In the wake of a record number of reported incidents of violence and harassment at Pride celebrations this year, a new study verifies facts on the ground: anti-LGBTQ mobilization increased by over four times from 2020 to 2021, with 2022 on track to be the worst year yet.
The study by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a disaggregated data collection, analysis, and crisis mapping project, found that incidents of political violence targeting the LGBTQ community this year have already exceeded the total number of attacks reported in 2021.
Nine times as many anti-LGBTQ demonstrations were reported in 2021 relative to 2020, with at least 15% turning violent or destructive. Far-right militias and militant social movements increased their engagement in anti-LGBTQ demonstrations sevenfold in 2021, from two events in 2020 to 14 last year. Their engagement in anti-LGBTQ events in 2022 is on track to either match or outpace activity in 2021.
Denial of LGBTQ rights has become catnip for the ultra-MAGA crowd, whipping up age-old prejudices into a fresh slurry of hateful rhetoric, harassment, threats and violence. Freed from facts by Trump’s mind-numbing Big Election Lie and amplified online by social media accounts like LibsofTikTok, anti-LGBTQ mobilization has become a cross-pollinating LBGTQ nightmare.
These are the incidents of political violence and harassment at Pride celebrations this month that we know about.
Dallas, Texas – June 4
The first Saturday in June saw a group of militant trolls in MAGA gear turn up with a bullhorn at a family-friendly fundraiser called “Drag the Kids to Pride,” harassing attendees with accusations of “grooming” and child abuse and demanding admittance to “the most evil event I have ever seen in my entire life,” as described by conservative provocateur Alex Stein. Stein filmed himself taunting a dancer leaving the event: “Do you like dancing for little children? You don’t think that’s disgusting? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – June 11
Police in Idaho arrested 31 members of the Texas-based white supremacist group Patriot Front on misdemeanor criminal conspiracy charges after police stopped their U-Haul truck near a “Pride in the Park” event. Video shows police opening the U-Haul to reveal members packed inside.
The group is known for stealing and burning Pride flags and pro-LGBTQ signs, and posting video of their actions. One narration reads: “For those who destroy our nation, we will destroy your symbols and all that you worship, to think that we will lay down and perish, you are greatly mistaken. Burn ‘em.”
Outside the Pride event, another group wearing face coverings and armed with assault rifles displayed a banner reading, “Groomers are not welcome in Idaho.”
In the park itself, dozens of white supremacist Groypers held a prayer circle to “distract” attendees from the “satanist” Pride celebration.
NEW: A U-Haul with masked neo-Nazi white supremacists was pulled over near a Pride event in Idaho— an officer said they were detained en masse on suspicion of conspiracy to riot and had weapons in the truck, per @thedailybeast. pic.twitter.com/ZYVOevggPG
— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) June 11, 2022
Jacksonville, Florida – June 11
Provocateurs associated with local neo-Nazi group NatSoc Florida demonstrated outside a Hamburger Mary’s restaurant, wearing shirts with swastikas and holding signs reading, “Child groomers work here,” “F*gs groom kids,” “Grooming progress” and “Judaism allows child rape.” The group also distributed anti-LGBTQ fliers in several Jacksonville neighborhoods.
Photos posted to the group’s Telegram channel appear to show the banners and fliers being made in the garage of the group’s leader, Joshua Dan Nunes.
Arlington, Texas – June 12
An adults-only Disney Drag Brunch was the target of a protest organized by the far-right anti-LGBTQ group Protect Texas Kids and joined by at least seven Proud Boys. There were no children present.
Video shows a Proud Boy verbally confronting attendee, yelling anti-LGBTQ slurs and calling him a pedophile.
Another screamed, “I did six months f**king locked up motherfucker, I’ll f**king do it again happily just to know I beat your motherf**king bitch ass you fucking pedophile, f**king faggot.”
Atlanta, Georgia – June 12
A Georgia Youth Justice Coalition Pride event scheduled for June 12 was canceled due to “a credible death threat” made by “an anonymous individual targeting the rally’s location, time, and date,” according to a statement from event organizers.
Last night, a student helping organize the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition’s Solidarity Rally for Trans Youth received a credible death threat from an anonymous individual targeting the rally’s location, time, and date.
This thread details our response. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/Eu4yFSdN32
— GA Youth Justice Coalition 🍑 (@georgiayouthco) June 12, 2022
Mahwah, New Jersey – June 13
White supremacist group White Lives Matter New Jersey protested a drag event during Mahwah’s Pride celebration, with one individual displaying a sign reading, “Hands off kids.”
Baltimore, Maryland – June 15
An early morning fire in Abell, North Baltimore sent three people to the hospital after Pride flags displayed on two homes were set afire. A 30-year-old woman and 57-year-old man were hospitalized in critical condition, and a 74-year-old man in serious condition. A total of four houses were set on fire the same street.
San Lorenzo, California – June 18
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a group of men displaying Proud Boy colors stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library shouting homophobic and transphobic threats after anti-LGBTQ LibsofTikTok scowl Chaya Raichik posted information about the event online.
— Eireann Dolan (@EireannDolan) June 12, 2022
Wilmington, North Carolina – June 21
Fifteen masked members of the Cape Fear Proud Boys staged a demonstration outside a local library where a Pride-themed story time event was being held, and were later allowed inside by New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies. Several parents described taunts and threats by demonstrators as deputies stood by, going so far, witnesses say, as to fist-bump the hate group members.
Oslo, Norway – June 25
Overseas, two people were killed and 21 injured when a shooter opened fire at the London Pub gay bar in Oslo. Police arrested the suspect after civilians chased him down the street and detained him until officers arrived.
The 42-year-old suspect, Zaniar Matapour, has been an active member in an Islamic extremist network with ties to Arfan Bhatti, a Norwegian Islamic radical with strong anti-gay views.
The early morning attack resulted in the cancellation of the city’s Saturday Pride parade, though thousands still showed up to march in a show of solidarity against violence.
McKinney, Texas – June 25
A Pride-themed Family Story Time event at the Roy and Helen Hall Memorial Library was the target of a Proud Boys mobilization, which included pro-Trump protesters and members of the hate group the Three Percenters. They reportedly wore tactical gear and were armed with bear mace.
While the trolls taunted parents, calling them groomers, pedophiles, “whores and just horrible things,” a group of counter-protesters formed a corridor shielding parents and children, and cheered them on to drown out the offenders.
One counter-protester observed: “You could tell that they wanted to incite some type of violence.”
Inspiring photo from @MamaOsaTX showing the wall of parents who kept a fascistic street gang from disrupting an LGBT Pride month themed family story time event in McKinney, Texas. pic.twitter.com/v7oHlTwcg1
— steven monacelli (@stevanzetti) June 26, 2022
Broward County, Florida – June 25
In Wilton Manors, an LGBTQ enclave near Ft. Lauderdale, a Florida man wearing a “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirt was arrested after brandishing a loaded gun outside a popular gay bar.
Video from the incident shows Kenneth Justesen, 45, holding a handgun while arguing with another man outside Gym Sportsbar. Witnesses say the man was clearly drunk and had been harassing and threatening bar patrons before pulling the weapon out.
“He started making threats that if he found the person with his phone, he was gonna put a bullet in the back of his head,” said one patron. Justesen was arrested and charged with use of a firearm under the influence of alcohol.
Another video shows the perp being lead out of the bar in handcuffs as patrons shouted “Let’s go, Brandon!”
EXPLICIT LANGUAGE: A man has been arrested by @WMPD411 and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol after being recorded pulling a gun on a man outside a Wilton Manors bar Friday@SunSentinel story coming soon pic.twitter.com/AtPndamePt
— Austen Erblat (@AustenErblat) June 26, 2022
Istanbul, Turkey – June 26
Turkish police arrested hundreds of marchers, protesters and bystanders in and around Taksim Square, where LGBTQ people had gathered to begin a Pride march banned by the local governor. Shocking video flooded social media showing police in riot gear corral, beat, and detain marchers through the Turkish city’s serpentine streets. In one clip, a group of young provocateurs dressed in black can be seen literally pushing their fundamentalist message on LGBTQ members of the community.
A small group of conservative men provoked, insulted participants in today's Pride march / #OnurYürüyüşü.
— Diego Cupolo (@DiegoCupolo) June 26, 2022
Sparks, Nevada – June 26
A group of Proud Boys mobilized to protest LGBTQ rights at a drag queen story hour in Sparks, near Reno. A TV crew covering the event said that when the protest ended, a man wearing Proud Boys attire approached the library while carrying a gun, prompting bystanders, children among them, to scramble to safety inside.
The Sparks Police Department monitored the protest from a distance, but left soon after.
There were no police present when the man approached the building. Nevada is an open-carry state.
New York, New York – June 26
With tensions high following the fatal shootings in Oslo, a crowd gathered for Pride in Washington Square Park stampeded after a series of small explosions was heard across the square.
“After an investigation, it was determined that the sound was fireworks set off at the location,” police said. “NO shots fired.”
San Francisco, California – June 26
Officers patrolling the Civic Center area, where the San Francisco Pride Festival is held, responded to reports of a shooting in the late afternoon but were “unable to locate any victims or witnesses,” according to a spokesperson and LGBTQ liaison for the department.
“At this time it does not appear that there was any merit to a shooting in the area, and officers remain on scene to ensure safety and security of Pride events,” she said.
Video of a brawl surfaced on Twitter, while one witness tweeted she was at the event and saw people “screaming, running, saying there was shots fired.” She started to run with the crowd, adding, “It’s just wild to live in a country where we’re all prepared to run or die like that.”
— Stephanie Magallon (@MagallonNews) June 27, 2022