Gay New York City council member Erik Bottcher has told The Daily Beast that Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD have offered “any and all support and protection” after his apartment building was besieged by anti-Drag Queen Story Hour protesters, and the sidewalk defaced with hateful, homophobic slurs directed against him, including “OK Groomer,” “Child Predator,” and Erik Boccher (sic) Is a Pedo Child Groomer!”
Two women were arrested after a group of protesters turned up at his apartment building in Chelsea late Monday afternoon. The incident occurred after Bottcher’s nearby office was vandalized by protesters who entered the building two hours earlier. Police say no arrests were made following that incident.
“The mayor came here to my home last night personally,” Bottcher told The Daily Beast Tuesday. “He and the NYPD are offering any and all support and protection that I need. I’ve declined having a car parked out front. But I know that is an option that is open to me if I need it. The mayor told me he and his entire administration are standing with me. The support from people generally has been overwhelming and absolutely heartening. It doesn’t surprise me because New Yorkers are very loving and supportive people, but it’s even more than I would have been expected.”
In a tweet, Adams wrote: “This is outrageous. Completely outrageous. Erik, you stand up for our city every single day and these cowardly bigots have no place here. Thank you to the NYPD for your quick work and sending the message that this hate will not go unchallenged.”
Bottcher, whose district encompasses Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Greenwich Village, also posted video of one of his neighbors allegedly being physically assaulted by the anti-LGBTQ extremists. He said police were investigating the incident; the NYPD has yet to respond to confirm this to The Daily Beast.
Police named the two women arrested at Bottcher’s residence as Erica Sanchez, 44, from the Bronx, and D’Anna Morgan, 27, from Queens. Both were charged with criminal trespass. The Daily Beast understands that the women entered the lobby, and initially refused to leave after the building’s superintendent asked them to do so. They then did so before cops arrived. The New York Post reported that the group that targeted Bottcher’s office is called Guardians of Divinity.
The incident is the latest in a wave of activity aimed at drag events across the country, enflamed by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric by politicians and right wing media. Both Adams and the NYPD have yet to respond to The Daily Beast’s questions about any plans to increase security or safety provisions for Drag Queen Story Hour and LGBTQ people generally in the city, as well as what monitoring law enforcement and other agencies are conducting around the activities of anti-LGBTQ extremists as they make their presence more visible.
“I feel fine this morning,” Bottcher told The Daily Beast. “It was pretty shocking last night. I always knew in the back of my head that they would come to my house, but when I looked down at my phone and I had all these missed calls from my neighbors in my building, I knew exactly what it meant. I knew they were at my home.”
The incidents followed a drag reading event over the weekend for neurodiverse children at a library in the Chelsea neighborhood, at which the out gay Bottcher filmed protesters’ anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and posted it online.
Bottcher said he believes he was then targeted after filming the protesters, “and showing the world their signs and what they were saying. They didn’t like that. I think they’re deeply troubled people, and the same kinds of individuals who have tried to shut down vaccine clinics, and who have defaced Black Lives Matter murals. These are people who harbor far right-wing views across the board and who consume and subscribe to conspiracy theories.”
The hateful messages subsequently scrawled on the sidewalk “didn’t bother me at all personally,” Bottcher said. “What bothers me most is that my family is also seeing it, and I don’t want them to think that I am unsafe. They’re concerned. They told me that they were concerned several weeks ago when I stared speaking out against these people. They want me to be careful—like any parents would be.”
He had not received any death threats or other threats, he told The Daily Beast. “I personally don’t feel unsafe. I’ve been told by people that it would be smart to be feel unsafe, but I feel very protected and surrounded by the community. The NYPD was great yesterday. My neighbors confronted the protesters, and shouted at them and defended me. I’m really touched by their response, but not surprised because what those protesters believe and do is contrary to everything we believe in.”
“Here in New York City we have people who hold extreme far-right political views, and they travel all over the city and some of them live in my district, one of the most progressive districts in the country.”
— Erik Bottcher
Bottcher told The Daily Beast that he wished he was surprised that the incidents occurred in the progressive, long LGBTQ-occupied neighborhood of Chelsea, “but here in New York City we have people who hold extreme far-right political views, and they travel all over the city and some of them live in my district, one of the most progressive districts in the country. Some of them are truly unhinged and consume these far-right conspiracy theories.”
“No place is immune to what is happening,” he continued. “It affects all corners of our country, and quite frankly the entire world. We can’t pretend that we are in a bubble here. Yes, New York is a beacon of acceptance and diversity for the entire world, but there are significant numbers of people here who have far-right political views.
“We have to take this very, very seriously because the extreme rhetoric from right-wing politicians and people on the internet manifests itself in real life events. We’ve seen it happen over and over again. We saw it happen in Colorado a few weeks ago [at the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs]. That’s why we need to stand up to it, and that’s why people in positions of influence need to stop amplifying this crap.
“My personal theory is that these are people who harbor far-right political views and are just choosing to weaponize these issues as part of the far-right conspiracy echo chamber. I think they are using Drag Queen Story Hour as a vessel to whip up far-right anger against the LGBTQ community, and it’s also just the latest tool that the far right is using to conjure these evil tropes about our community.”
“LGBTQ people throughout history have faced down this kind of hate over and over again, and in the end we always win. And that’s what going to happen here.”
— Erik Bottcher
On the need for increased security at LGBTQ venues or spaces where LGBTQ people gather, Bottcher told The Daily Beast, “The problem is in the free and open society we live in it’s not possible to fully secure all of our public spaces which is why gun safety laws are so important, and why identifying these people and holding them accountable is so important.”
Bottcher said the LGBTQ Caucus of the City Council would meet to discuss what to do next, adding that the incidents would not deter him from speaking out.
“This has just strengthened my resolve to continue pushing back against this hate,” Bottcher told The Daily Beast. “LGBTQ people throughout history have faced down this kind of hate over and over again, and in the end we always win. And that’s what going to happen here. This is a reminder that even though we’ve made incredible, astonishing progress in the last few decades, we can’t rest on our laurels or hesitate for a moment. We have to continue fighting, and not stop.”