June 20, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A last-ditch attempt by a group of progressive Queens lawmakers to have a conservative event canceled in Long Island City on June 17 failed, with the gathering going ahead as planned.
Six western Queens lawmakers released a joint statement late on Friday, June 16, calling on Motif Studios, a company that provides spaces for multimedia productions, to pull its hosting of the event called the Blexit Liberation Tour NYC.
The live-streamed show was organized by Turning Point USA — a nonprofit organization that advocates for conservative politics on high school, college, and university campuses — and the Blexit (black exit) Foundation that calls on Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. The two organizations merged earlier this year.
The lawmakers — state Senators Michael Gianaris and Kristen Gonzalez, Assembly members Zohran Mamdani and Jessica González-Rojas, as well as City Council members Julie Won and Tiffany Cabán — said that the studio was providing a platform for transphobic and bigoted views held by right-wing invited speakers such as Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens.
Kirk co-founded Turning Point USA and is also a radio host, while Owens is an outspoken critic of the Democratic Party and the Black Lives Matter movement, often calling it a Marxist organization that, in part, seeks to enrich its leaders at the expense of Black causes. Owens, who is Black, co-founded Blexit and has also claimed that George Floyd died of a drug overdose.
Kirk and Owens appeared virtually at the show, which took place at Triplex LIC/Tammany House, located at 38-62 11th St. The venue is across the street from the Queensbridge Houses NYCHA complex. In-person speakers included Brandon Tatum, who co-founded Blexit, and Pastor John Amanchukwu.
“As elected officials representing western Queens, we are deeply disappointed by the decision by Motif Studios to host an event by the far-right extremist groups Blexit and Turning Point USA at their Triplex LIC/Tammany House venue in Long Island City,” the statement read. “Providing a platform for the kind of transphobic, bigoted views held by invited speakers Candace Owens, Charlie Kirk, and others goes directly against the diversity and inclusivity that we hold dear as New Yorkers, and is an insult to every member of our community.”
Shame on Motif Studios for agreeing to host an event with alt-right extremist hate groups Turning Point USA and Blexit in Long Island City. I join my colleagues in city and state government in denouncing this event and calling on Motif Studios to do the right thing and cancel it pic.twitter.com/H1SLZrjlXO
— Sen. Mike Gianaris (@SenGianaris) June 16, 2023
The elected officials noted that the same event had been previously scheduled to take place at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, but had been scrapped.
“We call on Motif Studios to follow the lead of the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the original host of this event, who canceled their booking after the community spoke out in opposition to the bigotry of the organizers,” the statement read. “Hate has no home in Queens, New York City, or anywhere else, and certainly not here in Long Island City.”
The lawmakers, in their statement, did not cite examples of what they considered transphobic and bigoted views made by the speakers.
The Blexit Liberation Tour NYC event went ahead as planned on June 17. The only disturbance appeared to be when a transgender activist was removed from the premises during the singing of the national anthem.
Kirk tweeted a video of the protester being hauled out of the venue by a security guard. The disruptor can be heard shouting “trans rights matter, trans rights matter.”
Security removed some trans activists during the middle of the National Anthem at our BLEXIT/TPUSA Liberation Tour in NYC. Maybe they were mad their flag wasn’t flying next to the Stars and Stripes? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/6P9g2LSum5
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) June 17, 2023
During the event Tatum, who wore a “Jesus is Lord” T-shirt, praised the venue owners for hosting the event.
“I want to give a special thank you to the venue, that allowed us to come and observe our freedom to speak,” Tatum said, before taking aim at Music Hall. “I want to say how disappointed I am with Music Hall. They should be ashamed of themselves for not allowing us to speak. We brought an opposing viewpoint to this event so that we can have a conversation.”
Tatum said that organizers and attendees were being treated differently because of their views.
“If we were spewing anti-Christian rhetoric, we’d be welcome, if we were standing around and pushing that we should mutilate children, we would have a platform,” Tatum said. “If I sat up here and I told you that if you are Black in this country that you would never be anything, they’ll give us a platform, that’s shameful.”
Video of the Blexit Liberation Tour NYC event on June 17
The show consisted of various right-wing personalities such as Tatum, Amanchukw, Stephen Davis, and Pierre Wilson, who spoke on their own, as well as a sit-down interview with Yeonmi Park, who fled North Korea as a child in 2007.
There was also a debate that touched on issues such as race, religion, the family structure, gender identity and the impact of illegal immigration on the Black community.
The event lasted more than three hours and was interspersed with various videos as well as with virtual appearances by Kirk and Owens.
The Queens Post/QNS reached out to each lawmaker who signed the statement asking them to provide more detail as to why they did not want the event to go ahead and if they thought canceling these types of events infringes on people’s First Amendment right to free speech.
González-Rojas was the only lawmaker to respond, and she issued the following statement.
“As an outspoken activist myself, I’m fully aware of the importance and value of free speech in our society,” González-Rojas said. “But hate speech that serves to intimidate or cause harm to marginalized groups has no place in Queens, New York, or our country. We know all too well what the ramifications are of platforming extremist groups’ hate speech, and my colleagues and I wanted to send a clear message that we won’t stand for it.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that most of what would qualify as hate speech is legally protected speech under the First Amendment.
The Queens Post/QNS also reached out to Blexit and Turning Point USA for comment, but did not get a response before publication.