Dozens of Black Lives Matter supporters showed up in front of the NFL headquarters in Manhattan on a rainy Tuesday morning to protest a protest planned against Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime show performance of her new politically charged song, "Formation." Almost no one, however, showed up in actual protest of the singer.
Word of the anti-Beyoncé protest spread last week, when the media picked up an Eventbrite invitation that alleged the singer's song and Super Bowl performance, which celebrated civil rights activists like Malcolm X and called attention to victims of police brutality, promoted "racism" and anti-police rhetoric. Though the event organizer was anonymous, the language echoed that of conservative commentators, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said on Fox last week, "This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive."
While it's possible that the anti-Beyoncé protest was simply a gross but masterful work of trolling, Queen B fans got in formation anyway and used the opportunity to continue to bring attention to the racial inequality and police brutality. "What brought me here is that it really boggles my mind how someone can see a statement as simple as 'I love myself' as divisive and as hateful. And that's why I'm here. I just don't understand that at all," said Cheyenne, a 22-year-old college student who attended the rally to raise awareness for black women who have been killed by police violence.
To her, "Formation" was a song about love and acceptance of blackness in a country where racial tension and injustice remains high. "Oh my god, it gave me so much life, first of all," she said of the halftime show and song. "And I think it's really important! For so long, so many of us — you know, we've been raised to hate our features for so long. You know, I've hated my nose, I've hated my skin color. To hear Beyoncé say it in national stage, I love my negro nose, I love my features, I love being black—that meant so much to me and I think that meant so much to all of us."
Una Eatman, 35, said, "I'm not a major Beyoncé fan, but I love the fact that she took a stand and I support that. During Black History Month, she took a stand and made some people realize a couple of things they may have forgotten. One of them being that she's a black woman."
At least two people at the rally seemed in agreement with Giuliani's criticisms of Beyoncé's performance, however. Wearing a Jets tie and a yarmulke with the flags of Israel and the United States, Ariel Kohane, 44, told a group of men and women, "I'm here to protest Beyoncé's philosophy and ideology and what she sang and what she says about police officers, and also the fact that the National Football League actually allowed such a thing to take place at a halftime of a Super Bowl."
Another anti-Beyoncé protester, April, 25, wore an NFL jersey, a cap with the "Police" embroidered across the bottom, and a backpack with badges for the Marines and Top Gun. "A lot of my friends are cops. I'm a pilot. I respect what they do," she told the crowd of activists, who responded that the singer's message was not anti-police, but anti-police violence that is disproportionately inflicted upon people of color.
Spencer Jones, 28, has a response for people who take issue with "Formation" or its messaging: "My response is: There are greater things at stake than your feelings or your fragility. White people have been in power historically. We're not saying we're better than you are, we're not saying you're terrible people. We're saying that this is an unjust system that you either created, or that you're benefitting from in some way, shape, or form. Please listen to us so that we can make the world better, so that we can make this country better."
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