Published on:

August 19, 2020

Notes on the Removal of Aidan Hill from DxE

Berkeley mayoral candidate Aidan Hill has repeatedly made wild and unsubstantiated accusations against their political opponent, Wayne Hsiung. While we would prefer to focus our attention on issues of actual importance to Berkeley voters, we feel that it’s necessary to put Aidan’s claims into context by describing what led to their ouster from Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), the organization Wayne co-founded. (Note: Aidan’s pronoun is “they,” which is what we use in this account.)

Aidan moved into a house with other DxE activists in August of 2016. Near the end of that month, Aidan’s housemates observed Aidan showing signs of physical attraction to an activist named Bell (they/them - name changed for privacy), a young gay immigrant, not out to their family at the time. These signs included physical touching, flirting, invitations to sit on Aidan’s lap, etc.

Aidan began regularly visiting Bell’s room and inviting themself inside. Bell never reciprocated the invitation. Nevertheless, by the end of August the two appeared to be in a relationship. Some of Bell’s housemates became concerned that this “relationship” was non-consensual, and the result of Bell’s conflict aversion and general submissiveness toward Aidan. This concern only grew as signs of Bell’s distress became plainer and harder to ignore.

A few weeks into September, some of the residents of the house were at a restaurant. Paul, one of the residents, walked outside to see Bell pinned against the side of the building by Aidan. Aidan was holding Bell’s wrists and pushing their pelvis against them, as Bell pushed Aidan away, saying, “don’t do this to me, I need to go” through nervous laughter. Aidan refused to let Bell go, playing the situation off as innocent flirtation.

Paul talked to a number of other activists and learned that many shared the concern that Aidan seemed to be preying on Bell. Paul and Jesse agreed that they would talk to both Bell and Aidan.

But before anyone had had the chance to talk with Bell, Aidan confirmed the activists’ fears.

One afternoon, Aidan called Paul and Jason and insisted they come to the house right away before Aidan hurt somebody. Paul and Jason arrived at the house within 15 minutes to find Aidan yelling and fuming at the front door of the building, claiming that Bell had cheated on them and that the other person was still upstairs. Aidan warned that when they came downstairs, Aidan would be waiting for them. Paul and Jason took this as a threat of violence.

Jason stayed downstairs with Aidan while Paul went upstairs to Bell’s room and found Bell and the other person both visibly afraid. Paul called Jason and told him that he would usher Bell’s friend downstairs, and that Jason should try to distract Aidan and be ready to come between Aidan and Bell’s friend in case Aidan tried to assault him, as they’d said they would. Jason agreed.

Paul came down the stairs with Bell’s friend, at which point Aidan began screaming obscenities and threats. Aidan then lunged and swung at Bell’s friend while Paul and Jason held them back. Stunned by the sudden outburst of violence, Paul told Aidan that what they’d done was unacceptable. Bell quickly ran down the steps in the commotion and sprinted up the street, crying. Paul pursued them but Bell was too fast.

Paul called Bell on the phone and drove to pick them up. Upset, Bell told Paul that he had been trying to end the relationship with Aidan, but Aidan refused to let them go. Desperate, Bell had decided that the only way to end the relationship for good was to openly sleep with someone else. Paul then directly asked Bell, “Did Aidan rape you?” Bell wept, “I don’t know.”

That night, Paul talked to Aidan for an hour on the roof and let them know all the reasons why he and others believed that the relationship was not consensual, including the moment when Aidan had pinned Bell to a wall. Aidan, however, never acknowledged that there was a clear lack of consent.

Over the next week, Aidan seemed to struggle mentally and continued to insist that they were the victim of Bell’s cheating, rather than Bell’s sexual assailant. When Kitty, another activist, tried to facilitate a conversation between Bell and Aidan that the housemates had hoped would lead to Aidan leaving the house voluntarily, Aidan continually berated Bell, calling them, “slut, whore, and fuck boy” and declared that whenever someone breaks their heart, they make it a point to destroy that person’s life. Aidan seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Jason, Paul and others encouraged Aidan to seek medical care. Finally, Aidan relented and admitted themself to a hospital.

Many housemates and community members visited Aidan in the hospital over the next few days, but Aidan became upset that none of DxE’s co-founders came to visit. Shortly after, Aidan checked out and moved in with their sister. Aidan continued to demonize Bell, and Paul informed Aidan that they were no longer welcome at DxE.

Throughout it all, Aidan would claim to hundreds of their mutual friends that Bell was, in fact, the rapist, because, Aidan claimed, it is dangerous to cheat on someone with “mental disabilities.” In future posts, Aidan would simply refer to Bell (by their full name) as their “rapist” and would accuse DxE of “covering up their rape.”

Some time later, another former partner of Aidan’s reached out to DxE to describe their relationship with Aidan. “Aidan was pressuring me into having sex with them,” the former partner said, “and it seemed like they were never going to let up on that so I broke up with them and then they kept talking about how I denied who they were by denying them sexually and a whole bunch of other messed up stuff. They pretty much made it clear that it was a great choice to have left. There was one time that they tried to get me to a hotel and get me high and I think that was probably an attempt at seduction. Essentially, we had agreed to keep the relationship asexual… then when we followed through with it they acted all entitled to sexual activity and I began to feel trapped and almost willing to put my life at risk just to get them to stop and that was the point that I had realized that this was starting to get bad and manipulative. Hands down the worst relationship I ever had. It’s like, I’m not denying who you are just because I won’t have sex with you.”