LGBTQ groups protest Ron DeSantis speech at Chelsea Piers
Protestors, including LGBTQ advocates and several Democratic New York politicians, railed against Chelsea Piers over its “dangerous” decision to host a conference featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday.
Dozens of demonstrators, including veteran LGBTQ rights activist Allen Roskoff, chanted “Shame!” and “Boycott Chelsea Piers” while hoisting signs that read “Say Gay” and “Not during pride month” in front of Pier 60 as people entered the facility Sunday morning, video on Twitter showed.
Critics said the Republican shouldn’t be allowed to speak at the event, organized by the Jewish group Tikvah Fund, over a law he signed banning school instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity for children in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
Local pols who attended the Sunday demonstration included US Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D- Upper East Side), State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D- Lower Manhattan), Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou (D- Chinatown), and Lt. Gov. contender Ana María Archila, a picture posted on Twitter shows.
Big Apple officials earlier in the week had called on the Manhattan venue to cancel DeSantis’ speech at the Jewish Leadership Conference over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, particularly because the event takes place during Pride Month and is in a neighborhood central to LGBTQ history.
“As #LGBTQ elected officials we demand @ChelseaPiersNYC cancel the event with ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Florida Governor @RonDeSantisFL during #pridemonth2022 in Chelsea, the heart of our community,” Hoylman tweeted Monday.
DeSantis appeared to relish the controversy when he addressed conference attendees later on Sunday.
“They can’t cancel me, I’m gonna speak my mind,” the governor said, according to footage of his remarks posted on Twitter by a reporter for The New York Jewish Week and JTA-Jewish news.
“You know I saw that there was a little bit of opposition to me coming here. All I can tell you is this: when the left’s having a spasm that just tells you that in Florida we are winning on the issues that matter,” DeSantis said to applause.
“And that’s why I wasn’t gonna let some protest deter me from coming to speak in front of a lot of Florida, future voters of the state of Florida,” he added.
In another video snippet, DeSantis defended the bill at the center of the uproar, stating that “every parent in the state of Florida has a right to send their kid to elementary school without having concepts like woke gender ideology jammed into their curriculum.”
“Parents have a right to have their kids go to school in the state of Florida without having the school do things like quote transition their kids’ gender to a different gender, giving them a different name, having them wear different clothes without the parents’ knowledge and consent,” he said, emphasizing students should focus on the basic subjects like math, science and history.
Amid backlash on Friday, Chelsea Piers released a statement saying it “could not disagree more strongly” with the governor’s policies, and that Pier Sixty would donate the money from the Tikvah Fund to groups that serve LGBTQ people.
“Over the past 24 years, Pier Sixty has hosted hundreds of influential and notable events that span the spectrum of social and political issues. Pier Sixty has never controlled the content, program or speakers at these events,” the statement read. “Having said that, we could not disagree more strongly with many of Ron DeSantis’ actions in office. One response to abhorrent behavior is so counter it with positive action. Accordingly, Pier Sixty will direct every dollar it receives from Tikvah to groups that protest LGBTQ+ communities and foster and amplify productive debates about LGBTQ+ issues.”
The Tikvah Fund originally planned to host DeSantis along with several other speakers at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage — but those plans were scuttled after the facility refused to host the governor, organizers claimed.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage denied last month that it had opted not to rent its space to the Tikvah Fund’s event if DeSantis appeared, saying that “no contract with the Tikvah Fund was ever signed for this rental event to be held at the Museum and no deposit was ever made.”
Other big-name speakers at the conference, titled “Jews, Israel, and the Future of the West,” were former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and former New York Times writer Bari Weiss.
The speech the 43-year-old DeSantis gave was titled, “The Florida Model and Why It’s Good for Religious Americans.”
The governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate has sparked controversy for signing in March the Parental Rights in Education bill, which liberal and left-wing critics have derisively referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Its text reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
On Sunday morning, Archila, who is gay, told the crowd that DeSantis has “asked children like my own to pretend that people like their mothers don’t exist, a video clip she posted shows.
“What he’s doing with the legislation, ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ is actually trying to disappear our community from society,” Archila — who is running on a ticket with Public Advocate and gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams — fumed. “This is why it is so dangerous, and cynical and lazy for Chelsea Piers to say that that they will simply give him a platform because that is what they do.”
“You have to be able to draw the line.”
Niou, who is running for Congress, tweeted Sunday that Chelsea Piers is “enabling hatred” by allowing DeSantis to speak.
“The enemy we are up against is big and entrenched and we have to continue to organize against it and make our voices heard everyday until all people are free to love who they love and be who they really are,” she added.