Council members look to increase funding for Drag Story Hour, refuse to cower to far-right protesters

After being focused at his workplace and residential over the previous few months by a bunch of far-right protesters vehemently opposed to Drag Story Hour occasions, Metropolis Council Member Erik Bottcher stated Thursday that he’s trying to increase funding for this system within the coming fiscal 12 months.

Bottcher, an out Democrat who represents Manhattan neighborhoods together with the West Village and Chelsea, made the remarks throughout a sit-down interview on Thursday afternoon, during which he and his colleagues who’ve additionally been focused — Council Members Crystal Hudson (D-Brooklyn) and Shekar Krishnan (D-Queens) — shared their experiences with reporters.

“I’m going to increase funding this year,” Bottcher stated. “If these protesters were hoping to affect funding for Drag Story Hour, they succeeded, only in the opposite way than they intended.”

Drag Story Hour NYC holds readings hosted by drag artists all through town at libraries, faculties and different group areas. It’s based mostly within the metropolis and has been organizing storytelling occasions throughout the nation since 2015.

This system is primarily funded by a mix of state and metropolis {dollars}, in accordance to a spokesperson for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ workplace, however a number of council members additionally use among the discretionary funds allotted to them every year to assist it. 

Sean Coughlin, Bottcher’s chief of employees, advised amNewYork Metro the council member allotted $10,000 of his Cultural Immigrant Initiative funding to Drag Story Hour for the fiscal 12 months ending June 30. He, nonetheless, stated it isn’t but clear how a lot further cash Bottcher might be ready to put into this system for the approaching July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024 fiscal 12 months.

“We will learn in the coming months through the budget process how much additional funding we will have available to support this incredible organization,” Coughlin stated.

Some council members are contemplating doubling their allocations to this system this price range cycle, Speaker Adams’ spokesperson stated. When requested about taking that very same strategy, Coughlin stated it’s “definitely something we would love to do.”

Alejandro Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Hudson — who’s additionally out, stated the council member goals to up her funding for this system as properly, however declined to say how a lot the increase can be. 

Krishnan, who represents western Queens neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, stated in an announcement that he doubled his district’s funding for Drag Story Hour within the final fiscal 12 months from the earlier one, when the world was represented by out former Council Member Daniel Dromm. He stated he would “explore all possible ways” to enhance monetary assist for this system on this 12 months’s price range.

“We do fund Drag Story Hour through our individual discretionary funding and in fact doubled our district’s funding for the program,” Krishnan stated. “We are excited that even more Council Members are planning to fund Drag Story Hour this year.”

Bottcher, Hudson and Krishnan stated they’ve all been the topic of “harassment” and “intimidation” from a bunch of agitators opposed to Drag Story Hour over the previous a number of months, after talking out towards the group’s demonstrations of their districts. The far-right group believed to be behind lots of the protests — the Guardians of Divinity — has proven up outside Drag Story Hours across the city peddling false anti-LGBTQ claims that the occasions “groom” kids for intercourse at ages the place they’re too younger to perceive it.

Among the many incidents was a Dec. 19 protest of a Drag Story Hour at the New York Public Library’s Chelsea branch, which led to demonstrators chasing the drag artists out of the occasion and surrounding her automobile, in accordance to a printed report. One other came about later that month, outdoors the Queens Public Library’s Jackson Heights department, and drew members of the far-right extremist group, The Proud Boys.

Krishnan stated there’s a transparent distinction between the raucous protests outdoors Drag Story Hours and the “tranquil” occasions inside.

“When you look at, you know, what’s going on outside Drag Story Hour, with all of them there and all they’re saying, versus [when] you go inside the library, it’s like night and day,” Krishnan stated. “You walk in, it is utterly tranquil and quiet, children are coloring, singing nursery rhymes, reading kids’ books.”

A gaggle of the protesters confirmed up at Bottcher’s house and workplace on Dec. 19, vandalizing each with the phrase “groomer” — an anti-LGBTQ time period that conflates homosexuality with pedophilia — and accosted one of his neighbors outside his building. Two of them have been arrested.

“To me it’s a pretty clear line between exercising your first amendment right and then crossing the line,” Bottcher stated. “In my instance, entering the premises illegally, assaulting my neighbor, vandalism. There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Following her attendance at a pre-November midterm election rally for Governor Kathy Hochul on the Stonewall Inn within the West Village, Hudson stated protesters got here to her Brooklyn house and posted movies of the entrance of her home on-line.

“It was harassment and intimidation,” Hudson stated. “It’s not like protesting. It was literally ringing my neighbor’s bell, saying ‘is she in there, bring her out.’ Screaming all sorts of things for hours right in front of my house. And then taking videos of the front of my house and posting those videos as well.”

Krishnan stated the protesters have shown up in his district a complete of 11 occasions over the previous few months — together with 4 occasions at his district workplace and two at his house.

What these incidents have demonstrated, Krishnan stated, is that folks want to begin pondering of them not as protests, however reasonably as harassment and intimidation.

“The truth is that far-right extremism must be taken more seriously,” Krishnan stated. “It begins by first reframing and rethinking how we talk about these things. This is not protests, this is harassment, intimidation, of communities too.”

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