROK advocates for policies that would legalize rape and advances “neo-masculine” thought, such as subordinate roles for women in society.
The news of Ann Arbor’s meetup spread on social media late Tuesday night, and campus police took steps to gain more information about ROK’s activities after receiving multiple tips from the campus community. Stockwell Residence Hall sent out an e-mail warning residents to take caution, and the University released a similar statement Wednesday evening.
“DPSS is working collaboratively with the Ann Arbor Police as well as other local, state and federal law enforcement partners to monitor the situation,” University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in the statement.
AAPD Detective Lieutenant Robert Pfannes did not return requests for comments.
The University’s statement also condemned the group’s values.
“The strong and unequivocal response of condemnation of this group by the University community demonstrates that our community values respect for all persons and rejects language and actions that promote sexual and gender-based violence,” Fitzgerald stated.
A Facebook event started Tuesday night by a University student calling for a protest against ROK posted celebrating the official cancellation. The protest, now called the Women’s Rights Awareness Rally, will still continue as scheduled on the Diag on Saturday night, according to organizers.
“We will be planning events and having speakers/organizations educating us on several topics including sexual assault, women’s health, reproductive justice, and much more,” the event’s description reads.
Businesses around the Nickel’s Arcade area also reacted negatively to the news of the meetup. The manager of a popular Maynard Street bar, who requested anonymity because he did not want the establishment associated with the group, maintained that security, however, would not be an issue.
“We have so many bouncers already, and people walking the crowd to make sure no one is too intoxicated, or is trying to take a girl home without her permission,” he said. “Saturday night is already busy, and we have a great relationship with the (city) police, too.”
Henriette Rowland, an employee of University Flower Shop inside the arcade, said business owners she spoke to were aware of the event, but did not want to draw excessive amounts of publicity to ROK.
“It’s sad that it’s happening,” Rowland said. “And it should be against the law. But we’re trying to find a good balance between not being too crazy about it and giving in, but also being outspoken about it and how ridiculous the whole thing is.”