Moms for Liberty stage protest on Upper East Side, potentially outnumbering guests

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The town hall meeting organized by Moms for Liberty on the Upper East Side may have had more protesters than actual participants.

The event, which was reportedly sold out according to the organizers, received criticism from politicians and parent activists across the city. While around 100 people gathered outside with signs that read “Mom against fascism,” “Queer people have kids too,” and “Read banned books,” the panel speakers focused on national issues such as the influence of teachers unions, the teaching of anti-racism and “gender ideology,” and school choice.

During the town hall, several speakers stood before an audience of approximately 75 people and criticized New York City’s class size mandate, cap on charter schools, and high spending combined with low rates of reading proficiency.

Moms for Liberty, which identifies itself as a “parents rights” group, gained national attention after its founding in Florida in 2021. The organization has been active in advocating for restrictions on access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth, blocking LGBTQ-focused books and curriculum, and limiting lessons about race. It has raised $2.1 million in 2022 from conservative donors, compared to $370,000 raised the previous year, according to the Associated Press. Moms for Liberty has also become influential in GOP politics and recently established a chapter in Queens.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Moms for Liberty an “extremist” group due to its divisive tactics and efforts to undermine public education.

The question-and-answer session after the panel became heated as parents and teachers confronted the panelists on issues like culturally responsive education, transgender children, and curriculum proposals to improve reading scores.

Education Names Featured at the Moms for Liberty Event

The Moms for Liberty town hall in a predominantly Democratic area created a stir, but local education politics observers likely recognized many of the panelists.

Among the voices were Maud Maron, a member of Manhattan’s District 2 Community Education Council (CEC), who has been engaged in longstanding conflicts with other parents.

CECs are parent-led boards that advise on school zoning proposals, admissions, curriculum, and other matters. Maron is a co-founder of the pro-selective admissions group called PLACE (Parents Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Learning), which supports admissions practices that counter integration efforts.

Maron, who recently voiced in a private chat that transgender children do not exist, faced criticism for her participation in the Moms for Liberty panel. Despite the backlash, she stood by her decision and accused her critics of being “illiberal” and avoiding debate. One young woman challenged Maron’s stance on transgender children by identifying herself as a “proud queer woman,” which Maron dismissed by saying, “Which I think means she’s a straight girl without a boyfriend.” This remark was later called “unnecessary and spiteful” by a parent at the event.

Charles Love, another member of the District 2 CEC who spoke on the panel, mentioned that he had found no evidence of racism or homophobia in Moms for Liberty.

The flier promoting the event listed Maron and Love’s affiliation with the education council, but according to the city’s conflict of interest rules, council members can only mention their titles with a written and verbal disclaimer stating that they are speaking in their personal capacity. Education Department officials had warned the panelists about this rule but neither Maron nor Love provided the required disclaimer.

Other panelists included Wai Wah Chin, the head of an Asian American parent advocacy group, Natalya Murakhver, a advocate against school closures during the pandemic, and Mona Davids, who leads a group advocating for more school safety agents and metal detectors.

Concerns were raised by opponents about Moms for Liberty’s growing influence in city education circles. One opponent cited the group’s use of a Hitler quote in a newsletter in Indiana as a reason for concern. The group later apologized for including the quote.

The discussion occasionally revolved around city-specific issues. When Chin criticized the class size cap, claiming it would necessitate hiring lower-quality teachers, some audience members who were former teachers fired due to the city’s COVID vaccine mandate voiced their agreement.

Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Liberty and the town hall’s moderator, expressed her belief that education in the city’s public schools could not get much worse.

Despite this, the panelists offered few specific recommendations. Maron criticized the city’s longstanding reliance on a Teachers College reading curriculum that has been widely discredited. The city is already in the process of transitioning away from this curriculum.

The extent of Moms for Liberty’s presence in New York City is unclear, and event organizers did not provide details about expansion plans.

Prior to the event, several elected officials spoke out against it, including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who referred to the group as a “bunch of hypocrites.”

Jo Macellaro, a transgender teacher in a Bronx program serving students with disabilities, attended the event holding a sign that said, “I’m the trans teacher you’re scared of.” Macellaro, who uses they/them pronouns, reported being called a “groomer” multiple times during the evening. They felt compelled to speak out due to Moms for Liberty’s increasing presence in Queens and stated that “we need to make it very loud and clear they are not welcome here.”

During the event, a Moms for Liberty supporter wearing a “Protect Our Children” sweatshirt yelled at the group’s opponents, accusing them of “grooming our children.”

Some protesters attempted to convince the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, the event’s venue, to cancel, but the nonprofit determined it was unable to do so. The organization’s president explained in a statement that they are an apolitical cultural performance organization and that Moms for Liberty does not align with their non-political stance. The president pledged to personally match the rental fee for the event and donate it to organizations that support young leaders.

Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Michael at .

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