All photos by the author
Remember the Beyoncé show with a football game around it last weekend? She powered through "Formation," there were backup dancers dressed as Black Panthers, and I think Coldplay was there. It was transfixing and uncompromising, but maybe the backlash against it should have been more predictable: It wasn't long before people began claiming that a pro-black performance was somehow anti-white or anti-police, and pro-police protestors wrestled themselves some media attention by scheduling a rally against the show at NFL headquarters. That protest was scheduled for today.
It didn't go to plan, but in the driving rain outside NFL headquarters this morning, nobody seemed shocked. In place of the #alllivesmatter rally that the gathered press were so stoked for, the Park Avenue sidewalk held a combination of Black Lives Matter members and Black Panthers surrounded by police, press and unused barricades.
In the end the anti-protest protest was consumed by the anti-anti-protest protest and, save for two men who turned up an hour late, the rally against Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance was a damp non-entity. A gathering that was scheduled to meet at 8AM had precisely zero attendees.
So where were they?
"I don't know," said Una Eatman, a Brooklyn native holding a 'Pro Black Is Not Anti White' sign. "But we in these streets. We out here."
The organized backlash to Beyoncé's halftime performance seemed to be a loose and hastily constructed plan in the first place. The Eventbrite page advertising the protest implored "anyone and everyone who supports the police" to turn up early in the morning and encouraged people to "be absolutely peace & non-aggressive [sic]." But the whole thing descended into farce long before anyone had the chance.
Ariel Kohane, who arrived at 9:15, soon after many Black Lives Matter protestors had begun to leave, was one of the two anti-Beyoncé protesters. "I'm down here today to protest Beyoncé because I definitely believe that her songs were definitely inappropriate, especially the halftime show for the NFL."
When asked which songs in particular he was protesting, Kohane said, "The songs. The actual songs which she sung. The songs she sung at the halftime show. And a lot of children who are watching and children are very impressionable."
Kohane was swiftly surrounded by Black Lives Matter protestors and members of the press as the police tried to shuffle people out of the rush hour traffic. He continued to respond to questions from protestors in a similar fashion for around thirty minutes.
Away from the media scrum, though, the emphasis was on solidarity, even as the rain poured down.
"I am not a Beyoncé fan," said Sean Kee, a Black Panther member who travelled down from Rochester to attend the protest. "So when I heard she was doing the half-time show I kind of left. But afterwards I heard all the backlash and went and looked at it. She actually put on a great performance. The song itself was amazing. I think she used her artistic ability and talent to do something great for the community and bring awareness to the forward progress of ending police brutality."
Deandra Francis, dressed all in black to counter the planned all-blue pro-police rally, was watching the halftime show live. "Once I saw all the girls with natural hair I thought, 'Oh my gosh, Beyoncé's really doing something.' It was just such a big surprise." She echoed the morning's most familiar line: "Being pro-black doesn’t mean that you're anti white. We just want everyone understand that."
On the corner of Park and 52nd, as protestors dissipated, two men handed out T-shirts emblazoned with 'Hell no Bey won't go.' On this showing, like the Black Lives Matter protestors that keep turning up in force, she's firmly staying put.
Alex Robert Ross is staying put on Twitter.