A blistering speech by Dan Andrews, the senior government representative of the Australian state of Victoria, condemned anti-LGBTQ+ protestors and neo-Nazis who used intimidation and death threats to shut down an upcoming drag queen library event in the city of Monash.
“This Americanization of our politics has no place here,” Andrew said in a Thursday afternoon speech on the state’s parliament floor. “My message to those people is very clear: If you want to behave like the worst elements of the Floridian Republican Party, get to Florida. Head over there, where your hateful views might be worth something. They’re worth nothing here.”
Monash’s Oakleigh Library had planned a sold-out drag queen story event on May 19 in observance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. The event sought to show children diverse role models and to encourage them to embrace acceptance, love, and respect for diversity.
But after “hateful and threatening commentary and misinformation” about the event spread online — according to the city’s CEO Andi Diamond — hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-drag protests appeared at a Monash city council meeting in late April to protest the event. The anti-LGBTQ+ attendees were organized by so-called alt-right and conspiracy theorist groups, including ones called My Place and Reignite Democracy Australia, The Age reported.
Monash resident Gregory Storer told NCA News Wire that the anti-LGBTQ+ attendees began calling him and other pro-drag attendees “f**got,” “groomer,” “pedo,” and “rapist.” The group — which brought signs reading “Save Our Children” and “Don’t DRAG our kids into this” — drowned out pro-drag speakers with jeers and moans. The meeting concluded early after protestors called the council members “pedophiles.”
“The vile language and rhetoric being used was offensive and quite intimidating,” Storer said. Police had to form a line in front of pro-drag demonstrators as the angry crowd chanted and yelled insults in the city council lobby.
The drag performer who planned on reading at the library, Sam T, said she received death threats. On the social media app Telegram, Thomas Sewell — leader of the National Socialist Network, Australia’s largest neo-Nazi group – said he would “bring as many Nazis as possible” to the event, The Age reported. City council members also received death threats.
The city canceled the event after consulting with the Victoria Police. Council member Josh Fergeus blamed police for not doing more to ensure the event’s safety and blamed the government for not doing more to combat violent extremism. In March, neo-Nazis protested transgender rights outside of Victoria’s parliament, leading the state to consider banning the sieg-heil salute.
“Councillors and staff have received messages that nobody should be expected to receive in their workplace, as have our LGBTIQA+ community,” Diamond said
. “We understood this [event] was not for everyone and scheduled it outside our regular library programs so that parents planning to bring their children were making a deliberate choice to attend. Unfortunately, some in the community were not willing to allow that choice.”
In his speech against the city council protesters, Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said that the library event was “about sending a message to often some of the most vulnerable people in our Victorian community that they are loved, they are respected, they are safe.”
“Equality is not negotiable,” he continued. “We will not stand for this sort of ugly behavior. It’s appalling, and I again make the point: It is not about free speech. This is hate speech, plain and simple.”
“It’s wrong,” he added. “It is out of step with the values of fair-minded, decent mainstream Victorians. It is on the fringe. But enough about those people… Despite the carrying-on and the shameful behavior of a small few, this government and this community remain committed to every single Victorian, no matter who they are or who they love.”
Andrews’ suggestion that the haters go to Florida is likely a reference to the state’s rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and its Republican legislators, who have increasingly targeted LGBTQ+ and especially transgender people. DeSantis’ administration has already filed multiple complaints against Florida businesses for hosting drag performances. State officials have threatened to revoke businesses’ liquor licenses for hosting drag shows, and one Florida city has already canceled its Pride parade in anticipation of DeSantis signing a statewide drag ban into law.
In a follow-up tweet, Andrews wrote, “Just imagine for a moment making a death threat over a story time for kids. Because that’s all it is.”