Alan Sorrentino wrote a Letter to the Editor of his local newspaper, the Barrington Times in Barrington, Rhode Island.

It was a letter, accordingly to Sorrentino, intended to be tongue-in-cheek, somewhat humorous in intent, critical of women wearing yoga pants outside the yoga studio (and men in Speedos).

Little did Sorrentino realize that not everyone appreciated or understand his sense of humor, particularly some women who took offense to his yoga pants comments.

And therein started what is one of the most bizarre stories I’ve seen, in which Sorrentino became so vilified that it resulted in death threats and a protest called a “Yoga Pants Parade” attended by hundreds of people who marched past his house in protest as police stood watch.

We told the background of the story in my prior post, New object of hate: Guy who complained about older women in Yoga pants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI_v2JC_NIQ

The short version is that Sorrentino joked in his Letter about women, particularly women over 20 or who are not in great shape, wearing yoga pants outside the gym. He also compared what he deemed unsightly images to men who would wear speedos around town, to which he said “yuck.”

And then all hell broke loose. About the yoga pants comments, not the Speedo comment.

Some local women took offense to the Letter as an example of body shaming, and an attempt to deprive women of the right to wear what they want.

Nothing in Sorrentino’s letter, however, attempted to deprive anyone of any rights — he simply expressed his fashion outrage at women on whom tight-fitting yoga pants are not — in his estimation — attractive. No one seemed to object to his comment in the Letter about men and Speedos.

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Many people responded with contrary letters to the editors, but then the controversy spread far and wide on the internet. Then came the profane and threatening voice messages and death threats.

Local women began to organize a protest march directed at Sorrentino. The Facebook posts were foul and angry, as detailed in my prior post. They also took the Barrington Times to task, demanding that such letters not be published in the future.

In the heat of the anger, a Facebook event page mapped out the route for the protest. And that route took the marchers right past Sorrentino’s house. By the morning of the protest, Sunday, October 23, 2016, almost 500 people had signed up for the march to Sorrentino’s house.

Given that Sorrentino was the object of an internet rage, Sorrentino was concerned.

I met Sorrentino outside his house that morning, just a few hours before the planned march. He didn’t want to be videotaped, but he was more than willing to speak with me.

Sorrentino expressed his disbelief how his letter had been taken out of context, because he considered it obvious that the letter complaining about yoga pants (and Speedos) was at least partially in jest. He felt that the protest march was disproportionate to any alleged offense, and he was fearful since he had received death threats.

The march on his house was over the line, Sorrentino said. The publicity and threats had disrupted his family life, and made it more difficult to care for an elderly person for whom he is a caretaker. The planned march to his house by hundreds of protesters added to that stress and fear.

While I was there, Sorrentino was hanging a peace sign on the front of his house, and later I noticed he added a “Free Speech” banner.

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I attended the protest march.

There were about 300 people in attendance, maybe more. The organizers and others insisted that they weren’t marching “to” Sorrentino’s house, just “past” his house. That seemed like a meaningless distinction but it was one I heard repeated over and over by different people, as if that were the planned talking point.

No one could answer the question of why that route was taken, why it was necessary of all the streets in Barrington to march on Sorrentino’s street and to or past his house, if the intent was not to intimidate him.

While the protest was completely peaceful, police were on hand outside Sorrentino’s house to prevent any trouble.

There were markings chalked on the street by organizers designating the space right in front of Sorrentino’s house a “quiet zone.” That was ignored. As the marchers passed in front many stopped to take photos, to comment on the signage on the house, sometimes in a noisy fashion.

I don’t know if Sorrentino was home as the protest passed by, but someone was home. The door slightly opened then shut quickly when a local news reporter tried to speak to someone in the house.

On the surface the protest had a non-hostile and festive appearance. Emphasizing a positive image appears to have been a conscious decision by the organizers after the initial internet rage and threats garnered negative publicity for the protest.

The news coverage of the event focused on that superficial side of the event, playing on the theme of women’s empowerment. Yet there was a negative side that doesn’t fit that narrative. This story is just as much if not more about how mob rule on the internet and locally was used to try to silence someone through fear and intimidation.

Make no mistake, the anger was there, barely below the surface.

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My interviews with participants revealed that Sorrentino had become the object onto which the women projected their rage unrelated to Sorrentino himself. In fact, many women kept emphasizing that the protest really wasn’t about Sorrentino, even if he was the object.

Mistreatment of women by society, body shaming and expectations place upon women, sexual assault and objectification of women, whatever issues women have had in their lives — all of that was dumped onto Sorrentino.

The event was other-worldly — a protest unlike anything seen before in sleepy Barrington, all over a Letter to the Editor about yoga pants. Lost in the fury was the Speedo comment Sorrentino also made. I can’t believe no one was angry about that male body shaming (psst, that’s a joke, for the humorless among us).

Here is some of the video I took: