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Barclays Center forced to close doors to keep out pregame protesters

Anti-COVID 19 vaccine mandate protesters rally in front

Anti-COVID 19 vaccine mandate protesters rally in front of Barclays Center on Sunday. Credit: Noah K. Murray

Barclays Center was forced to briefly shut its doors before Sunday’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets after a group of protesters chanting "Let Kyrie Play" pushed past metal barricades and stormed toward the main entrance.

Kyrie Irving, the Nets' star guard, was told by the Nets on Oct. 12 that he could not practice or play with the team until he either receives a COVID-19 vaccination or New York City changes its regulations that bar unvaccinated individuals from public indoor spaces such at the Barclays Center.

About an hour and a half before Sunday’s game, a group of approximately 500 protesters, many waving "Stand with Kyrie" signs, marched several blocks through Brooklyn to the plaza in front of Barclays Center. The Nets played their first two games of the season on the road, so Sunday's 4 p.m. contest was the first in Brooklyn.

Among the protesters was a child wearing a Make America Great Again hat and waving a "Don’t Tread On Me" flag next to a group of people sporting Black Lives Matter T-shirts next to a woman with a syringe taped to her hat and waving a sign that said "My body, my choice." The one common thread seemed to be a general aversion toward COVID vaccine mandates.

The group chanted fairly peacefully for approximately 30 minutes. Then, a splinter group of approximately 100 protesters pushed their way toward the building’s main entrance.

"Barclays Center briefly closed its doors today in order to clear protestors from the main doors on the plaza and ensure guests could safely enter the arena," a Barclays Center representative said in a statement. "Only ticketed guests were able to enter the building and the game proceeded according to schedule."

Two security guards told Newsday that the building had been on lockdown for approximately 10 minutes.

There were no signs or chanting for Irving during the game, which the Nets lost, 111-95.

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