Two people were arrested on Monday for breaking into a New York City Council member’s apartment building, allegedly in reaction to his support of a drag-themed event at a local library.
Erica Sanchez, 44, and D’Anna Morgan, 27, were arrested on Monday and charged with trespassing for allegedly breaking into the apartment building of openly New York Council Member Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) around 5 p.m. on Monday.
The two had allegedly been part of a group protesting a Drag Story Hour event at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City, a branch of the New York Public Library, last Saturday.
Bottcher, who was at the library on the day of the Drag Story Hour event, used his phone to film some of the protesters — who were shouting slurs at people entering and leaving the library and holding up signs against “grooming” — who were upset over the idea of drag performers reading books to children.
Drag-related events all across the country have been met with protests, vandalism, and even threats of violence from people who believe that exposing children to drag — which they see as inherently sexual — or to gender-nonconforming individuals is a form of “grooming” and “child abuse” because it exposes them to concepts they are not yet old enough to understand.
Still others claim that the books being read to children at such events encourage people to be transgender or have “hidden messages” that are attempting to “indoctrinate” children into being LGBTQ or embracing LGBTQ identity as “normal.”
Protesters recently picketed a similar Drag Story Hour on Staten Island on Dec. 3. That same day, a similar event in Ohio was shut down by armed right-wing groups, reports New York radio station WINS 1010 AM.
Bottcher’s interactions with the protesters — which he posted to Twitter in a series of videos — in which he claimed that the books being read at the event were “regular books” that were not LGBTQ-themed, apparently angered some of the protesters, who set their sights on him, despite the fact that several counter-protesters had also demonstrated outside the library.
A group of protesters allegedly targeted Bottcher by entering his council office around 3 p.m. on Monday and writing “Bitcher” — a vulgar variation of his last name — on the office walls, according to local newspaper AM New York Metro.
That same group — which Sanchez and Morgan are believed to have been part of — then allegedly traveled to Bottcher’s apartment building and scrawled messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside, accusing Bottcher of being a pedophile.
“Erik Boccher [sic] is a pedo child groomer,” read one message.
“We Want Erik,” read another, while other chalk messages read: “OK Groomer,” “Child Predator,” and the aforementioned “Bitcher” slur.
At some point, around 5 p.m. on Monday, Sanchez and Morgan allegedly entered Bottcher’s apartment building, prompting the building’s superintendent to call police. The two women were subsequently arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
Bottcher tweeted about the vandalism at his office, writing: “Today people who call themselves ‘gays against groomers’ vandalized the hallway outside our district office. We will not be cowed. We will not be silenced. We will continue to stand up against hate.”
The protesters do not appear to be affiliated with the official Gays Against Groomers group, which has amassed a large following online as protests against drag and transgender visibility have increased. Members of that group were recently in Phoenix for AmericaFest, a conference put on by the conservative advocacy organization Turning Point USA.
A tweet from the official Gays Against Groomers account replied to Bottcher’s tweet about the office vandalism, writing: “All of our members are in Phoenix right now, but nice try. But we will say, if you’re more worried about some marker on your walls and chalk on the sidewalks rather than children being sexualized by predators, we don’t feel that bad for you, Erik.”
Replies to Bottcher’s tweet from other Twitter accounts implied that some believe the vandalism may be a “hoax” by left-wing operatives attempting to paint anti-drag activists in a bad light, with many likening the severity of the graffiti to actor Jussie Smollett’s claims of being victimized by two Trump supporters in an alleged hate crime.
Bottcher later shared pictures of the messages scrawled outside his apartment building, writing: “This is pure hate, unmasked. If they think this is going to intimidate us, they’re mistaken. Our resolve is strengthened.”
On Tuesday, Bottcher tweeted out a video of alleged Drag Story Hour protesters — who appear to have returned to his apartment building — fighting with one of his neighbors. The group appears to assault and shove the neighbor in the video clip.
On Wednesday, he posted another video clip that recorded a verbal altercation between his council office staff and protesters upset over his support of Drag Story Hour. No one is seen in the video clip, but the voices are loud and the confrontation is raucous, as the protesters appear to be screaming and ranting at Botcher’s staff.
Several New York politicians have defended Bottcher and expressed sympathy for the attacks against him.
“This is outrageous. Completely outrageous. Erik, you stand up for our city every single day and these cowardly bigots have no place here,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a tweet. “Thank you to the NYPD for your quick work and sending the message that this hate will not go unchallenged.”
“I’m so sorry you experienced this, Erik,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted at Bottcher. “We are all standing with you. We will never tolerate this disgusting and hateful behavior in New York.”
“This bigotry is disgusting. I’m glad you’re safe…and I’m standing with you.” added New York Attorney General Letitia James. “
This bigotry is disgusting.
I’m glad you’re safe @ebottcher, and I’m standing with you.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) December 20, 2022
Bottcher told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Adams and the New York Police Department have offered him protection following the break-in.
“The mayor came here to my home last night personally. He and the NYPD are offering any and all support and protection that I need,” he said. “We declined having a car parked out front. But I know that is an option that is open to me if I need it.”
Bottcher also said that he’s been impressed by the “overwhelming” support he’s received from people following the incident, saying: “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.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include additional comments from New York Council Member Erik Bottcher.
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