Yesterday's planned anti-Beyoncé protest in front of NFL headquarters in New York ended up becoming a punch line. Three lonely protesters stood in the rain, severely outnumbered by reporters, police, and anti-anti-Beyoncé protesters. The event was organized by a group called Proud of the Blues, which alleged that Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance of "Formation"—which featured Black Panther imagery that complemented the song's pro-black themes—was anti-law enforcement.
At the protest's scheduled start time of 8 AM, a group of about three dozen Beyoncé supporters arrived in front of the headquarters at the corner of Park Avenue and East 52nd Street. Waiting for them were about a dozen police officers and a gaggle of news reporters, from venues ranging from NBC to the Guardian to the Cut. None of the Proud of the Blues's 1,700 Twitter followers were there. In fact, there are signs now that the Proud of the Blues organization, and the "Anti-Beyoncé Protest Rally," might've been a hoax.
There is no direct contact information to any of Proud of the Blues's accounts, and, as The Daily Beast notes, the organization got its name after the protest was added to Eventbrite by an "unnamed organizer." Still, part of what made Proud of the Blues's existence believable was how it shared certain arch conservatives' outrage. Shortly after the performance, the Blaze's Tomi Lahren infamously accused Beyoncé of race-baiting and went after her husband Jay Z, saying, "For 14 years, he sold crack cocaine." Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who's gained notoriety for his racist views on African American crime, slammed the Super Bowl performance as " outrageous."
Although some counter-protestors were obviously Beyoncé fans, their messages were centered on the rights of all African-Americans. One protester held a sign bearing the names of women and girls killed by police. Another's sign read, "PRO BLACK IS NOT ANTI WHITE." Both posters featured black-and-gold coloring, a reference to Beyoncé's Super Bowl outfit.
"It's not like we're super Beyoncé fans," explained counter-protester Khadija Amon-ra. "We're super black pride." Amon-ra viewed the anti-Beyoncé supporters as less against the entertainer specifically, and more against the entire idea of African-American women asserting themselves in society. "They want people of color to stay in their place in this country," Amon-ra said.
If Proud of the Blues's anti-Bey sentiments were a joke, the three protesters who showed up after 9 AM weren't in on it. Tim Winterhalter, a heavy-set, middle-aged white man in a Giants jacket, believed the Super Bowl was not the place for Beyoncé's message.
"It just came across to me that it was a political statement, which is fine, everybody has that," Winterhalter said. "But this is a football game. Let's just keep it a sports game."
Ariel Kohane, a 44-year-old man wearing a gray suit and an American flag yamurkle, held two paper signs, including a green one that read, "Cops are worth more than 1% per year," an apparent reference to the state arbitrator who recently recommended a 1 percent pay increase for NYPD officers.
"The problem is what she said about police officers," complained Kohane, who identified himself as a volunteer for Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. But when pressed by protestors about what exactly Beyoncé said about police he so disagreed with, he replied: "Well, if she didn't say that then why would I [be here]?"
Twenty-five-year-old student April Bedunah was the last of the three anti-Bey protestors to arrive, sporting a Seahawks jersey and winter hat with the words "POLICE" stitched in gold lettering. "It's sickening," she told the Guardian. "It's making people hate each other. She could have talked about anything else rather than trying to make people mad. And look what it caused. These people should be at work! I should be at school right now," Bedunah said.
Time and time again, the three protesters confused Beyoncé supporters. The two men never saw the Super Bowl performance in full, and Bedunah seemed to know little about the Black Panther movement. When asked, Kohane wasn't able to name a Beyoncé lyric that offended him. The conversations played out like a kind of black satire: White people angry about something but not quite sure about what.
Bedunah's voice broke when she spoke about having a black son and friends who are police officers. She was the last anti-Beyoncé protester the pro-Bey crowd confronted.
"Have you heard about any white cops in the past five years getting indicted for the murder of a black person?" Tajh Sutton, a 27-year-old Beyoncé supporter, asked her.
"I respect what you say, and I do think that you have a wonderful voice," said Bedunah, trying to restore goodwill while still avoiding the question.
A little later, Kohane gently tapped Bedunah from behind to explain that he, too, was an anti-Beyoncé protester. She ignored him to again face the black crowd, leaving Kohane to piece together his paper signs, which had been torn into wet halves by the rain.
Update: An earlier headline of this article implied that all three of the Beyoncé protesters were white. They were not, and the headline has been updated.
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