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Pro-Palestine protesters march outside GLAAD Media Awards—celebs show support

Pro-Palestine protesters march outside GLAAD Media Awards—celebs show support

Protesters outside 2024 GLAAD Media Awards
Alexa Wilkinson

Over the weekend, several celebrities and drag performers protested one of the world's biggest LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations.

The 35th GLAAD Media Awards ceremony that took place on Saturday, May 11 was interrupted by more than 150 demonstrators rallying at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan to protest the organization's ties to pro-Israel entities.

ACT UP NY (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) led the crowd, which included dozens of queer Palestinian artists and activists, health care workers, and queer organizers who work on the ground in Egypt to directly aid Gazan refugees. And Just Like That... and Grey's Anatomy star Sara Ramirez also participated.

The group called for GLAAD to "break their silence on Palestine" and to cut ties with pro-Israel organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and "union-busting corporations such as Google, Walmart, McDonalds, Disney, Hulu, Coca-Cola, Amazon, P&G, and IBM," ACT UP said in a statement.

ACT UP specifically condemned GLAAD's ties to the ADL, which the group said is an organization "that villainizes students and peaceful protesters who stand in support of Palestine."

As protesters on the ground chanted "When Palestine is under attack, what do we do? ACT UP, fight back!" others on the 42nd story of the hotel unfurled a 40-foot-long banner reading "NY LOVES GAZA." The banner featured the watermelon symbol combined with the pink ACT UP triangle, the group's iconic logo invented by Gran Fury in 1987.

Noor, a queer Palestinian-Syrian artist and speaker at the rally, said in a statement that "as a Queer Palestinian, it goes without question to me that there's no such thing as Queer liberation without the liberation of Palestine."

"We fight for Palestine in honor of our Queer history and ancestors, for those Queer Palestinian siblings of ours living in Palestine, and for all those generations to come," Noor said. "This violent, unjust oppression — apartheid, bombs, weapons, mass destruction, disabling and displacement of indigenous humans — does not discriminate. Queer Palestinians are just as much a part of our community as any other, as such we must advocate for the end of this genocide & apartheid, from the river to the sea."

In response to the protest, a GLAAD spokesperson told Out's sister publication, The Advocate, in a statement:

"GLAAD does not support genocides or murders of innocent people. We do support free speech. We tried to meet with ACT UP NY before Saturday, but they were not available until this week."

While protesters rallied outside, drag artists Chiquitita and DiDi Opulence interrupted the ceremony inside to chant "GLAAD is complicit in genocide!" during RuPaul's Drag Race judge Ross Mathews's speech. After Chiquitita and DiDi Opulence were escorted out by security, Mathews addressed the crowd.

"America, we have free speech, right? Thank you for sharing your free speech. Thank you so much. We've heard you. Thank you," he said, adding, once the two were removed, "OK, so that's uncomfy for everybody, but you know what? We have to fight for everybody's rights. That's one of them."

After addressing the disruption, the ceremony continued. Don Lemon, who presented the night's first award following the disruption, commended Mathews for how he handled the situation.

"Ross, you did a great job. I was backstage wondering how I would handle that, even as someone who's in front of a camera in a crowd all the time, and Ross did a great job," Lemon said.

Act Up said in a release that several audience members left the ceremony, but GLAAD said that was not the case. A reporter in the room said he did not notice anyone leave.

Chiquitita later told Entertainment Weekly that she found Mathews's response "extremely condescending."

"He was saying like, 'Well, I guess we have to let everyone have an opinion.' He did say the right thing, but he didn't have the right intention," she said, adding, "I don't believe in neutrality, and I don't think queer people are granted the privilege of neutrality ever, in any situation, in any country."

As ACT UP handed out pink and black flyers containing information about the lives of queer Palestinians and the groups GLAAD works with. Drag Race season 9 winner and We're Here star Sasha Velour later said on X/Twitter that she was "moved by the protesters" and wrote in support of their message.

"Although the ADL has helped track anti LGBTQ+ hate across the country, they have destroyed their own credibility by consistently labeling human rights advocacy for Palestine as antisemitism, vilifying protesters, and working to suppress all activism for Gaza," Velour wrote. "The actions of ADL are not consistent with our standards for justice as a queer community. I urge institutions like GLAAD to publicly suspend all future work with them and support queer Palestinians. None of us will have liberation until all of us do."

"ADL is proud of its 111-year history of fighting all forms of hate including antisemitism and anti-LGBTQ+ hate. This includes the critical work of our Center on Extremism, whose focus on tracking, exposing and mitigating extremist threats has been especially critical over the past several years," an ADL spokesperson said in a statement. "It's deeply troubling, especially as antisemitic incidents are skyrocketing, and when ADL is working to expose extremists amidst a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ hate, that such baseless claims would be made solely on ADL's belief in the right of Jewish self-determination and for the existence of the democratic state of Israel in its ancestral homeland."

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have swept college campuses and other major events in the past several months as Israel has continued its incursion into the Gaza Strip. In response to the October 7 Hamas attacks that left about 1,200 Israelis dead, over 35,000 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, the majority being women and children, according to multiple like NBC News and Al Jazeera.

Emmaia Gelman, director of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism & ACT UP member since 1996 who also spoke at the protest, said that "GLAAD's insistence on partnering with the ADL — which is widely denounced for anti-Black racism, support for militarized policing, and debunked stats on antisemitism — is a betrayal of Queer communities."

"GLAAD can call attention to anti-LGBTQ violence without legitimating the ADL's Center on Extremism, which smears Palestinian-, Jewish-, BIPOC-, and Queer-led social justice movements as 'terror' supporters," she continued. "GLAAD can and must support grassroots-led work to build safety through solidarity, and refuse the ADL's poison invitation to 'support' us with policing and repression. Thanks to mass grassroots uprising, led by young organizers who are drawing on Queer activist legacies, Zionism is no longer compulsory in US politics. GLAAD must catch up."

Christopher Wiggins contributed additional reporting.

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocacy for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocacy for all.