Friends, foes of Drag Story Hour show up in Jackson Heights

Proud Boys make appearance outside children’s event

By Jessica Meditz

Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters, about 30 people compared to 200.

In response to a group of people openly against Drag Story Hour and their shared plans to disrupt the children’s event once more, supporters of the initiative showed up to defend it last Thursday, Dec. 29.

Both sides of 81st Street – the site of the Queens Public Library in Jackson Heights – were filled with passionate crowds up and down the block.

One could spot on the left side of the street individuals holding signs that read “Stop Drag Queen Story Hour” and “Groom dogs, not kids,” some donning Proud Boys gear. The right side of the street featured a sea of rainbows along with signs that said “Drag the bigotry away” and “Libraries are for everyone.”

Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters – approximately 30 compared to 200 people – as library goers looked over the interaction from a bird’s eye view through the building’s top floor windows.

Back in November, Jackson Heights elected officials held a community rally outside the same library, denouncing hate and expressing their full support of Drag Story Hour – which was also met with backlash from counter protesters.

“There are many parents, myself included, who are choosing to raise their children in Jackson Heights because we want our children immersed in diversity,” State Senator Jessica Ramos said in a statement. “I’ll welcome the joy that Drag Story Hour offers over the bigotry of a loud, select few any day.”

While the Drag Story Hour event took place, LGBTQ+ supporters used their own bodies as shields to prevent the children and parents from being seen by the other side of the street. A performer read “‘Twas the Night Before Pride” outside the library’s doors as children listened and engaged.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz poses with a young supporter of Drag Story Hour.

In response to the reaction from counter protesters and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments seen throughout the city, such as Manhattan Councilman Erik Bottcher’s home and district office being vandalized after openly supporting Drag Story Hour, Bottcher, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Councilman Shekar Krishnan and Councilwoman Crystal Hudson released a joint statement condemning homophobic and transphobic actions.

They argue that Drag Story Hour, founded as a nonprofit in 2015, engages children in arts and crafts, as well as imaginative storytelling – while simultaneously teaching acceptance.

“It is particularly disturbing that these anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have focused their harassment in Jackson Heights and Chelsea, two neighborhoods with historical importance as safe communities and centers of organizing for the LGBTQIA+ movement in New York City,” they said in the statement.

“The harmful, homophobic, and transphobic extremism targeting Drag Story Hour events and the New Yorkers who support them, including Council members, is vile and dangerous. We will not stay silent or accept these shameful attempts to intimidate and spread hate, especially after recent incidents that have devolved into violence and put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” it continued. “This City Council is proud to support children’s programs that promote inclusivity, literacy and joy.”

People on both sides of the issue clashed at last week’s protest, and some interactions did get physical.

Several NYPD officers were at the scene.

One individual was arrested that day, a 32-year-old Forest Hills resident named John Curry.

Police say Curry was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. It is unclear if he is against or in favor of Drag Story Hour.

After the event began to fizzle out, NYPD officers escorted a group of people in Proud Boys gear to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, where they were permitted to ride for free, a video posted by TikTok creator, @brennalip, revealed.

The videographer questioned, “Proud Boys don’t have to pay for the fare?”

One of the individuals responded, “We’re special, thank you. Appreciate it, from your taxes.”

Before the clip ended, an NYPD officer appeared to motion the videographer and other individuals to back up and pay for the fare themselves, which the creator questioned.

“Is that the situation you’re saying?” they asked, to which the officer replied, “That is correct.”

TikTok creator @brennalip posted a video revealing the NYPD permitting a group of people donning Proud Boys gear not to pay the MTA fare.

Many social media users expressed their angry reactions to the situation, some even calling on Mayor Eric Adams to respond.

State Senator Jessica Ramos shared an update to Twitter on Jan. 2.

“Just spoke to the precinct. They said they had to escort the Proud Boys [because they] were picking fights [with] people on the street like vendors as well as reporters,” Ramos wrote in the tweet.

“Still, this wouldn’t look so hypocritical if [the] NYPD would stop arresting people of color over a $2.75 fare.”

Drag story hour rally met with backlash

“Bigotry has got to go,” local electeds say

By Jessica Meditz

State Senator Jessica Ramos confronts a counter protester while Councilman Shekar Krishnan speaks.

In response to a rise in hate against the local LGBTQ+ community, Jackson Heights elected officials held a community rally outside the Queens Public Library in the neighborhood.

Councilman Shekar Krishnan, Assemblywomen Catalina Cruz and Jessica González-Rojas and State Senator Jessica Ramos invited the community to stand in solidarity against anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-drag hate, in support of the Drag Story Hour NYC event that took place inside the library immediately after.

The rally, however, prompted some unwanted guests to take to the streets as well, expressing their disapproval of drag queens hosting storytime events for children.

“When we are met with hate, when we are met with depression, bigotry, homophobia, we respond with love. We respond with power, we respond together and send a message loud and clear that hate has no place here in Jackson Heights,” Krishnan said.

“Jackson Heights is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ movement here in Queens in response to a hate crime when Julio Rivera was killed about 30 years ago, just a few blocks from here, and so we know what it means to respond to hate,” he continued. “In our community, we are proud to love and embrace everyone for who they are. We make sure our children grow up in a community where they can love whoever they want, where they can dress however they want and where we celebrate each and every single person here.”

(Photo: Office of Shekar Krishnan)

While Krishnan led the crowd through a series of chants, including phrases such as, “The people united will never be defeated” and “Bigotry has got to go,” a male counter protester approached the podium.

He continued to shout, “Stop grooming the kids” before being confronted by Ramos, and eventually removed by security. 

Ramos emphasized the importance of events like Drag Story Hour, so that children who are LGBTQ+ can feel safe and represented in the community, as well as encouraging people to talk about sex in an accurate and scientific way.

“I know it’s funny and I know it’s taboo, but I think a few people across the street missed the memo. I just want to say to everybody across the street, there is still time to come out,” she said while addressing the counter protesters. “There is an entire neighborhood ready to love you.”

Oliver Click, executive director of Drag Story Hour NYC and working drag performer, said that the No. 1 response they hear to Drag Story Hour is how so many people wish they had this opportunity growing up, and stressed how LGBTQ+ representation in a positive light significantly improves the mental health outcomes for that community.

“The rise in violent harassment and backlash that we’ve seen over the last few months has been shocking and heartbreaking,” they said. “But the support of our community including parents, teachers, librarians, city officials, local community organizers… has enabled us to not only continue our programming as usual, but to expand our outreach and celebrate creativity, empathy and joyful expression to the people that need it most.

Upon approaching the counter protestors for comment, the group was uncooperative.

Counter protesters demonstrated across the street.

A Jackson Heights resident and an employee at an elementary school, Jennifer A. (who requested her full last name be omitted), was in tears at the backlash the event received from the counter protesters.

In fact, on the same day as the rally, she said that one of her young students requested to be called a different name and asked if they could stand in line with the opposite gender during school.

Jennifer said she would welcome a drag queen into her classroom any day with open arms.

“That’s what we’re taught to do, to teach them acceptance, and it’s very upsetting to hear all of this because it takes a lot of courage for a child to know themselves, and I credit their parents for that,” she said.

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