Councilmember Erik Bottcher of Manhattan published a series of Twitter posts on December 19 revealing photos of anti-LGBTQ vandalism at his home and his office, where bigots scrawled slurs like “groomer” and hurled threats such as “we want Erik.”
And yet, the incident could have been even worse: Bottcher said the vandals “gained entry” into his apartment, which prompted his building’s super to call the police.
Two women — 44-year-old Erica Sanchez and 27-year-old Anna Morgan — were arrested for allegedly vandalizing his home and office, according to the NYPD.
They allegedly entered Bottcher’s office building at West 30th Street at 3 p.m. in the afternoon and wrote “Bitcher” on the walls. The alleged vandals then went to Bottcher’s apartment building and wrote messages like “child predator” and “OK groomer” on the sidewalk. One of the messages on the sidewalk accused Bottcher of being a “pedo child groomer.”
The baseless accusations against Bottcher represented the latest example of the nationwide resurgence of the term “groomer” as a homophobic slur hurled at gay men. In New York City, Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino has unapologetically used the term on social media when criticizing drag story hour.
The scary scene at Bottcher’s home and work unfolded two days after he was in attendance at a drag story hour event and tweeted about protesters disrupting it.
“Tonight the Drag Story Hour protesters came to my apartment building and gained entry,” said Bottcher, whose City Council district encompasses Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, and Upper West Side. “My super called the cops and two of them were arrested for trespassing. This is pure hate, unmasked. If they think this is going to intimidate us, they’re mistaken. Our resolve is strengthened.”
Just two hours prior to that tweet, Bottcher had posted on Twitter about the vandalism targeting his office. He blamed that vandalism on “Gays Against Groomers,” a group of extremists known for targeting drag story hour events with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and for routinely mocking gender-affirming environments for youth.
“Today people who call themselves ‘gays against groomers’ vandalized the hallway outside our district office,” Bottcher said. “We will not be cowed. We will not be silenced. We will continue to stand up against hate.”
One day after the vandalism took place, Bottcher posted a video clip that he said showed the alleged assailants harassing people outside of his apartment building.
Video of the Drag Story Hour protesters physically attacking one of my neighbors last night. pic.twitter.com/sqoGc8dWyZ
— NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher (@ebottcher) December 20, 2022
In a follow-up statement on December 20, Bottcher told Gay City News that the vandals would not deter him.
“The people who committed these acts are trying to intimidate us into silence, but it’s not going to work,” Bottcher said. “If anything, their tactics have backfired, because this has only strengthened our resolve. We will not waver in our struggle against bigotry and hatred.”
Elected officials representing every level of government flocked to social media to show support for Bottcher. Two out state lawmakers who represent Bottcher’s area, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman, were among those speaking on Twitter.
“It’s ironic that hatred is being directed at one of the most decent and likable city council members there is,” Hoylman wrote. “David, me and our daughters Silvia and Lucy stand with you @ebottcher during this season of lights.”
Glick, responding to Bottcher’s tweet about his apartment building, wrote, “Sorry for the harassment @GOP rhetoric has empowered ignorant & hateful jackasses — they’re determined to turn back the clock — But we are never going back. @NYPDPC needs to up their focus on all hate crimes.”
Another out state lawmaker, State Senator Jabari Brisport, tweeted: “Sorry Erik this is so disgusting. Here for you.”
Bottcher’s City Council colleagues also stood in solidarity with him, including members of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus.
“This is vile,” wrote Councilmember Chi Ossé of Brooklyn. “I’m so sorry you had to deal with this my friend. Here for you always!!!”
“Want to reiterate my solidarity to you Erik,” Councilmember Lynn Schulman of Queens, also a member of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, said in a Twitter post. “The Council as a whole gave funding to Drag Queen Story Hour, and this could happen to any one of us. We must stand together in unison to support you and stand up against hatred.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called the attack “a dangerous and a serious violation of privacy.”
“The ‘protesters who did this must continue to be held accountable for their disgusting actions,” the speaker wrote. “We stand with you, @ebottcher. We will never allow hate to prevail.”
The governor and mayor jumped to Bottcher’s side on Twitter, as well.
“I’m so sorry you experienced this, Erik,” Governor Kathy Hochul wrote. “We are all standing with you. We will never tolerate this disgusting and hateful behavior in New York.”
Mayor Adams described the attacks on Bottcher’s home and office as “outrageous.”
“Erik, you stand up for our city every single day and these cowardly bigots have no place here,” Adams wrote. “Thank you to the NYPD for your quick work and sending the message that this hate will not go unchallenged.”
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, tweeted: “This bigotry is disgusting. I’m glad you’re safe @ebottcher, and I’m standing with you.”
Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, who was the lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill that was signed into law this month, also spoke up for Bottcher.
“I stand with my friend @ebottcher, Drag Queen Story Hour, and the LGBTQ+ community against this disgusting display of hate,” Nadler said. “Elected officials have a responsibility to condemn this false, dangerous rhetoric that’s being used as a new way to discriminate against the community.”
Gays Against Guns, an advocacy group that has pushed for gun control since the aftermath of the Pulse massacre in 2016, wrote, “We stand with you, Erik. Sending us all our love and support. This is a hate crime.”
On the afternoon of December 20, the City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus issued a lengthy written statement condemning homophobic and transphobic attacks on caucus members.
“These incidents underscore the importance of the LGBTQIA+ community’s continued struggle for equity and justice in a world that so frequently and blatantly disregards our humanity,” the statement noted. “These hateful attacks are not isolated but rather patterned and indicative of the violent prejudices still alive and well in the United States… These incidents do not deter or intimidate us. Our resolve is strengthened, and we will not stay quiet. Equity and inclusion stand to strengthen our city, and we’ll continue to fight for the just future we know is possible