Village to Proud Boys: “Not in Our Neighborhood!”

By Arthur Z. Schwartz

Man Arrested, Demonstrators Clash at Attorney General Letitia James-Hosted ‘Drag Story Hour’

A man identified as a supporter of the Proud Boys was arrested outside “Drag Story Hour NYC” (DSH) hosted by New York Attorney General Letitia James on Sunday, March 19th, following a clash between more than 100 protesters and event supporters. DSH holds events where storytellers use “the art of drag to read books to kids in libraries, schools and bookstores,” according to the non-profit’s website.

PROUD BOYS PROTESTING OUTSIDE of Attorney General Letitia James’s “Drag Story Hour NYC” event on March 19th. Photo courtesy of LGBTQ+ Nation.

The DSH event took place at The Center, the iconic LGBTQ+ community center on West 13th Street. A man in a gold mask was arrested outside after protesters clashed with event supporters over drag performers reading stories to kids, and tax dollars helping fund the event. The man who was arrested was described by police as an “anti-drag protester (who was) arrested for assaulting a pro-drag demonstrator.”

The NYPD’s Public Information’s Office announced that the man who was arrested is 53-year-old Robert Porco. Porco has been charged with one count of assault. No other arrests were made in connection to the event.

The anti-drag protestors included several men wearing far-right Proud Boys sweatshirts who were told  “Go home” and “Proud Boys not welcome in New York” by event-supporting demonstrators. One of the purported Proud Boys appeared to have blood on his face as he walked away from the crowd who supported the event.

STORYTELLERS USE “the art of drag to read books to kids in libraries, school and bookstores.” Photo courtesy of Drag Queen Story Hour NYC.

While outside of the event the clash between opposing sides was evident, a photo shared by James and others on Twitter from inside The Center showcased families with children intently engaged in the storytelling taking place.

Anti-LGBTQ+ bills, such as the Tennessee drag ban and laws that limit trans healthcare, have been on the rise, underscoring the importance of supportive events like Drag Story Hour. Similar family-oriented events have been canceled around the country due to threats from anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as the Proud Boys. The New York Daily News reported that the Morrisania Library in the Bronx nixed its scheduled show in September featuring teenage drag artist Desmond Napoles after they received violent threats.

This event was made possible and proudly co-sponsored by Drag Story Hour, The Center, the Pride Center of Staten Island, Destination Tomorrow, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library, State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, State Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Daniel O’Donnell, and Tony Simone, and New York City Council Members Erik Bottcher, Tiffany Cabán, Crystal Hudson, Shekar Krishnan, Chi Ossé, and Lynn Schulman.

“Drag storytellers, and the organizations that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that are core to what our city embraces,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Stories don’t just teach children to love reading, but help them understand people who are different. And at a time when our LGBTQ+ communities are under increased attack across this country, we must use stories to educate. The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent. I thank Attorney General James for hosting this event that clearly says New York City is the place where you can be yourself and love who you want.”

“DRAG STORYTELLERS, AND THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT THEM, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that are core to what our city embraces,” said NYC Mayor Eric Adams. Photo courtesy of the NY State Attorney General’s Office.

“Conservative leaders from across the country, and unfortunately here in our city, are deploying bigotry and hatred against the LGBTQ+ community, marginalizing and demonizing drag performers particularly,” said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “Drag story hours have been a fun, engaging way to get kids excited about reading and learning, and in the face of relentless, unfounded attacks they have also become a means of standing up to a hateful agenda of false outrage and those who are trying to advance it. I thank the Attorney General for hosting this event and showing that in New York, we reject these attacks and embrace the love, acceptance, inclusivity, celebration, expression, and education at the core of these drag programs and the broader community.”

“My two young daughters have been going to Drag Queen Story Hour for years with their two dads. They like it for the simple reason that it’s fun and interesting —there’s nothing more complicated than that,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. “Those who are attempting to use Drag Queen Story Hour to stir up controversy and vitriol directed at the LGBTQ+ community and specifically drag artists should be ashamed of themselves. I appreciate Attorney General James for sponsoring this story hour at the LGBTQ+ Center and giving parents and kids the opportunity to be exposed to books.”

“With so many public officials and private citizens across the nation targeting the drag, queer, and trans communities with hateful policies and violence, it’s powerful for AG James to loudly and proudly organize this Drag Story Hour,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “Drag Story Hour brings communities together and shows families how to live expansively and embrace diversity. The messages of radical love and acceptance that characterize Drag Story Hour will shape a better city for our youngest New Yorkers.”

“Today, we witness the joy and happiness that Drag Story Hour brings children nationwide and the community-led effort it takes to make it happen,” says Beverly Tillery, Executive Director, New York City Anti-Violence Project. “But I would be remiss if we didn’t note the unfortunate reality of the hatred that makes such an innocent event newsworthy and the real danger our Drag performers and our community face daily due to hateful threats.”

Established in 1983 as a result of the AIDS crisis, New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center has grown and evolved over the last four decades, creating and delivering services that empower people to lead healthy, successful lives.

In a statement from the attorney general’s office Sunday, James said the intention of the event was “to condemn hate and combat rampant disinformation.”

“The recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ protests, rhetoric, and policies has left New Yorkers—myself included—devastated and disappointed,” James said. “But I know better than anyone that when the choice is between love and hate, between joy and venom, New Yorkers will always choose love, and New Yorkers will always choose joy.”