There are a lot of ways to earn the Internet’s righteous ire these days. You can deny the Earth’s shape, or run for president. Or you can hold a rally protesting one of the world’s most talented and beloved musical artists.
That last way is why I spent Tuesday morning investigating a planned anti-Beyoncé rally in New York City.
The protest was declared response to Beyonce’s politically charged Super Bowl performance, which paid tribute to the Black Panther party and made a truly special subset of viewers uncomfortable. It was this demographic that was invited to protest Beyoncé outside the NFL’s headquarters on Park Avenue.
I am not anti-Beyoncé — not even a little. Instead, I was more interested in the anti-anti-Beyonce group that assembled to protest the protest itself. On Tuesday morning, the anti-anti movement proves itself to be punctual, represented by at least a dozen members — and even some signage.
The event has culled media attention — I count six news vans posted on Park Avenue, tricked out with giant satellite dishes to broadcast this idiocy. An old man with an umbrella stops on the sidewalk — every old white man is a suspect, so I mark him and track his movements — and chats with the half-dozen NYPD officers on standby.
As passersby scope out the small crowd, there’s no simple answer to their main question: “What is this?” It’s a protest against protesting; a preemptive response. No one seems to know who the anti Beyoncé protesters are, or if they really exist in the first place.
“Maybe they’re bluffing,” I hear a member of the anti-anti group say as she makes a sign. You could call this a mini-media circus, but it’s too cooperative and tame for even that term.
“This is it?” one cameraman says to another.
“I showed up,” says his companion. “You showed up.”
A little while later, they’re avidly discussing the state of events staged for the media, the efficacy of the Occupy movement and whether it “lost its way.” I feel an anarchic impulse to drop everything and run screaming toward the subway. Cameras are rolling by 7:59, one minute before the protest is supposed to begin. There’s actually a clock striking eight, which makes everything seems slightly more legit.
“They’re not here,” an anti-anti protester tells the press. “Nobody knows where they are.”
As it becomes clear that no one is coming to protest Beyonce, something cool happens: The press starts talking to the counter-protesters about black celebrities, and movements, and the importance of visibility. Bey’s fans are articulate and intelligent, and though they’re here to support art, they’re unmistakably focused on the events that drive it as well.
At 8:40 A.M., the counter-protest leader calls it: “Time to go to work,” she says.
And like that, the crowd breaks out of formation.
by Proma Khosla