A 33-year-old man has been arrested and charged with assault and harassment after anti-LGBTQ protesters entered City Councilman Erik Bottcher’s apartment building in New York last week.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, the New York Police Department confirmed that officers had arrested and charged David Nieves of Brooklyn on Tuesday morning in connection with an assault on Bottcher’s 52-year-old neighbor.
Bottcher welcomed the news of the arrest and charges, telling The Daily Beast: “Violence, intimidation and vandalism are never acceptable. A message needs to be sent to hate groups everywhere that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
During the incident at Bottcher’s Chelsea building on December 19, two anti-Drag Queen Story Hour protesters were arrested after entering the building and allegedly refused to leave until they eventually did. The sidewalk outside was defaced with hateful, homophobic slurs directed at Bottcher, including “OK Groomer”, “Child Predator” and Erik Boccher (sic) Is a Pedo Child Groomer!
Bottcher, whose district includes Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and Greenwich Village, posted a video that allegedly shows one of his neighbors being physically assaulted by the extremists during the incident. A group of protesters also entered and allegedly vandalized his nearby office building.
Police last week identified the two women arrested at Bottcher’s residence as Erica Sanchez, 44, of the Bronx, and D’Anna Morgan, 27, of Queens. Both were charged with criminal trespass. The New York Post reported that the group that targeted Bottcher’s office was called the Guardians of Divinity.
The victim of Nieves’ alleged assault, Bottcher’s neighbor, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday: “I’m glad the suspect has been arrested and charged. He and the rest of the group were very threatening that day. I’m still a little shaken up all.”
The Daily Beast is not naming the alleged victim, who fears the same extremists may target him professionally and personally.
“When I stood up to them, one of the group said: ‘You don’t want to mess with us.’ Then the man came after me from behind. I was pushed into the street and stopped against a car. They were very threatening. I wish this whole thing had never happened. It was shocking.”
The man said he was walking his dog when the incident unfolded. “It was the holidays, I told them something like, ‘Relax, this is ridiculous.’ For some reason it only provoked them. I got my dog. One guy started sticking his cigarette in my face and got very close to my dog, who is of course like my child. It put me off. I matched their volume. They seemed very volatile, unhinged and out of their minds. When I told them not to be there in our vestibule, a guy came at me from behind. All I could think was, ‘This shouldn’t be happening in my neighborhood ,'” he laughed. “Then when I was pushed into the car, I got scared.”
The neighbor said he was “trying to move past” what had happened, while other neighbors and friends had praised him for his bravery in standing up to the group. “One straight neighbor who has children said, ‘We came to live here because we want our children to grow up here. We don’t want these kinds of groups in the neighborhood.’
Bottcher told The Daily Beast last week that he had so far declined special protection measures, saying that Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD “offer every support and protection that I need. I have declined to have a car parked out front. But I know it’s an option open to me if I need it. The mayor told me he and his entire administration stand with me. The support from people in general has been overwhelming and absolutely encouraging. It doesn’t surprise me because New Yorkers are very loving and supportive people, but it’s even more than I would have expected.”
The incident is the latest in a wave of activity targeting drag events across the country, fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from politicians and right-wing media.