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Activists Attacked Leaving New York’s Artists Space

Nine activists who were leaving a Decolonize This Place event at New York’s Artists Space on Saturday were attacked by a group of people of various ethnic backgrounds who claimed to be Donald Trump supporters.

Four or five men approached the activists as they were shouting slogans for various issues supported by Decolonize This Place—an action-oriented movement that advocates for indigenous peoples, black liberation, the human rights of Palestinians, global wage workers, and de-gentrification—including “Free Palestine” and“ Black Lives Matters.” According to witnesses, the attackers collectively chanted, “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “Blue lives matter,” and then proceeded to verbally and physically assault members of the activist group, calling them “faggots.”

Among the victims of the attack were Colin Ashley, Michael Basillas, Caribou, Per Cruz, Connor Hicks, Petter Soeller, and Christian Velencia. Basillas told Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic that the men followed them and then “started swinging.” He said, “We spent fifteen minutes trying to defuse [the situation]. They were adamant they were Trump supporters . . . and they made it clear where they stood.”

After the assault, the activists returned to Artists Space, where their injuries were treated. Soellers and Ashley were taken to Beth Israel hospital. A police report wasn’t filed because they “do not trust the police.”

Caribou told Alex Rubinstein of Medium that the incident was about “queer bashing.” He said, “The media is going to look at it like it’s the radical left versus the alt-right, but people can ostensibly see that the people that were targeted were queer, black, and non-cisgender.”

On Sunday, December 18, members of the group NYC Shut It Down organized a rally at the arts center to respond to the attack and stand up against hate and intolerance. Addressing the roughly thirty people in attendance, Basillas said, “Having a politician who is so open about violence directed toward marginalized communities gives them a gateway to not be policed on shit that they’re doing now. That’s why they are comfortable doing that.”

Artists Space issued the following statement in response to the incident: “The board of directors of Artists Space is deeply shocked that attendees of the Decolonize This Place closing event this Saturday were attacked as they left Artists Space. We stand in opposition to the white supremacy, homophobia, and hatred that this incident embodied. The Decolonize This Place program has been of profound importance and will continue to have multiple resonances both at Artists Space and in New York; its urgency is only heightened by such attacks. We hope that all cultural institutions will stand with us in rejecting hate and intolerance.”