On Saturday, a group of 20 neo-Nazis clad in red shirts and black masks targeted a drag brunch in Columbus, Ohio.
The drag queen brunch held at Land-Grant Brewing Company was a fundraiser for the Kaleidoscope Youth Center (KYC), a drop-in community center for queer youth that provides community health, education and leadership programs.
While the drag brunch took place inside the brewery, outside of the event, the neo-Nazis chanted “Under the Aryan Sun,” and “No transgenders on our streets,” while throwing Nazi salutes and holding a banner that read “there will be blood.”
The demonstrators were members of Blood Tribe, a white supremacist organization which was formed online in 2021 by Christopher Pohlhaus. The group routinely participates in anti-LGBTQ protests, shouting racial and anti-LGBTQ slurs, waving swastikas, and giving Hitler salutes, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Nina West, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 whose friends organized and participated in the fundraiser, posted on Instagram that “Right outside the event, Nazis stood – masked and bodies entirely covered, shouting horrific remarks, doing the Nazi salute, and using any type of intimidation they could muster.”
Despite the threat of violence from neo-Nazis, Columbus organizers highlighted the local support for the event.
“Our community showed up,” KYC Executive Director Erin Upchurch said. “Our leadership was prepared for the potential disruption and worked with our security team to promote safety during the event. What we did not and could not prepare for were the powerful ways in which the community would leap into action to wrap their arms around the event itself, while providing actual barriers to block out our uninvited guests.”
Threats of violence against drag events have increased in recent years. A report by GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, found that there were at least 166 incidents of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting drag events since early 2022. This year alone, there have been 25 anti-drag incidents, including the firebombing of churches, bomb threats and protests.
Neo-Nazi intimidation of drag performances and story hours have increased in tandem with anti-drag legislation that has been sweeping the country. 14 states this year have proposed restricting or banning drag. In March, Tennessee signed a drag ban into law.
Parasol Patrol, an LGBTQ advocacy group from Colorado that uses umbrellas to shield children from far right protesters, has seen an uptick in neo-Nazi presence because of the current political climate.
“The political climate, all the [anti-LGBTQ] laws being passed, and the former president have made it safe for them to come out of their hate closets,” Pasha Ripley, co-founder of Parasol Patrol, told Truthout.
Parasol Patrol was present at the drag queen story hour in March that was protested by hundreds of neo-Nazis in Wadsworth, Ohio, and has protected children attending drag events from far right and neo-Nazi groups like Blood Tribe, the Proud Boys and White Lives Matter.
“Wadsworth was probably the most terrifying event we’ve ever been to,” said Ripley. “The tension was so thick in that place — over 400 protesters that were all whipping each other up into a frenzy. It’s intimidation, terrorist techniques — they want to frighten you back into the closet.”
Despite the threats of violence faced by the LGBTQ community, organizations like Parasol Patrol, as well as armed community groups in Texas and mixed-martial arts fighters in West Virginia have stood up against the hate.
“We need our allies to stand up with us and for us,” said Ripley. “[We need to] try and shield the kids from hatred as much as possible.”
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