Drag artists disrupt Ross Mathews' GLAAD Awards speech with Palestine protest: 'I don't believe in neutrality'

"I don't think queer people are granted the privilege of neutrality ever," performer Chiquitita tells EW after protesting with ACT UP and actor Sara Ramirez.

RuPaul's Drag Race judge and comedian Ross Mathews' opening monologue at Saturday's GLAAD Media Awards was disrupted by drag artists in a pro-Palestinian protest at the New York City event.

After she and ACT UP organizer Ariel Friedlander led a protest against Israel's military action in Palestine outside the Hilton hotel venue in Manhattan, Brooklyn-based trans advocate, drag artist, and Glamorous actress Chiquitita tells Entertainment Weekly she took the demonstration inside, where she was captured on camera shouting, "GLAAD is complicit in genocide" when Mathews took the stage to begin hosting the ceremony.

Chiquitita says the larger outdoor protest began with 150 people (including And Just Like That and Grey's Anatomy star Sara Ramirez) at around 5 p.m. local time, and lasted roughly an hour before an ACT UP member informed her that the organization had secured two wristbands for entry into the event. That's when Chiquitita and fellow performer DiDi Opulence entered the show, near the first half of the ceremony.

“I’m scoping the space as if I’m looking for my seat. The video that’s playing on the screen is talking about how drag performers have always been at the forefront of the fight, progress, and change. Then the video cuts, everyone claps. Ross Mathews gets on the mic and says maybe a word, and I started chanting," Chiquitita recalls, noting that DiDi was escorted out by security before guards could get to her. "I walked right to the center front, directly in front of Ross, and stood there and kept chanting until the security guards came from left and right to meet me center stage."

<p>Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp</p> 'And Just Like That' star Sara Ramirez protests GLAAD Media Awards in New York City

Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp

'And Just Like That' star Sara Ramirez protests GLAAD Media Awards in New York City

Mathews can be heard saying, "Oh, honey," in footage from the event (above), but Chiquitita says he made a statement after DiDi stopped filming.

Says Chiquitita, “Ross said something like, ‘Well, this is America, and we're all about free speech.’ People started clapping, and I started clapping and pointed to Ross, thinking, 'Yes, he gets it.' I kept walking down the aisle as I was being escorted out."

She says that she felt Mathews' words were "extremely condescending," though: "He was saying like, 'Well, I guess we have to let everyone have an opinion.' He did say the right thing, but he didn’t have the right intention. It was more like, 'This person has an opinion and we’re supposed to listen to it.'"

Related: RuPaul's Drag Race winner Nymphia Wind wants Asian kids to see hope in her victory: 'Bad days aren't forever'

Chiquitita adds that security then took her and DiDi outside the venue, but not before a man from the GLAAD organization — formed as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — confronted her and attempted to tell her why the protest was misguided.

But Chiquitita suggests that the group's celebration during a time of growing bloodshed in Palestine goes against what ACT UP (which stands for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and was formed amid the AIDS crisis in the 1980s) stands for. "I don’t believe in neutrality, and I don’t think queer people are granted the privilege of neutrality ever, in any situation, in any country," she says.

Following the event, Ramirez commented on a post on Chiquitita's Instagram, praising her for "disrupting the space inside" and for keeping the protest group "fired up for sure."

Ariel tells EW why the demonstration was important to her, noting that LGBTQIA+ members of the community are also suffering in the region.

<p>Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp</p> Pro-ceasefire protestors rally for Palestine at the 2024 GLAAD Media Awards

Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp

Pro-ceasefire protestors rally for Palestine at the 2024 GLAAD Media Awards

"So often, queer and trans Palestinians are erased from the narrative," Ariel says. "As the biggest LGBTQ media organization in the United States, GLAAD has a duty to represent our queer and trans Palestinian siblings and to stand in solidarity with them by calling for a permanent and immediate ceasefire, by denouncing genocide, and by dropping their partnership with the ADL [Anti-Defamation League]."

She continues, "I loudly, boldly, and proudly stand up as ACT UP New York for justice and liberation for Palestinians. We will make our queer and trans Palestinian friends heard, and we will continue to fight until they are free."

During ACT UP's Saturday protest, the group also welcomed queer Palestinian artists and activists to speak, as well as health-care workers who'd been on the ground in Egypt aiding refugees from Gaza. The demonstration also included ACT UP members draping a 40-foot-long banner from the 42nd story of the hotel that read “NY LOVES GAZA."

Related: Drag Race queens clash with teen accusing them of joining 'religious cult' on We're Here

“As a Queer Palestinian, it goes without question to me that there’s no such thing as queer liberation without the liberation of Palestine," said Noor Aldayeh, an artist and writer, at the rally, according to an ACT UP press release. "We fight for Palestine in honor of our queer history and ancestors, for those queer Palestinian siblings of ours living in Palestine, and for all those generations to come. This violent, unjust oppression — apartheid, bombs, weapons, mass destruction, disabling and displacement of indigenous humans — does not discriminate. Queer Palestinians are just as much a part of our community as any other. As such, we must advocate for the end of this genocide and apartheid, from the river to the sea."

In response to the protest, a GLAAD spokesperson tells EW, "GLAAD does not support genocide, but does support free speech."

<p>Gotham/FilmMagic; Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp</p> Ross Mathews at the GLAAD Awards; Chiquitita protests for Palestine at the GLAAD Awards

Gotham/FilmMagic; Alexa Wilkinson for ActUp

Ross Mathews at the GLAAD Awards; Chiquitita protests for Palestine at the GLAAD Awards

A representative for Mathews did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.

In the months following the Hamas terror group's Oct. 7 attack on it, Israel has mounted its own attack on Gaza, leading to the deaths of more than 30,000 Palestinian people in the area, reports The New York Times. Since then, pro-ceasefire protests have erupted at many major media events, including at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the Oscars.

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.