Composite shows a large historic Upper East Side building with three flags hanging from the facade. Inset photo shows a large conference room filled with seated guests with a stage in the background featuring a large 'Moms for Liberty' backdrop.
An Upper East Side town hall planned by right-wing extremist group Moms for Liberty is drawing condemnation from neighbors and officials | Upper East Site, @Moms4Liberty

Extremist Group ‘Moms For Liberty’ Plans UES Event, Drawing Condemnation 🆓

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Upper East Side residents and local officials are sounding the alarm about a right-wing extremist group planning a major event in our neighborhood. A significant force pushing book bans across the country, Moms for Liberty is hosting a town hall meeting in Lenox Hill later this month, drawing widespread condemnation.

Photo shows a woman wearing a dark blue 'Moms for Liberty' shirt holding a protest sign at a raucous school board meeting.
A member of Moms for Liberty protests against mandatory face masks for students in Brevard County, Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic | Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images

“I assumed the venue simply didn’t realize who had been booked,” said Upper East Side resident Chris Sosa, speaking exclusively with Upper East Site after learning of Moms for Liberty’s planned event earlier this week and reaching out to the venue. “I’ve unfortunately not received a response,” he added.

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Sosa, a political consultant and political director at Manhattan Young Democrats, says he heard about the event from a friend and was familiar with Moms for Liberty, which describes itself as a parental rights organization despite being designated a far-right extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as it also opposes the LGBTQ+ community.

Screenshot shows an ad for a town hall meeting for Moms for Liberty
Extremist group Moms for Liberty is holding a town hall meeting on the UES later this month | @Moms4Liberty

“Moms for Liberty is lying about its aims and uses misinformation to forward its extreme far-right agenda,” Sosa told Upper East Site

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Posting on X, formerly Twitter, Sosa wrote on Tuesday, “I’m aware that anti-LGBTQ [organization] Moms for Liberty is planning an event on the Upper East Side at the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association. I’ve reached out to express my concern for public safety and asked that the event be canceled. I encourage local leaders to do the same.”

Initially circulated privately among Moms for Liberty members in late December, on January 2nd, the group publicly announced the upcoming town hall, hosted at 321 East 73rd Street, between First and Second Avenues. Several elected officials and community leaders have since issued statements condemning the event both publicly and exclusively to Upper East Site.

Photo shows a large, five-story historic Upper East Side building with three flags hanging from the facade.
Bohemian National Hall is located at 321 East 73rd Street, between First and Second Avenues | Upper East Site

Council Member Julie Menin, whose Upper East Side district includes the event space, swiftly denounced the planned town hall meeting.

“I am deeply concerned by the Moms for Liberty event that is being held on the East Side of Manhattan later this month,” said Council Member Menin. “Hate and discrimination have no place in our City, and the Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association should reconsider hosting such an organization.”

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ALSO READ | Violence Erupts at UES Anti-Migrant Rally, Demonstrators Arrested

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who also represents the UES, told Upper East Site in a statement, “Despite their catchy name, Moms for Liberty is nothing more than an alt-right hate group vilifying the LGBTQ+ community.” The longtime federal lawmaker added, “There is no place for hatred or bigotry in New York, which is why I’m deeply troubled by their planned event on the Upper East Side. We cannot allow this fringe group to dictate what books are in our libraries or the version of our nation’s history that fits their preferred narrative.”

Photo shows a red flag with white writing, reading, 'Bohemian National Hall'
Bohemian National Hall is managed by the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association | Upper East Site

After a request for comment from Upper East Site, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine issued a public statement on Threads condemning the event and Moms for Liberty:

“Moms for Liberty has announced they will be holding a town hall at a venue on the Upper East Side on January 18th. This group is anti-LGBTQ, supports book bans, harasses teachers & school librarians, and has been labeled by [Southern Poverty Law Center] a “far-right extremist organization.” Manhattan is the home of Stonewall. We celebrate cultural diversity in our classrooms. We believe in books. M4L has no place here or any other part of NYC.”

Screenshot from Threads app shows a message reading “Moms for Liberty has announced they will be holding a town hall at a venue on the Upper East Side on Jan. 18th.
This group is anti-LGBTQ, supports book bans, harasses teachers & school librarians, and has been labeled by @SPLCenter a 'far right extremist organization'.
Manhattan is the home of Stonewall. We celebrate cultural diversity in our classrooms. We believe in books. M4L has no place here or any other part of NYC."
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine denounced the upcoming event after being contacted by Upper East Site | @marklevinenyc

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigel followed soon after, posting on X a direct request to Petr Fiala, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, to cancel the event: “I urge you to reconsider hosting Moms for Liberty, a far-right and anti-LGBTQ extremist group.” Bohemian National Hall is managed by the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, which in 2001 transferred ownership of the building to the Czech government for one dollar in exchange for renovations to the building.

‘A modern iteration of the Daughters of the Confederacy’

Moms for Liberty, which was founded in Florida in 2021, was originally created to oppose masking for children, school closures, and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The group claims to simply advocate for parental rights but last year it was officially designated as an “anti-government extremist” organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and identifies extremist activity. The SPLC also describes Moms for Liberty as an “anti-student inclusion group that presents itself as a modern parents’ rights organization.”

Photo shows two women, one in light blue Revolutionary War-era dress, standing next to a banner for Moms for Liberty which states 'We do NOT CO-PARENT with the GOVERNMENT'
Moms for Liberty Queens County president Elena Chin (left) posing in a Revolutionary War-era costume while tabling at a community barbecue in July, 2023 | Facebook

The extremist designation by the SPLC is owed to the group’s tendency to use social media to “target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of Education, advance a conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.” 

The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group, has referred to Moms for Liberty as a “fraudulent MAGA political operation,” based on their funding by far-right political groups and figures, that is “designed to coerce American families into the war on freedom and equality.”

Photo shows a woman in a shirt reading 'Moms for Liberty' holding a sign reading 'I don't co-parent with the government.' Other protesters in the background wearing the same shirt are carrying large American flags
A member of Moms for Liberty protests against mandatory face masks for students in Brevard County, Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic | Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images

Since its founding, Moms for Liberty’s membership has ballooned to an estimated 103,000 members in 278 chapters across 45 states, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, a non-partisan think tank that researches hot-button political issues and organizations. Members have pursued positions on school boards, community boards, and other local elected roles while touting calls for ‘parental control’ interspersed with causes and conspiracy theories popular with MAGA Republicans.

An investigation by USA Today found the nationwide surge in book bans was tied to a website championed by Moms for Liberty. An analysis of the group’s tax filings by independent media watchdog Media Matters for America found the “grassroots” organization has close ties to Republican political figures and the deep pockets of ultra-conservative lobbying groups. The group is best known for pursuing book bans and is a frequent topic of scandals ranging from fraternizing with far-right extremists to quoting Adolf Hitler and even a sex scandal that is still unfolding.

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Photo shows two white women, a brunette and a blonde, on a stage with a large dark blue 'Moms for Liberty' backdrop behind them
Moms For Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich (left) speaks at a town hall in Duluth, Georgia, with former US Senator Kelly Loeffler (right) | @Moms4Liberty

Nationally, endorsements by Moms for Liberty have been a recipe for electoral losses, with a whopping 70% of endorsed candidates losing their races for school board positions in 2023, according to the Associated Press. In New York City, PLACE NYC, which also identifies as a parental rights group and reportedly shares similar ideological positions with Moms for Liberty, won a substantial minority of school board seats in last year’s election, scooping up 40% with just 2% voter turnout, according to The City.

“Moms for Liberty is the modern iteration of the daughters of the confederacy,” says Tajh Sutton, Brooklyn school board president for the District 14 Community Education Council, who spoke with Upper East Site. 

Photo shows a large conference room filled with seated guests with a stage in the background featuring a large 'Moms for Liberty' backdrop.
A large crowd attends a Moms for Liberty town hall meeting in Silver Springs, Maryland | @Moms4Liberty

“Moms for Liberty is incapable of hosting an unbiased and appropriate space for parents who do not hold their fragile, Eurocentric, segregationist values,” she explained. “Marketing this event as a space where ‘all voices are welcome’ is a slap in the face when NYC teachers, librarians, elected officials, school board members, parents and students have experienced well-documented doxxing, intimidation, harassment and even physical assault at the hands of M4L-affiliated PLACE members.”

While PLACE and Moms for Liberty are not the same group, to critics, the differences are indiscernible.

“I don’t distinguish between M4L and PLACE because a book banning, ableist, racist transphobe is a book banning, ableist, racist transphobe,” says Sutton. “[Moms for Liberty] has already received so much bad press and been appropriately deemed a hate group. That PLACE is ushering them into the city of New York deserves appropriate contextualization. Since PLACE was founded in Manhattan, their position in moving NYC right needs to be acknowledged.”

‘See you there’: Calls for protest grow despite harassment

Moms for Liberty has so far extended invitations to multiple political figures in New York City by way of tagging them on X – including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine after his public statement condemning the event – as well as Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Education Chancellor David Banks. To our knowledge, none have accepted the invites.

Politicians who’ve issued public statements against the event have been met with a deluge of harassment and hate speech. State Senator Hoylman-Sigel, who is Jewish, was called a “vile disgusting vermin” by one user, a Nazi trope used to dehumanize Jews. Hoylman-Sigel, who is also openly gay, was also called a “pedophile,” a decades-old accusation used to demonize LGBTQ+ people. Borough President Mark Levine published to Threads a sample of some responses he received that were laden with antisemitic dog whistles, one of which explicitly called him a “commie leftist Jew.”

Screenshot shows a post to X from @JimDeNoble1
reads "Sit down, you vile disgusting vermin," in response to a complaint by State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigel
Politicians who’ve issued public statements against the event have been met with a deluge of harassment and hate speech | X

Advertised as “an honest conversation about the state of education,” the “giving parents a voice” town hall has drawn fierce criticism, with several comments on social media expressing outrage at the event and a desire to protest against it. “See you there,” wrote one user in response to Sosa’s post about the event.

Ellen Bender, a UES resident, mused about which members would be in attendance on X, writing, “I wonder whether they will be featuring co-founder Bridget Ziegler. Or that other mom who hosted a drinking party for kids at which she punched one in the face. Or the one who quoted Hitler. Or the many ones who banned books.”

In a private group for the Queens County chapter of Moms for Liberty, which Upper East Site obtained access to and verified its authenticity, chapter president Elena Chin posted in late December that “Moms for Liberty National will be there,” indicating that members from out-of-state will be traveling to the Upper East Side to attend the extremist group’s town hall.

Screenshot shows Queens county Moms for Liberty president Elena Chin commenting on Facebook that "Moms for Liberty National will be there. I wouldn't miss this!"
Moms for Liberty Queens County chapter president Elena Chin announced members of the national organization would attended the UES event | Facebook

This morning, MORE Caucus, an advocacy group of rank-and-file members of the United Federation of Teachers, and Urban Libraries Unite, a non-profit comprised of librarians working to defend and support public libraries in New York City, both published a request for people to contact the venue’s management team to urge it to cancel. “Moms for Liberty does not care about parental choice and actively lies to the public about its goals,” the call states.

“The group only exists to push a hateful, anti-LGBTQ and racist agenda that endangers families across New York and the United States.”

Screenshot shows an instagram post calling on people to contact the Upper East Side venue hosting Moms for Liberty
Protesters are sharing a sample script to demand the venue cancel the Moms For Liberty UES event | @morecaucusuft

Several people affiliated with the call to action who spoke with Upper East Site on the condition of anonymity have indicated that if the venue does not cancel the event, New Yorkers will likely mobilize organically to protest.

ALSO READ | Violence Erupts as UES Comedy Club Hosts Anti-LGBTQ+ Extremist Group

As one person noted, “They’re insane for a lot of reasons, but especially for thinking they can pull this sh*t here. New York City does not tolerate hate.”

Upper East Site has reached out to the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, PLACE, and Moms for Liberty for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.

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