Warning: This post contains swearing. I rarely spell out swear words, but I felt it was necessary for this story because of the location and reason for the event.
A “Hey, hey, ho, ho, AOC has got to go!” and “Fuck AOC” was shouted by about 10 people sitting together in the Boys and Girls Club cafeteria. A place where kids from the neighborhood come together to get help with their homework, eat lunches and have snacks, play games, and much more. Outside the doors lead to a foyer, where kids were lining up for their parents to arrive or to speak with employees.
A week earlier, I received an email that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would have a Q and A listening session at the Boys and Girls Club for residents in her district. I replied and looked forward to the event. I don’t agree with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez on everything, and I had questions that I looked forward to getting answers on. There are some things that I agree with and I wanted to hear more about how she planned to handle those concerns. I also appreciate her journey to Congress. I appreciate the passion she has for equality and justice.
I thought about bringing my daughters to hear AOC answer questions and listen to other community organizers speak. Since I was meeting up with some friends after the event, I decided to not take my kids. Seeing how it turned out, I’m thankful I left them at home.
After taking my seat at the Boys and Girls Club, a place where my own kids learned how to swim and that my church rents to hold classes, and where members of my church volunteer, I began talking to others around me. Those in attendance had questions and were looking forward to hearing the Congresswoman speak. When she came out, there was loud applause. She briefly spoke and then turned the microphone over to other elected officials and community organizers. It made me thankful to live in Queens. Then, the Q and A portion of the night began.
During the more peaceful moments of the night, AOC answered questions about housing and energy. She talked about repealing the Faircloth Amendment, which states the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development will not fund or operate new public housing. The Paycheck Protection Program was also brought up to help small businesses.
While she was talking about housing, a man yelled out, “I have to be gay to own a home!” Then, another man stood up and began yelling about crime in our neighborhood. From that point on, a group of about ten people did everything they could to disrupt the night, including banging a drum. Curses flew from their mouth and one woman shouted, “There are only 2 genders!” They chanted and the Congresswoman tried to speak to them, but they were not there to have a conversation. They were there to disrupt. As they chanted, AOC sat on the stage and even playfully bounced to their chant. The Congresswoman took the mic and asked them to be quiet so she could answer them. The residents that were there to listen shouted back at the group, “Let her speak! Let her speak!” She tried to reason with them by listening to their concerns and responding, but they weren’t there to have a back-and-forth discussion. Their yells were hateful, and homophobic, and lacked the maturity to be present in a forum.
Two employees from the Boys and Girls Club took the mic and pleaded with the group to settle down and watch their language because children were right outside the door and could hear everything. The noise echoed throughout the building. The employee said the group would have to leave if they didn’t settle down and talk in an adult manner. They continued. Police officers came in, but did not make any attempts at quieting the group. A couple of officers sat close to them and said some things in their ears. Whatever they said, it didn’t quiet them.
Others in the room asked the group to please be quiet so we could hear responses. I asked one of them, but nothing happened. I too had questions about the crime in the neighborhood. As a father who has children walking to school and riding the subway in our neighborhood, I wanted to know how she planned on addressing my concerns. I never could find out because the hateful group of people had no interest in hearing anything she had to say.
At one point, the lights went out, and it was tense. They came back on and the Congresswoman had left for the corner of the room because of the danger she could have been in. When the lights came back on, she apologized for having to leave the area. Let me point that out again. She apologized because she was potentially in danger. When she said that, I felt sorry for her that the night had turned the way it had. Then, I remembered the danger she was in on January 6th and realized the little tantrum that the small group of people were having wasn’t anything compared to what she’d been through. I admired her toughness, as she stared down the group and attempted to speak to them. Which was a laborious task because they cursed at her and said things like, “You’re a demon!” Yes, that was an actual thing that a woman who behaved like an angry toddler yelled at her.
The reason I wanted to share what went on was that I couldn’t find an accurate representation of the night anywhere. The Right lit up with stories on social media about how the crowd turned on AOC, which was in fact a small group of about 10 people. Most of the people were there to support her and listen to what she had to say. The Left kept out the disturbance altogether in reports and focused on only what she said.
I understand politics can be a dirty business. Passions run high. However, the behavior that was displayed at the Boys and Girls Club with children right outside the door was appalling. If a parent were to behave that way or a child were to behave that way at the Club, they would be kicked out and not allowed back. The behaviors were a poor display for the kids to witness. Everyone that shouted obscenities should be ashamed. I would not have had any problem with those 10 people if they had addressed their concerns in a civilized manner.
If this is going to be our new norm, we’re in trouble as a society. When everyone yells, nobody is heard. Civil discussions need to happen. I’m saying that to both sides. If we can’t come to a place where ideas are shared peacefully, then what hope do we have? I went to the listening event to have my concerns addressed, but because a small group of people hijacked the night instead of addressing their concerns, I won’t know. The group drowned out their opinions and concerns by their lack of composure and dignity.
I’m not saying we can’t protest. I am all for peaceful protests. I’m even for peaceful protests that are in disagreement with my own beliefs. Shouting obscenities inside a Boys and Girls Club serves no moral purpose. I didn’t write this post to change anyone’s mind about Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. For whatever reason, she is a lightning rod of hate for those on the Right. Nothing I say here will change your mind about her or your politics. I’m asking everyone to take a pause before acting. To see another person’s humanity before looking down on them.
Being a dad, I’m always aware of how I act and what I do and say will be witnessed by my children. Little eyes are always on me. It’s important to me to be a good example for my children and other children in the community. That includes how I act with those that I disagree with. Instead of choosing chaos, we need to disagree with dignity and civility. We need to act like adults and be an example because children are always watching.