New York City made it known tonight that rapists aren’t welcome here. The much anticipated “International Meetup Day” for misogynist blogger Roosh V’s neo-masculinist group Return of Kings were met with protests around the world, including here in Manhattan.
A group of about 75 protesters gathered tonight in Washington Square Park and marched through the West Village and Chelsea, ending with a spirited one-hour protest outside the Dream Hotel, where the Return of Kings meetup was heard to have been taking place.
Both women and men came out to show their opposition to violence and rape culture. The organizers of the rally were largely young women. Black Lives Matter group NYC Shut It Down and Cop Watch turned out too.
The night started with a powerful speak-out in which women shared personal stories with the crowd.
One woman spoke about being raped by her boyfriend when she was 15 years old and not getting support from her friends because they didn’t think your own boyfriend could rape you.
A college student spoke about a recent encounter in which she was out with friends and a man they did not know randomly sat down with them and stared at them. While her and her female friend’s reaction were to ignore the man, the male friend she was with casually chatted him up without a second thought. She recalled being struck at how she and her male friend reacted to that situation so differently, with she and her female friend feeling as though they had to be guarded while her male friend didn’t feel at all threatened by the strange man.
Another woman spoke about how power dynamics go far beyond rape and beyond gender as well. She shared a story about being in a relationship with another woman who would oftentimes convince her to do things she she didn’t want to do. At the time she never realized how problematic that was. Her lesson resonated with many in the crowd: some of us may be engaging in coercive behavior without even realizing it.
After the speak-out, protesters took to the streets, marching up 6th Avenue and chanting “No means no / no means no / rape culture has got to go” and other chants. The group arrived at the Dream Hotel in Chelsea shortly after 9:00pm, completely surrounding the hotel’s entrance and filling up the sidewalk.
The hotel staff surrounded on all sides, they tried to get the protesters to leave, but protesters refused, their chants getting louder and more militant. When a woman from the hotel staff came outside and yelled that they were trying to run a business, a protester spoke up and told her that their business was housing rapists and that as a rape victim he could not in good conscience leave until they kicked the rapists out. From there the crowd’s chants turned to demands to kick the rapists out of the hotel and not provide a sanctuary for them to meet.
At that point the NYPD attempted to give a dispersal order, so the crowd responded by setting up a moving picket line so that they could stay. Despite the peacefulness of the protest, one arrest was made.
After about an hour of lively picketing and chanting, the protesters left the hotel, with promises of “We’ll be back” if Dream decides to ever host such guests again. From there, the crowd left to meet up and strategize on where to go from here. Stay tuned for future actions.