An Anti-Beyoncé Rally Goes Bust

(Video by Marybel Gonzalez and Samantha McDonald)

Beyoncé’s “Formation” world tour tickets went on sale Tuesday to the North American public. The tickets range from less than $100 to more than $3,000, depending on the venue. But beyond the steady hum of sales, it was an unexpectedly quiet launch: An “Anti-Beyoncé Protest Rally” and an “Anti-Anti-Beyoncé Protest Rally” had been expected to face each other outside the NFL’s headquarters at the intersection of East 52nd Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan. But the anti-Beyoncé group, known as Proud of the Blues, didn’t show up.

“Formation” touches some cultural live wires, and the rallies were triggered by Beyoncé’s performance of the new track at the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 7. She and her fellow dancers dressed in black body suits and black berets that resembled the uniforms of female Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party was a radical political group founded in Oakland, California in the 1960s, and with the upcoming 50th anniversary of the party, the artist’s tribute stirred heated debate. On social media, Proud of the Blues called the performance a “race-baiting stunt” and argued that the Black Panthers is a hate group, which should not be promoted at the Super Bowl. On its Eventbrite page, Proud of the Blues called Beyoncé’s halftime show “a slap in the face to law enforcement,” and announced a rally against Beyoncé and NFL. 

On Tuesday, the anti-Beyoncé group posted an announcement on its Twitter account around 6 a.m., encouraging supporters of the police to show up and march peacefully, “We got everyone’s attention.”

But by around 8 a.m. that morning, only protesters of a group calling itself the Pro-Beyoncé Protest Rally started gathering in front of the NFL’s New York headquarters. They waited for more than an hour without seeing the anti-Beyoncé group. Participants on the pro-Beyoncé side expressed their frustration. Mary Pryor, one of the co-creators of the pro-Beyoncé Protest Rally, said, “They are not showing up because they didn’t have their stuff together.” By 9. a.m., when Pryor announced the dismissal of the pro-Beyoncé group, Proud of the Blues hadn’t made appearance. 

A pro-Beyonce protester held a sign saying, "No Outrage Over Videos of #EricGarner #FreddyGrey #SandraBland." Photo by Ang Li

A pro-Beyonce protester displays her sign  (Ang Li)

Jacky Johnson, an activist who helped organize the pro-Beyoncé event, labeled his group’s event a success, “We came to respond to the other group, we are in support of the messaging of Beyoncé’s performance,” she continues, “We want our public figures, celebrities, people with influence to be able to speak on social justice issues, we don’t want Beyoncé or NFL to be attacked for a positive message.”

Spencer Jones, 28, from Manhattan, was a participant at the pro-Beyoncé rally. She thinks the rally’s purpose went beyond Beyoncé herself, and is an extension of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I am here not only to stand with Beyoncé, more importantly, I stand with her message,” which she says includes fighting against police misconduct, mistreatment of people of color, and racism. Jones said she felt the gathering was worth her morning, despite the lack of an opposition. “A lot of people asked us questions, looking at our signs and wanting to learn more, whatever we can do to open mind and hearts, at the end of the day, it’s worth it.”

Beyoncé’s performance received positive response from Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, as well as from former Panthers. Shabazz said she ‘absolutely loved’ Beyoncé’s performance and tribute to her father, in which the dance troupe formed an X, according to the New York Post.

The Formation World Tour begins in Miami on Apr. 27 and is expected to hit New York on June 7 AND 8. The concerts will span across England, Italy, and France.