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Jan 3, 23

Community Defends Library Event in New York Against Violent Police, Proud Boys and Neo-Nazis

Report from United Against Racism and Fascism-NYC on recent mobilization against Proud Boys and neo-Nazis who threatened a drag event at a library.

We are an autonomous collective of antifascist neighbors, parents, educators, and community members. We are not paid by the library or Drag Story Hour, nor are we volunteers. We are New Yorkers standing up to vile bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community.

Over the past few months, the far-right has taken to harassing, intimidating, and attacking drag story hours across the country. For these people, it’s not about “protecting children” — it’s about giving a new spin to their ongoing targeting of LGBTQ+ people.

In New York City, the primary group protesting against Drag Story Hour (DSH) is a flock of roughly a dozen conspiracy theorists who found each other at far-right and anti-vaccine rallies. The group first started showing up at a DSH on September 24, 2022, where they attempted to disrupt an open air story hour in Jackson Heights. The group’s harassment has since escalated. On three occasions, its members breached library doors. On December 17, they attempted to storm the Andrew Heiskell Library, and were stopped by community members blocking their way. They also vandalized the homes and offices of three NYC Council Members with anti-LGBTQ+ hate slurs.

Given this escalation, it’s no surprise that on December 29th — their 9th Story Hour — the conspiracy theorist group stood alongside at least five Proud Boys and two Nazis.

But even with their forces combined, the conspiracy theorists, Proud Boys and Nazis were far outnumbered by community members who showed up to defend Drag Story Hour last Thursday. Thanks to this incredible turnout, 70 parents and children were able to enter and exit the library safely, without interference. The story hour even reached maximum capacity, so we improvised an outdoor overflow room where a performer read T’was the Night Before Pride.

The atmosphere outside the library was filled with joy, music, love, and community. Defenders sung Disney and Abba songs, drowning out the other side’s weak chants. We had rainbows, cheerful signs, stickers, coloring books, performance artists, and so much more. Our safety team and medics were there to ensure the safety of the families and performers the entire time. We were in every way the opposite of the hateful groups who had hoped to intimidate us away.

We cannot write this statement without mentioning the NYPD’s behavior throughout the afternoon. First, NYPD officers put up barricades around the library entrance that were not conducive to a proper door defense, and additionally made it difficult for library-goers to access the building. Then, the NYPD began to crush library defenders between barricades and cars. They violently arrested a comrade who they were crushing. Officers also used batons on the bodies of defenders, hitting one in the stomach. Let us not forget that the NYPD has a long record of homophobia and transphobia and a history of making arrests at LGBTQ+ events and protests, including at Pride.

Cops then not only escorted two Nazis to their car, but, later in the evening, escorted Proud Boys into the 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue Jackson Heights subway station without them paying the fare. (This is not the first time the NYPD has escorted Proud Boys.)

At best, cops who show up are unable to identify and keep the harassers away. At worst, they provide an escort to violent far-right actors, arrest defenders, and brutalize the local community.

The best defense is community defense. ​​​​We know who’s trying to invade the libraries. We know what they look like and what their names are. We are trained in door defense, first aid, escorting, and protecting the community. We’ve been defending our city from fascists for years. We are continuously working to improve our tactics to ensure the safety of families, performers, and library staff.

We will never stop protecting our LGBTQ+ spaces from violence and hate.

We are not going anywhere.

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United Against Racism & Fascism-NYC is a broad-based coalition in NYC opposing racism & bigotry, and united in solidarity & action against fascism.

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