Two anti-drag protesters were arrested on Monday evening after getting into Hell’s Kitchen Council Member Erik Bottcher’s apartment building, amid an escalating campaign of homophobic targeting. The two women were arrested after a demonstration which also left the sidewalk outside Bottcher’s Chelsea home covered in vile slurs, and followed days of the gay legislator being subjected to hate speech. On Tuesday morning the legislatior released video which he said showed members of the same group attacking one of his neighbors.
Bottcher revealed the worrying targeting and the arrests via posts on Instagram and Twitter. In a post about the incident on Monday evening, he wrote: “Tonight the Drag Queen Story Hour protesters came to my apartment building and gained entry. My super called the cops and two of them were arrested for trespassing. I’m sorry my neighbors had to see filth these people wrote on the sidewalk. This is pure hate, unmasked.”
The NYPD told W42ST: “On Monday, December 19, 2022, at approximately 1700 hours, a group of protestors were outside of a building within the confines of the 10th precinct. Two female individuals, without permission to do so, entered the residence and were placed under arrest. Charges are pending.” The New York Post reported and police confirmed with W42ST that Erica Sanchez, 44, of the Bronx and Anna Morgan, 27, of Queens, were charged with criminal trespassing and given a desk appearance ticket.
Before the demonstrators were arrested at his home, Bottcher’s district office on W30th Street was also targeted, with people getting into the building, banging on doors and shouting anti-LGBTQIA+ slurs. They vandalized the corridor leading to his office. “Today people who call themselves ‘gays against groomers’ vandalized the hallway outside our district office,” Bottcher tweeted. “We will not be cowed. We will not be silenced. We will continue to stand up against hate.”
Bottcher has become a focus of attacks from the group, who first publicly targeted him at a Drag Story Hour at the Andrew Heiskell branch of the New York Public Library on W20th Street in Chelsea on Saturday.
The council member was met with a tirade of hate speech outside the library on the way into the event, and after posting a photo of himself inside a further deluge of incendiary comments rolled in from members of Gays Against Groomers. The group claim on Twitter to be a “coalition of gay people who oppose the recent trend of indoctrinating and sexualizing children under the guise of ‘LGBTQIA+’.” Bottcher posted a reel on Instagram showing the protesters swearing, making offensive gestures and asking him: “What are you, a pedophile?”
The extremist group has repeatedly expressed hateful beliefs against drag performers and transgender members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Drag queen events have increasingly been targeted by protesters — in other parts of the country, protesters have been armed, and in Columbus, OH, earlier this month an event was canceled after members of far-right groups including the Proud Boys paraded with AR-15 style rifles outside the venue where it was due to be held.
CRIME IN HELL’S KITCHEN
After Monday’s targeting of the District 3 council member, there was widespread support from other city and state politicians. “The work of misguided ghouls blinded by the hate in their hearts,” said fellow Council Member Justin Brannan of the group’s campaign against Bottcher. “This bigotry is disgusting,” tweeted Attorney General Letitia James. “I’m glad you’re safe, and I’m standing with you.”
Bottcher said of the crowd outside the library on Saturday: “If they think this is going to intimidate us, they’re mistaken. This has only strengthened our resolve. We won’t be cowed.”
SEE ERIK BOTTCHER’S VIDEO OF HOMOPHOBIC TARGETING. WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
The use of the slur “groomer” against LGBTQIA+ people has become increasingly common in recent months among far-right and homophobic protesters. It is based on the false claim that gay people are using events such as drag queen story hours to sexualize children and to commit child sexual abuse.
A report in August from the Human Rights Commission recorded an upsurge of 400% in its use online, in the wake of the passage of Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” legislation. In November, a report from GLAAD said there had been 141 protests of, or significant threats to, drag queen events in 2022. That came before a fresh onslaught in recent weeks of homophobia and transphobia.
LGBTQIA+ campaign groups have also warned of an explosion in the use of the “groomer” and “pedophile” slurs on social media, including on Twitter after Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform, and on conservative media. Last week drag queen Marti G. Cummings hit back at Fox News’ second-most popular host, Tucker Carlson, who said of the artist: “Of course, Cummings is also interested in children in all the wrong ways.”
Cummings told Buzzfeed News: “We’re living in a really interesting time where, as we see progress for queer people happening, the hate continues to boil up. And I think that what we’re seeing in this instance, and in many instances, is that they’re grasping at straws and trying to vilify people within the community, trying to vilify the community as a whole.”
In reflecting on the incident, Bottcher told W42ST: “The people who committed these acts are trying to intimidate us into silence, but it’s not going to work. If anything, their tactics have backfired, because this has only strengthened our resolve. We will not waiver in our struggle against bigotry and hatred.”