Organizers canceled an all-ages drag show in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday morning after men belonging to the far-right Proud Boys group threatened to disrupt it. Many of the men turned up wearing camouflage clothing, masks and carrying guns.
Images of the group quickly circulated on social media.
These are the people who showed up outside of a drag show in Columbus, Ohio and caused it to be canceled. This is terrorism. Where is the DoJ? This is a clear violation of civil rights by neo-nazi orgs. pic.twitter.com/wRFOq5GOno
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) December 4, 2022
A massive convergence of right-wing militants in Columbus, some armed, just shut down a drag holiday event. Organizers expected police to show, unsurprisingly, they did not.
Or they did dressed in black/yellow.
Proud Boys and Patriot Front are emboldened after Club Q. pic.twitter.com/NKipDnufNR
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) December 3, 2022
Some of the group thought it best to make their point by dancing along to the Village People hit, ‘Y.M.C.A’.
Proud Boys dancing to Village People’s ‘YMCA’ at today’s protest in Columbus, Ohio pic.twitter.com/HR9e927nad
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) December 3, 2022
Whether this was an attempt to troll the gay community, or a nod of acknowledgment toward Donald Trump, who blasts the song at his rallies, is unknown.
Video of the protests and counter-protests was caught by video journalist ‘BG On The Scene’.
Police and organizers dispute claims over safety plan
The Red Oak Community School organized Saturday’s ‘Holi-Drag Storytime’ event. The venue for the event was the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus. The cancellation came a few hours in advance of the event taking place.
Cheryl Ryan, School Manager, Red Oak Community School, said the cancellation came about due to an inability to arrange a satisfactory security plan.
Ryan claimed calls to the police did not elicit the desired response.
“I spent a week calling our police department and leaving voicemails about the reports we had seen,” Ryan said. “After a week, I was told we could hire a special duty police officer who may or may not show up because they are understaffed.”
She said she also attempted to work with an LGBTQ group on providing security. However, they would only do so if there was no police presence.
“In the end, our performers felt unsafe without a police presence, while our safety team felt unsafe with a police presence,” Ryan said.
The police dispute this version of events. In a statement to the Buckeye Flame, it said, “CPD [Columbus Police District] learned about this event through Facebook and immediately reached out to the church and the school. A face-to-face meeting took place with all parties on November 18th to talk about the event and a safety plan. The school did request a special duty officer, but cancelled that request on the same day of the meeting.
“During this week, CPD continued to communicate with the church, school, neighbors, and businesses in that area to inform them of our safety action plan. The school and church were consistently involved in those discussions through email and phone calls.
“CPD was told by the school that we could have plainclothes officers outside the event, but not inside the building for they had hired their own private security. CPD pulled together resources from several units to make sure we were present, including officers from our bike patrol and dialogue team.
“Even though the event was cancelled, we still had personnel and officers in the area to make sure all parties were safe.”
“He said I had a good mustache”
Police were duly present while the Proud Boys staged their protest on Saturday. In fact, one of its officers went viral after LGBTQ advocates spotted him high-fiving one of the Proud Boys.
The mom of a gay child challenged the cop as to why he was high-fiving a protestor. The officer said he was not condoning their point of view but “building relationships”. He said he was the “leader of the dialogue team,” and that the Proud Boy had complimented him on his appearance.
“He said I had a good mustache,” he explained.
The officer offered to share his bodycam footage with the woman challenging him to prove what he was saying.
Let a Columbus police officer explain in his own words. pic.twitter.com/RZFHv1tS24
— The Rooster (@rooster_ohio) December 3, 2022
Power station attacked in North Carolina
The cancellation of the Columbus event comes two weeks after a man entered Club Q in Colorado and started firing. Five people died and dozens more were injured.
In North Carolina on Saturday, a drag show in Southern Pines also faced threats of protest.
Minutes after the event began, the power went out. It later turned out that vandals had purposefully fired shots at a nearby power station. This act of vandalism cut power to around 40,000 people in Moore County. Police and the FBI are investigating.
Power has yet to be fully restored and may stay out for a few days. There have been reports of automobile accidents because local traffic lights are now out of action. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields said yesterday they had yet to find evidence that the power outage was directly linked to the drag show protests.