A man dances with supporters of New York's LGBTQ community in solidarity with Drag Queen Story Hour.

New Yorkers protest - and dance - in solidarity with the city's LGBTQ community and Drag Queen Story Hour.

Photo by Dean Moses

Seriously Dragged: Proud Boys Go Home

Proclaiming, "Hate has no home here" - and proving it by showing up - raucous allies of the LGBTQ community turned out with cowbells and rainbow umbrellas in New York City to confront Proud Boys protesting a first-of-its-kind Drag Story Read-A-Thon hosted by Attorney General Letitia James. The result: One unproud bigot bloodied amidst chants of "Fuck the Proud Boys," another arrested, the rest in frazzled flight. Gleeful residents celebrated. "Nazis are a real problem," said one. "Drag queens are not."

Sunday’s event, held at the West Village's LGBTQ Center, a longtime resource center for the city's queer community, was dubbed Letitia James’ “Drag Story Hour” but turned the traditional hour-long reading into a four-hour event that included arts and crafts activities. Hosted by James in partnership with a broad coalition of advocacy organizations, it was funded by the nonprofit Drag Story Hour NYC, featured the Drag Kings, Queens, and Royalty of Drag Story Hour, and drew about 200 families. Citing the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric nationwide, James stressed, "When the choice is between love and hate, between joy and venom, New Yorkers will always choose love (and) will always choose joy.” Scores of elected officials in attendance praised a message of "radical love and acceptance" that "shows families how to live expansively and embrace diversity." "Stories don’t just teach children to love reading, but help them understand people who are different," said Mayor Eric Adams. "The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent."

As kids and their families sat peaceably inside on mats being read books by costumed presenters, outside two rowdy crowds, separated by metal barriers and NYPD, faced off. A smaller group dressed mostly in black shouted and held signs declaring, "Leave the Children Alone," "Heaven or Hell," "We Are the Light in the Darkness," "Repent," "Pedophile," "A.G. James Is A Groomer," "Trump Or Death," "There Are Only 2 Genders," and "You Are Actively Trying to Destroy Humanity," which is a lot. Across from them, a larger crowd in bright colors stood behind a “Stop the Hate” banner, banging on instruments, chanting "Blah Blah Blah" and holding signs: "Drag the Bigotry Away," "Drag Is Fun," "We Are Fabulous," "Love Is Power." One resident opened her window with a broom and tried to sweep away nay-sayers on her stoop; when the dark forces yelled, "Antifa go home!" residents shouted back, "We are home! This is our house!" Out on the edges, scattered scuffles broke out, with young local guys in masks screaming at clusters of hapless so-called Proud Boys to "get the fuck outta here."

In the end, one anti-drag protester was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault on a supporter, and one Proud Boy got punched in the face, resulting in what one ally called "a beautiful headline: 'Proud Boys Get Beat Up At NYC Drag Queen Story Hour.'" Evidently caught off-guard by the resistance - aren't Nazis supposed to do the bullying? - the rest slinked away in defeat. "We are not going to be intimidated, we are not going to be cowed, and we are not going to be forced back into the closet," declared NYC Councilman Erik Bottcher. Insisted another resident, "I'm here to protect our vulnerable communities - there's a whole lot of ignorant people in this world." Proving his point, the thug with blood running down his face strode furiously away, pushing away cameras, whining all the while - shades of Kyle Rittenhouse - "I came here to help, not get the shit beat outta me." Because New York City doesn't come to play, an entirely unapologetic, not-taking-it-any-more New Yorker corrected him: "You fucked around and found out."

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