All photos by the author.
British trans-exclusionary radical feminist activist Kellie-Jay Keen finished her “Let Women Speak” U.S tour on Monday in New York City. Anti-trans feminists have gathered across the country alongside Keen during her tour, which began in Los Angeles on Oct. 16.
Keen’s feminist rhetoric explicitly opposes trans people and gender nonconformity. Trans-rights activists have protested the tour in other cities such as Tacoma, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Her events have also been protested in cities around England.
The final event of “Let Women Speak” was set for Monday on the sidewalk outside of City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan. However, due to the commotion caused by trans-rights protesters led by WarmUp NYC that showed up for a noise demonstration in opposition to the tour, Keen never arrived.
In a Youtube live stream from a Starbucks nearby, Keen said, “My event is going on without me.” She had hoped police would escort her through the protesters, which did not happen. “I went up to the police and said I can’t get through and he said, ‘Do you need help?’ He took me behind a van and there were shit loads of police. He said ‘no’, I’m not risking my men,” she said.
Protesters started gathering near the fountain at City Hall Park with drums and protest signs at 12 p.m., an hour before the speaking event started.
There were less than a dozen protesters talking among themselves when Stephanie Denaro, also known as “Bagel Karen,” who went viral in 2021 after calling Essex Market workers racial slurs, showed up. She began live streaming the protesters while pushing her baby in a stroller. A couple protesters began to shout at her to leave, which she did after a few minutes.
As the number of protesters grew to around 20, they headed to a section of sidewalk on Broadway beside the park, where the “Let Women Speak” supporters, five hired security guards and a handful of cops had gathered behind a barricade. The barricade, which separated the anti-trans supporters from the protesters, blocked off half of the wide sidewalk.
More protesters began to show up, pressing up against the barricade, banging pots and pans and blowing plastic whistles that had been handed out. Chants such as “Trans women are women,” were shouted in order to interrupt those who had begun to speak, such as Amy Sousa, who has been accompanying Keen throughout her tour.
Sousa was one of the people fundraising for security for this specific NYC event. The security they hired, 1st Line Protection, cost $1,944 for five guards, according to a tweet from Sousa.
The violence began when one of those security guards shoved to the floor several times a trans man who was then arrested by two policemen, one plain-clothed and one in uniform. The protester had been using his body to block one of the “feminists” from entering the barricaded area.
By the time more than a hundred protesters had gathered, far outnumbering the anti-trans supporters, cops began to push the barricade further into the sidewalk, at times grabbing at the protesters. Soon, police would outnumber demonstrators as more squad cars arrived.
Jack Brown, a 20-year-old student, was chanting when Deputy Inspector Daniel Magee grabbed his shirt, smiling, and tore it from his body. There have been multiple complaints filed against Magee, including Abuse of Authority and Force through Chokehold on a Black Male, and in 2015 he covered up body-cam footage of another officer beating up then-18-year-old Keashon Gillam.
By 1:30 p.m., at least nine people were arrested and taken into NYPD vans. The arrested protesters were handed cards that said, “I am going to remain silent, and I want to speak to a lawyer,” by Moira Melter-Cohen, who specializes in criminal defense of activists, queers, and prisoners.
Soon after the frenzy of arrests, an NYPD loudspeaker played an automated message that threatened to arrest and charge with disorderly conduct those who wouldn’t disperse for unlawfully disrupting pedestrian traffic. At this time, the officers had pushed the barricade to block off most of the sidewalk. More cops began to gather across the street with zip ties attached to their belts.
Still, protesters could be heard shouting, “TERFs go home!” towards those holding signs saying, “Gender clinics are sterilizing our youth” behind the protection of a wall of police.
Judith, a protest attendee, told The Indypendent she was surprised by the number of cops at the demonstration. Though she was expecting some police pushback, she felt it was important to protest today in order to show that anti-trans supporters are not welcome in New York City.
“This anti-trans movement is the spearhead of fascism. They aren’t going to find a welcome audience in New York,” said Judith.
As Keen live streamed from outside the protest, unable to get by the police force surrounding the area, she said, “So, there is no New York event for me. That’s it. There’s absolutely loads of trans activists… amazing. Just amazing.”
Jail supporters showed up to greet arrested protesters as they were released out of 1 Police Plaza. Washington Square Park Mutual Aid called upon allies to help contribute through Venmo or Cashapp, with the note “Jail Support”. By the end of the day, all the arrested protesters were released.