Amid rising tensions around the midterm elections in two weeks, organizers of a Drag Queen Story Hour in Florida have pulled the plug on an event threatened by neo-Nazi hate groups.
“Due to several threats from hate groups aimed at The Center and to those participating in Drag Queen Story Hour, we have decided to cancel the event for this Saturday’s Halloween Edition scheduled for 2PM,” the LGBT+ Center Orlando posted to their Facebook page yesterday.
“We take these threats very seriously and would not want to endanger or expose children and their parents and guardians to bigotry and hate,” the post explained. “We have the support of so many in our community including law enforcement, but as much as we would like to continue this fun-loving, innocent event, we feel that the safety of our community is our number one concern.”
The event was to feature popular local drag artist Bridgette Galore and was supported in part by a grant from the City of Orlando Mayor’s Matching Grant Program. Seventy-five children and parents bought tickets to the event scheduled for Saturday, The Center’s executive director George Wallace told the Orlando Sentinel.
“It was sold out,” Wallace said, but “safety is first in mind. We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way, especially kids.”
“They don’t need to be subjected to yelling and seeing that type of behavior,” Wallace added.
The Anti-Defamation League alerted The Center to posts threatening action at the Story Hour Halloween Edition. While the LGBTQ community space has been subject to harassment before, Wallace said the violent nature of the threats warranted the cancellation.
“We have a church group that protests The Center, and the local Proud Boys came and were yelling ‘pedophile’ and terrible things at the parents that were bringing their kids in,” he said. “They were at arm’s length, but this Twitter thread that we saw — they’re violent.”
Orlando state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) condemned the hate groups.
“I’m sad and angry that threats like these continue to happen against the LGBTQ community,” he told Florida Politics. “Neo-Nazis organizing in Florida against Drag Queen Story Time? This is really dangerous and scary. And it is why we have always spoken out against homophobia and transphobia, and it is continuing to be promoted by right-wing politicians.”
The out lawmaker pointed to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) allowing neo-Nazis to thrive in the state, recalling the groups’ appearance at a Republican conference in Tampa where they flew flags proclaiming “DeSantis Country.” The governor did not condemn the demonstration in his honor.
“Drag Queen Story Hour is not about sexualization,” Center director Wallace said. “It is reading to children stories about love and acceptance and just being a good person. I think that these people who actually threatened violence could learn a lot from attending one of these events.”