A small but passionate protest took place outside of the Dyker Heights Knights of Columbus Thursday evening after this paper broke news that the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA, whose event was booted from two other southern Brooklyn venues after residents and politicians expressed strong objections, would finally get to hold its second annual fundraising dinner.
Holding such signs as “NRA, Sashay Away” and “Dads Demand Action Too,” a crowd of about a dozen protesters from groups such as Gays Against Guns, Rise and Resist, the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America showed up outside the K of C, 13th Avenue and 86th Street, to let the roughly 100 attendees inside know where they stand.
Over the last few months, two prominent Brooklyn venues — Gargiulo’s in Coney Island and the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope — pulled out of hosting the event, originally slated for April 12, amidst mounting pushback.
The benefit was originally billed to include a raffle and auction which, organizers once boasted would include exclusive NRA gear and guns, such as the John Wayne “Lil’ Duke” BB Rifle; a .410.-gauge shotgun; a Colt Cobra revolver; and a 7mm-08 “women’s rifle.”
It is unclear whether or not the gun raffle that had sparked the better part of the event’s earlier controversy was still a part of Thursday evening’s agenda, though the group did raffle off at least some memorabilia.
Despite the large crowd inside, residents and elected officials alike blasted the group for trying to keep the event (which was originally promoted through flyering and other advertising but became invite-only) under wraps until the “11th hour.”
“We are disappointed to learn in the 11th hour of an NRA fundraiser in Dyker Heights, especially after our neighbors in Coney Island and South Slope expressed their deep displeasure with having this benefit take place in their communities,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilmember Justin Brannan said in a joint statement as news of the event made its rounds. “The lack of notice as to its rescheduling indicates a desire to fly under the radar and avoid the scrutiny of a rightly concerned public. The NRA does not value the safety and security of our neighborhoods, putting deadly assault weapons above innocent lives; it is no friend of Brooklyn. Our protest of the NRA and their campaign of chaos continues.”
At least one local counter-protester, lifelong Bensonhurst resident and anti-protest protester Joe Abruzzo, stood his ground on the venue’s corner to hoist a Gadsden flag in support of the group’s right to meet, while another – on his way into the event – flipped protesters the finger.
There was also strong support on both sides online Thursday evening, a number of Brooklyn tweeters calling on the group to “take a hint” and stay away, others thanking the K of C for hosting the event.
Furthermore, posters on both sides of the argument alleged harassment, with many pro-NRA advocates claiming that the protesters who “bullied” businesses into backing out of the event were impeding the group’s right to assemble freely.
However, anti-gun advocates — particularly Brannan — faced harsh criticism themselves from NRA backers that some alleged equated to bullying; specifically, the backlash to Brannan’s initial tweet about the dinner included name-calling and fat-shaming.
Meanwhile, those present at the protest made their point loud and clear: “The NRA and their sick, death-mongering agenda has no place in New York City,” said Tim Murphy, media coordinator of Gays Against Guns.
However, supporters of the NRA are still sticking to their guns. “Supporting freedom, exercising God-given Constitutional rights, raising money and Winning prizes! YES…free speech, right to Assemble and 2A. Freedom does exist in Brooklyn! God Bless America,” said local NRA supporter Andrew Windsor on his Facebook page.
“I am glad the continuous political rhetoric in parts of Bay Ridge which now has tones of bullying business with threats were not able to scare the Knights of Columbus,” noted Kings County Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar on the Brooklyn Reporter Facebook page in response to this paper’s story breaking the news of the event.
This was Brooklyn affiliate’s second fundraiser held on behalf of the nonprofit organization which, since the late 1800s, has advocated for gun rights in America.
By publication time, neither the NRA nor the Knights of Columbus (1305 86th Street) had responded to a request for comment.
Disclaimer: Jerry Kassar is a columnist for this newspaper.