Hundreds of far right protesters, including neo-Nazis and members of other white nationalist groups, stormed a drag queen story hour at a park in Wadsworth, Ohio, on Saturday.
The all-ages show, dubbed the “Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour,” was held at the city’s Memorial Park. The event was held to promote a Humanist children’s book, and concluded with a “short Rock-n-Roll drag celebration performance,” a description of the event said.
The park was chosen for the event because a private venue had refused to host it, organizer Aaron Reed said. Proceeds from the event were donated to survivors of the Club Q massacre and the B. Riley House, an LGBTQ addiction recovery center in Cleveland.
The event was interrupted by hundreds of far right protesters, some of whom waved swastika flags, threatened violence and spewed Nazi jargon — including “seig heil” and “there will be blood.”
One call and response was “Weimar conditions, Weimar solution” — a blatant call for the mass murder of LGBTQ people. Germany’s Weimar era, which took place immediately before Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power, was known for the sexual liberation movement, which included advocacy for LGBTQ rights.
Members of Parasol Patrol, an LGBTQ advocacy group from Colorado, also attended the event, using umbrellas to shield children from the protesters. But far right protesters vastly outnumbered those in support of the performers, Reed said.
According to journalist Ford Fischer, who documented the event through videos on Twitter, the far right protesters included members of “White Lives Matter” Ohio, the Proud Boys, and Patriot Front. (Other reporters documented that members of Blood Tribe, a neo-Nazi group, were also present.)
Though non-affiliated protesters of the event claimed they were only there to protest the drag show, they ultimately “weren’t at all ashamed to stand shoulder to shoulder with that kind of hate,” Reed said.
Two individuals at the event — one in support of the drag show and one against — were arrested by police for disorderly conduct. A person in support of the drag show used mace on a person who charged toward them wearing chainmail armor from the direction of the anti-drag protesters. Shortly after, an anti-drag protester pulled out what appeared to be a handgun. (It was later revealed to be a pepper-spraying device shaped like a gun.) That person was later arrested when they used their white nationalist flag as a weapon against a person in support of the performance.
In addition to anti-LGBTQ slurs, protesters repeatedly used the N-word. A Black journalist from The Akron Beacon Journal had to leave the event early out of fear for his own safety.
“Bring a journalist with social anxiety is one thing, but being a Black journalist subjected to the Wadsworth anti-drag show protests who were more fired up for anti-blackness is another,” Anthony Thompson, a Black journalist with that publication, said on Twitter. Thompson didn’t confirm whether he was the journalist who had to leave early.
The response to the drag queen story hour comes as right-wing lawmakers across the U.S. have introduced legislation to restrict drag performances — a blatant attack on LGBTQ people and a clear violation of the First Amendment. Just this past week, Tennessee’s legislature became the first in the country to pass a bill banning drag performances in public venues.
Earlier this month, right-wing commentator Michael Knowles called for the eradication of transness at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a statement that trans advocates have said is outright genocidal.
In response to these attacks, LGBTQ advocates have been mobilizing to defend themselves. Members of the left-wing community defense group Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club provided security for a drag show in Texas last month, for example, defending performers and guests from armed Christian nationalists.
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