Violence, sexism, racist harassment and physical abuse at FOSDEM, DebConf, FrOSCon, Debian, OSI

FOSDEM organization is getting under way and volunteers have already started receiving anonymous threats and insults. This is not unprecedented and it is no surprise.

At FOSDEM itself, the former president of Open Source Initiative showed the infamous slide with a cat behind bars. The woman is not a developer. She does not have money to pay developers. People don't consent to be in these experiments. Therefore, the picture implies some force is used to impose upon developers against our will. What she has illustrated here is a concentration camp. If she displayed this slide in Germany she could be prosecuted for glorifying the holocaust.

Molly de Blanc, cat behind bars

The same woman went to FrOSCon in Germany and displayed a slide showing three users pushing a developer. Yet this has actually happened. This was the infamous sexist/racist attack on Ted (Jonathan) Walther and his Mexican dinner date at DebConf6 in Oaxtepec, Mexico. Having seen evidence that rogue elements of the community are planning a repeat of the violence for FOSDEM 2023, it is time to dig out the messages from debian-private. It is 15 years ago but looking at the slides about pushing, not much has changed.

Here is the infamous pushing video from FrOSCon:

Molly de Blanc: Well we can use our collective power to push others

(full video from FrOSCon 2019)

Many Debian scandals, like the Debian Day Suicide, have been kept hidden for years but the DebConf6 violence quickly became public knowledge. There is a large thread in Slashdot where John Sokol gives a first-hand account:

This group, after spreading many rumors about Walther that were totally false, one of which that his date, Hilda (a local entrepreneur in a very small town where everyone knows everyone and runs a dental administration company) was accused of being a prostitute, and this was because Ted couldn't possible get a woman on his own. Being that I was there when Ted met her at the local Internet cafe, this vicious rumor is definitely not true.

After rumors failed, 7 guys tried to rush him and became quite agitated and violent. I am a fairly big guy and happen to be standing in the doorway at the time of the attack against Ted.

Several people where behind him and they would have pushed Walther and several innocent bystanders over the 2 foot ledge that lead to the street, probably injuring some of them.

The attack on Ted Walther sounds a lot like the culture that the OSI president has depicted in the slide at FrOSCon (see the video above).

Looking at the prostitute insult, the victim is a woman and she is from Mexico. Therefore, this is a combination of both sexism and racism. Hilda Rivera Ramirez runs a local dental clinic.

Hilda Rivera Ramirez, Ted Jonathan Walther, DebConf6

How incredibly racist and sexist one must be to confuse a dentist with a prostitute. No doubt jealousy is a factor: Walther had the courage to ask the woman on a date while other developers have spent the whole week cocooned in their DebConf bubble.

Fast forward to DebConf15 and the same rudeness was turned on Carla and I even before we got there. We were going to pay for Carla's flights ourselves but the Google woman told me Carla wouldn't be welcome at the meals.

Now we can fast forward to 2018 and see what happened when the Albanian female interns asked if somebody could purchase their flights for them. Male interns were told to purchase their own tickets and wait months for a reimbursement. Albanian female interns received payment up-front:

Subject: Re: [ #7328] DebConf travel pre-payment requests
From: Martin Michlmayr
Time: Fri Jun 29 08:56:42 2018

* Hector Oron [2018-06-28 10:55]:
> I added Martin to the list, he'll be taking care of flight ticket
> purchase if you send him flight details.

This has been taken care of.

Martin Michlmayr

Here are a couple of messages about the Mexican dentist. Notice that one of the suspects in the DebConf6 violence, Holger Levsen, is in some of the pictures with the table full of Albanian women at DebConf19.

DebConf19, Albanian women, Holger Levsen, Chris Lamb

Notice that in the report from Debian leader Anthony Towns, there is evidence of bias, racism and sexism. For example, using the word "lady" instead of "girl" or "woman" encourages the reader to see the woman in a particular way.

Subject: Events at the DebConf Dinner
Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 10:41:19 -0500
From: Anthony Towns <>


As promised, details from the dinner:

Ted was seen walking with his "clue" bat and a crown out of the conference
venue, avoiding the busses provided to attend the dinner. When asked
later, he indicated he arrived by car with one of the conference sponsors,
named Fabio, and a lady, named Hilda. It is worth noting at this point,
that Ted had not communicated with the conference organisers to ensure
that Hilda would be able to be served, as she had not otherwise been an
attendee at DebConf.

Upon arriving, Ted was wearing his crown and carrying his "clue" bat. One
of the attendees snuck up behind him, and grabbed the crown, and gave it
to me. Ted then came over, at which point I tried grabbing the "clue"
bat and hitting him with it, with limited success. He indicated the
crown was the wrong way around, and we posed for some photos from far
too many cameras, which you may well have already seen.

Some attendees who had had prior bad experiences with Ted, such as
described in the previous mail, were disturbed by him receiving the
attention of the entire conference, and at some point made jests of the
form that Hilda might be his nurse or a social worker. As I understand it,
Amaya Rodrigo Sastre asked Fabio who the lady was, and was led to believe
that she was a prostitute. She and others found that uncomfortable and
offensive, and were also concerned for the woman's safety after his
blog post from the previous evening that spoke extensively about the
death penalty for prostitutes and that being a religious obligation in
certain cases.

One of the volunteers, Ana Guerrero, spoke to Hilda and suggested that
it might be a good idea for her to leave. I am not sure what was said,
but I believe it was related to the general concerns about Ted's religious
beliefs, and the question of whether she was or was not a prostitute was
not raised. As I understand it, at this point Hilda did leave, however
was encouraged to return by Ted and his long-time friend and co-worker,
John Sokol, a former developer of 386BSD and an attendee at DebConf.

At some point, I believe shortly after she returned, some attendees then
decided that it would be all right if she stayed, but Ted left. At this
point Holger and Moray, as mentioned above, manhandled Ted across the
dining hall to the door, where they were intercepted by John. At this
point the rest of the attendees noticed that something was going on, and a
group gathered around trying to calm the situation down, and find out what
had caused it. As part of this, Martin Krafft attempted to calm down the
situation at which point Ted told him to "Get off me you fucking Nazi".

By this point the rain had reached the point where the sound of it hitting
the tin roof was enough to drown out the mariachi band, and without having
known the details of what was going on, it seemed to me that throwing
people out into the rain was uncalled for. As such I escorted Ted and
Hilda back to their seats to separate them from the other attendees who
were clearly angry, and tried to determine what was going on. At about
this time, Amaya and Fabio had a heated argument in Spanish, which Amaya
later indicated involved Fabio claiming that Hilda was not a prostitute,
and that he had never said anything that should give that impression.

I also spoke with Moray and Holger, who by this time were talking with
Bdale and some other developers who hadn't been involved, and indicated
that grabbing people to throw them out of the room was entirely wrong. At
this point they both remained extremely angry at the situation, and had
very little to say. I don't believe resorting to violence is remotely
appropriate within Debian, and had the opportunity to speak further about
this with Moray this morning, and hope to have a similar opportunity to
speak with Holger shortly.

In any case, Amaya, Moray, Holger, and a number of others decided they
would prefer to leave the dinner at this point rather than remain there
with Ted, rain or not; at approximately which time the lighting failed
entirely due to the rain, and presumably leaks near the electrical
system. They remained at the dining hall for a little while longer
until the rain eased, eventually leaving for dinner along with a local
developer, with the intention of finding their own way home.

For the remainder of the evening Ted and Hilda remained mostly in their
seats, and I tried to ensure he avoided further aggravating the other

Not long after most people had eaten, the organisers decided to cut
our losses and arrange for the busses to transport people back to the
conference venue. At this point, most of the people most offended by Ted
took the opportunity to leave along with others who wished to leave early,
as I understand it, slightly over-filling two busses. Ted also left to
leave on these busses, along with Hilda, which I suggested would not
be a good idea, and that it might be better to take a taxi. John Sokol
loaned Ted some money at this point, and Ted and Hilda left.

By the time I returned, Ted was sitting in the middle of the hacklab. As
I understand it, there were a small number of further confrontations as a
result of this.

It's not entirely clear what the facts of the matter are; and as you might
expect, a number of rumours flew around during the dinner. The above
is my best understanding of what happened. 
Obviously there were a large number of other developers present at this
event, who should be able to provide additional information on the dinner;
but it is important to realise that it was not this event alone that
led to either the loss of tempers involved, nor this expulsion.


Anthony Towns
Debian Project Leader

Reactions from other Debian Developers

Josip Rodin appears to endorse violence:

Subject: Re: Events at the DebConf Dinner
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2006 18:39:15 +0100
From: Ian Jackson 
Newsgroups: chiark.private.mail.debian.private
References: <> <> <>

Josip Rodin writes ("Re: Events at the DebConf Dinner"):
> I went back and read a few of the krooger-induced flamewars again, those
> from previous years... My conclusion is that he was fairly lucky to be
> on the receiving end of only a single incident of manhandling. FWIW.

Debian is not supposed to be some downtown bar where if you insult
someone you can expect to be beaten.

Most of the other communities I'm involved with take a very strong
line against violence.  For example, if someone looks like they're
going to get physical, their friends will intervene.  Now we don't
perhaps all know each other as well as we do our meatlife friends; but
I would hope that if I was at Debconf and threatened to behave as
described, other developers would step in to dissuade me.  I also hope
that if I did do anything along these lines the project would hold me
to account and demand, at the very least, an apology.

We have ways of resolving these disputes that do not involve
individuals taking things into their own hands.  One problem we have
in Debian is that those people in charge have usually been reluctant
to enforce justifiable social norms of behaviour, both online and when
we meet in person.  Tolerating violence amongst our members is just
one example of this.


Wouter doesn't appear to realize that violence is a crime:

Subject: Re: Events at the DebConf Dinner
Date: Sat, 03 Jun 2006 08:54:12 -0700
From: Bruce Perens 
To: Wouter Verhelst 

Wouter Verhelst wrote:
> How is manhandling or insult going to increase SPI's chances of getting sued?

The manhandling is the sort of crime that judges take seriously.


Why did the victim get expelled?

It looks like members of the mob realized they may face consequences so rather than apologizing, they expelled the victim and muddied the waters.

Subject: Re: Ted Walther's Expulsion
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006 14:52:05 -0700
From: Steve Langasek 

I'm sorry, I don't want to prolong this thread, but I'm having difficulty
parsing your mail.

On Sat, May 20, 2006 at 12:52:47AM -0400, Bruno Barrera C. wrote:

> Hanging on the last point, there was a problem calling the Ted's guest
> 'Prostitute'. That's not a rumor, that's a fact.

What part are you asserting is a fact here?  That she was a prostitute, that
people called her a prostitute, or that it was a problem to call her a

> It was what I heard (from many people, obviously rumor moving along the
> crowd) when I was on the formal dinner.  The real rumor is that she wasn't
> a prostitute,

What do you mean by "real rumor"?  A rumor is a claim of doubtful veracity;
are you claiming that the *truth* is that she was not a prostitute, or that
the *rumor* that she was a prostitute is a rumor, thus implying that it is
false and the contrary is true (that she was a prostitute)?

> because I'm witness that they met her close the town because she was close
> to a business man that they met a few days ago, and Ted kindly offered her
> to join him to the Formal dinner.

I regret not having accurate first-hand information about this situation.  I
wish I did, because I would like to better understand what Went Wrong 
at the formal dinner.  It is pretty clear that Ted & Co. did not do much
initially to *discourage* the impression that Hilda was a paid escort,
contributing to the confrontation.


The conclusion: if you bring a female friend to a free/open source software event, you have to give every other person a verbose explanation about her profession and how you met.