Artist and former Hunter College adjunct professor Shellyne Rodriguez, who was fired by the school yesterday after a video showed her threatening a reporter of the conservative daily tabloid the New York Post, was arrested in the Bronx this morning. Prior to the incident, Rodriguez had experienced intense online harassment in the wake of a confrontation with an anti-abortion group at Hunter’s Upper Manhattan campus.
At the scene of the arrest outside the 43rd Precinct today, two reporters and seven supporters were present as well as a videographer, as witnessed by Hyperallergic. An NYPD spokesperson said Rodriguez faces charges of menacing and harassment related to her altercation with New York Post reporter Reuven Fenton earlier this week.
On Monday, Fenton showed up at Rodriguez’s home unannounced and allegedly pounded on her door requesting an impromptu interview related to her exchange with the pro-life group Students for Life of America at Hunter three weeks ago. Rodriguez was filmed threatening Fenton with a machete before retreating and closing the door behind her. Additional footage showed Rodriguez outside of the building with the knife in her hand. No injuries were reported.
In the weeks following Rodriguez’s confrontation with Students for Life of America, Rodriguez received “vile and hateful emails, texts, and voicemails.” Some of these messages, reviewed by Hyperallergic, included threats of death and physical violence as well as racial, sexual, and anti-immigrant slurs.
In a statement shared with Hyperallergic yesterday, Rodriguez said she believed her life was in danger. “All this has taken a toll on my mental health, robbing me of my sense of safety, and creating reasonable fear that they would show up at my home to cause me physical harm, as has happened with so many other women who have similarly had their personal info exposed as a form of politically motivated harassment,” Rodriguez said.
Students for Life of America is an anti-abortion organization whose board members include representatives from several right-wing lobbying groups as well as the Republican National Committee. On May 2, Rodriguez approached members of the group who were tabling on Hunter College’s 68th Street campus. In a video shared by Students for Life, Rodriguez verbally confronted them onsite before disheveling their table display, which consisted of a box containing rubber fetal models and a variety of organization-related postcards and other printed materials. The group shared the footage with campus security, and Rodriguez was summoned to the Hunter College provost’s office on May 12 for questioning and was asked to apologize to students for her use of profanity and for disheveling the display, which she complied with.
Rodriguez alleged that the filmed confrontation had been “doctored” by the organization before it shared the clip on its social media channels and website and funneled it to other right-wing outlets such as The College Fix. The story was picked up by Fox News and the New York Post and went viral almost immediately, prompting followers to find Rodriguez’s personal contact information and send her an onslaught of abusive messages and threats across every virtual avenue. In the last few days, these and other conservative outlets have characterized Rodriguez as “crazed” and “manic,” centering their reporting on Rodriguez’s role as an activist in the Bronx and zooming in on her tattoo of the FTP Movement. The acronym stands for “Fuck the Police” as well as “Free the People” and represents an activist-led mobilization against overpolicing and racist violence.
“As much as this incident has stakes for my life, it is ultimately just one part of a broader political struggle taking place across the country,” Rodriguez said in her statement yesterday. “Right-wing media organizations are weaponizing and sensationalizing this case to further their agenda, and using me as a prism through which to project their attacks on women, trans people, Black people, Latinx people, migrants, and beyond.”
NYPD did not elaborate further on the harassment and menacing charges. This is a developing story and will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.