Victoria Ruiz, the frontperson of Downtown Boys, has resigned from a public defenders’ office after a viral video purported to show her tearing down a poster in New York calling for the return of an Israeli hostage. In her resignation letter, Ruiz said posters were, in fact, put up by agitators at a vigil for Palestinian civilians killed in the war, and that, in addition to the hostage photos, the poster she removed contained handwritten text advocating for the killing of Palestinian civilians.
In the letter, Ruiz said agitators heckled mourners at the vigil before putting up the posters. “The person who took the video of me was among this group,” she wrote. “I saw that one of the posters contained handwritten statements justifying the bombing of Palestinian civilians—the same people whose deaths we were there to mourn. I was deeply offended by the statements on the posters, and went over to take that poster down. At that point, the individual from the group approached me and started recording the video, verbally misrepresenting on the video what I was doing and what I was taking issue with.”
She added, “I reject anti-semitism and I take very seriously the troubling rise in both anti-semitism and Islamophobia in recent weeks. I also mourn the tremendous loss of all innocent lives, and would never seek to disparage or devalue any life, including the lives of Israeli civilians.”
Ruiz said she resigned under pressure from her management at New York County Defender Services without having had a chance to explain the nature of the posters. She added that management spoke with outlets including the New York Post without giving her notice, seeking her version of events, or giving her an opportunity to speak with journalists.
In a statement to the Post before Ruiz’s resignation, Lupe Todd-Medina, spokesperson for NYCDS, had said, “It has come to our attention that one of our attorneys, Victoria Ruiz, recently attended a public vigil solely in her capacity as a private citizen.” The statement continued, in part, “Ms. Ruiz has apologized to those who were hurt or confused by her actions. After an internal review, and a pledge by all involved to do better, we accept this apology and now refocus on the vigorous pursuit of our mission: achieving justice and dignity for every individual we represent.”
Ruiz said, however, that, over a series of calls, NYCDS indicated that she “needed to resign immediately, or the board would be looking into termination proceedings.” She further alleged that, after the Post article was published, NYCDS did not allow her to be represented by legal counsel in discussions of her employment.
Pitchfork has reached out to Victoria Ruiz for additional comment and information. NYCDS’ Lupe Todd-Medina offered no further comment when reached by Pitchfork.