The Proud Boys were left bloodied and running away after friction broke out between more than 100 supporters and protesters outside New York attorney general Letitia James’s “Drag Story Hour NYC” on Sunday.
During a Drag Queen Story Hour held at The Center, an LGBTQ+ community center on West 13th Street, a man in a gold mask was arrested after protesters clashed over drag performers reading to children.
Police say the man assaulted a pro-drag activist.
The Center is located near the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
There were dozens of children and their families at the event who heard stories about being kind and making friends at school when they looked and felt different from their classmates, New York ABC affiliate WABC reports.
Outside, detractors and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community shouted angrily at each other.
” I don’t know a lot of children harmed by drag read-a-thon, but I know a lot of children harmed by guns,” James said. “So why don’t you focus on that?”
A Manhattan council member responded to the crowd of protesters.
“What you are seeing now is an attempt to silence and intimidate our community and the families coming to this program, this quality program which is a literacy program,” Erik Bottcher said.
A New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed to NBC News that the masked man, Robert Porco, 53, of Fishkill, New York, allegedly attacked a victim and struck him in the face. The person wasn’t hospitalized.
A video shows a member of the Proud Boys acting not so proudly as he tries to escape the area after sustaining an injury to the face.
“’I came here to help, not get the sh*t beat out of me’ – a member of Proud Boys, with visible blood on his face ushered away from Drag Queen Story Hour event in NYC as protesters chant ‘F*ck the Proud Boys,’” a local journalist tweeted with the video of a member of the extremist group trying to retreat from the crowd.
Police officials later escort members of the hate group away from the area.
Recently, drag has evolved from an underground art form to a pop culture phenomenon and is now a political flashpoint nationwide. Far-right influencers and politicians have painted drag queens as dangerous to children. “Groomers” and pedophiles — that’s what conservatives call anybody who affirms young people’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The false slur is rooted in a history of demonizing LGBTQ+ people in the context of interactions with children.
In the past few months, legislators in at least 16 states have introduced legislation restricting drag performances. Most of these bills would ban drag in presence of children under 18.
Those in support of such legislation argue that it is essential to protect children from sexualized entertainment, while critics say it unfairly targets the LGBTQ+ community and paints all drag as overtly sexual.