A video shared online appears to show New York police officers allowing members of the far-right Proud Boys to ride the subway for free after they protested a drag event in Queens.
The video, posted by TikTok user Brenna Lip, who identifies as a journalist, shows multiple members of the Proud Boys walking through an open emergency door at the Jackson Heights subway station in Queens in front of NYPD officers.
In the clip, Lip points out that they are evading the fare and asks, “Proud Boys don’t have to pay for the fare?” to which a member of the far-right group responds, “We’re special. Thank you. Appreciate it from your taxes.”
Lip then tries to walk through the emergency door herself but is stopped by an officer. “Oh, I have to pay for the fare, but they don’t?” she says to the officer, who is blocking her from using the gate. “Is that the situation you’re saying?”
“That’s correct,” the officer responds.
The incident occurred on Dec. 29 after members of the extremist group protested a drag story hour event at the Queens Public Library in the Jackson Heights neighborhood. Drag Story Hour is a national program that began in 2015, for which storytellers use the art of drag to read stories to kids in libraries, schools, and bookstores.
At the protest, members of the Proud Boys reportedly clashed with supporters of the event.
An NYPD spokesperson said in a statement that “protestors and counter-protestors began engaging one another” outside of the drag story hour event, “which led to a mobilization being called for crowd control.”
To de-escalate the situation outside the library, “a decision was made to escort one group to the Jackson Heights subway station to remove the group from the area,” the police said.
While escorting the Proud Boys out of the area, police said there “were multiple incidents of pepper spray being deployed by unknown individuals at the group with one individual requiring medical attention,” adding that due to the “urgency and rapidly evolving situation, a determination was made to place the group on the subway and remove them from the area before the situation could escalate further.”
Police said the group left the area without any further incidents, and they confirmed that one 32-year-old man was arrested for disorderly conduct, among other charges.
The NYPD issued over 40,000 tickets for fare evasion during the first six months of 2022. Black and Latino New Yorkers reportedly accounted for 88% of the arrests for fare evasions in the same year.
In 2021, a video was posted showing police shooting a 29-year-old Black man with a stun gun for letting his cousin in the subway through the gate even though he said he paid for both tickets. In March 2022, another video circulated online of NYPD officers slamming a 19-year-old woman’s head against a wall after not paying the $2.75 subway fare.
Lip told BuzzFeed News that she filmed and shared the video of the Proud Boys being allowed to ride the subway without paying to point out the NYPD’s “blatant hypocrisy.”
“I’ve covered hundreds of actions at this point, and the NYPD has never done this for Black Lives Matter protests,” she said. “They arrested people. … Meanwhile, they are trying to prioritize the safety of the Proud Boys.”
“I've never seen them ever prioritize the safety of anyone except for alt-right groups,” Lip added. “It’s insane.”
The video quickly sparked outrage online, with New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who represents the Jackson Heights area, tweeting that the incident “wouldn’t look so hypocritical if NYPD would stop arresting people of color over a $2.75 fare.”
Ramos told BuzzFeed News that her “heart sunk” when she saw the video.
“We’ve seen the NYPD treat fare-beaters so inhumanely at times, and that is certainly something that we’ve experienced here in our district,” she said. “To see these known white supremacists be escorted through the gate is just so grossly unfair,” Ramos added, noting that many of her constituents have brought up the video to her over the last several days.
“I represent a district that is largely immigrant, pretty much entirely working class, certainly the second largest LGBTQ community and the largest transgender community,” Ramos said. “I don't want bigots in my community; they are not welcome here.”
New York City Council Member Sandy Nurse also tweeted the video, adding, “We pay $10 million every month to pay about ~120 private security guards to stand by and prevent fare evasion. I guess it’s cool for homophobic white men who participated in a violent attempted coup against the nation to evade fares.”
Attacks on drag events all over the country from right-wing groups continue to intensify. In November, advocacy organization GLAAD reported that there had been 141 incidents in 2022 of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting drag events in 47 states across the US.
The backlash against drag stems from a growing wave of anti-LGBTQ hatred from some conservatives who continue to promote the baseless claims that the LGBTQ community is predatory toward children.
A few weeks before the protest at the event in Queens, a group of protesters gathered outside a New York Public Library branch in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan to oppose another drag story hour.
Two days later, New York City Council Member Erik Bottcher, who had attended the drag event, said that his home and office were vandalized.
In response to the growing attacks against the LGBTQ community and drag events, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams released a joint statement with three other council members — Bottcher, Shekar Krishnan, and Crystal Hudson — condemning the “harmful, homophobic, and transphobic extremism.”
“In recent months, anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have descended on these family events, attempting to get into our libraries to disrupt them while shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs at performers and attendees,” they said, adding that the attacks are “vile and dangerous.”
“We will not stay silent or accept these shameful attempts to intimidate and spread hate, especially after recent incidents that have devolved into violence and put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” they added.