Three bomb threats were sent to two all-ages drag events in New York City and Salt Lake City, Utah as well as an LGBTQ+ community center in Connecticut this weekend. Though police found no bombs in any of the locations, the threats are part of a growing campaign of violence targeting LGBTQ+ spaces.
A bomb threat caused the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah to cancel its drag queen story hour on Sunday. Police and their bomb-sniffing dogs investigated the store before its employees arrived in the morning. No bomb was found, and nobody was hurt, though the store stayed closed all day.
The drag queen led kids in a fun-filled conga line to a new location as police searched the area.
The store’s owner, Calvin Crosby, assumes the bomb threat was meant to target the drag event. The events benefit BrainFoodBooks, a local nonprofit that donates books to children and schools in poorer communities, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
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Crosby called Tara Lipsyncki, a local drag queen who had planned on performing at the event on Sunday morning to inform her about the threat. “Is it sad that we aren’t fazed anymore [by such threats]?” the two wondered aloud on the phone, Lipsyncki said.
“I’m more frustrated, because it’s like we are making so much progress with all this … we’ve been doing so well. It’s so annoying and frustrating because people can’t live and let live,” Lipsyncki added.
Before Sunday, Crosby noticed that all of the event’s 30 tickets had been purchased by just six buyers, something which raised his suspicions. When Crosby tried to confirm the identities of the ticket buyers online, he was unable to confirm that three of the buyers actually existed as local residents.
Police closed off the street and investigated on Sunday morning. They had declared the area “all clear” by 11:30 a.m. local time. However, Crosby kept the store closed, placing a sign on the window that read, “For the safety of our booksellers and loyal readers, we have decided to close today. We look forward to matching books to you tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding and support.”
Mayor Erin Mendenhall wrote via Twitter on Sunday, “I cannot say this strongly enough, EVERYONE belongs in Salt Lake City. The actions today to cause fear at @KingsEnglish around a drag story time event are not welcome here. We’re looking forward to working with King’s English so this event can happen at a future date for all those who wanted to be there today.”
In New York City on Saturday morning, an unknown man from the city of Buffalo called in a bomb threat to 911, saying he would explode the Cortelyou branch of the Brooklyn Public Library during its scheduled drag queen story hour event. The event was moved to Connecticut Muffin, a nearby dessert and coffee shop, while police investigated, The Messenger reported.
“It’s a shame, and it’s something that’s extremely dangerous,” said the parent of a two-year-old event attendee, according to The New York Post. “These are children, and children just want to hear stories… It’s a shame how somebody just ruined it and threatened violence.”
Also on Saturday, police investigated an emailed bomb threat targeting the New Haven Pride Center in New Haven, Connecticut. Police closed multiple downtown streets, and a dialysis center above the Pride Center had to relocate its patients during the bomb search.
Juancarlos Soto, the LGBTQ+ Center’s executive director, told The Los Angeles Blade, “We’re we’re a little shaky. I think regardless of whenever you get something like this, it shakes you a little bit and reminds you that that, you know, LGBTQ people are under attack across our entire country. There’s a race and LGBTQ rhetoric and rhetoric and violence against LGBTQ people. You know, I think it also reminds us of the importance of safe spaces, you know, and how even in 2023, we have so much to fight still for our community and make sure that we are safe.”
“I think it has the opposite effect of what this person intended, right? Because it bolsters your strength to continue to fight for a community. And it puts us on the path to just keep going,” he added.
Drag events were targeted with threats and violence at least 124 times in 2022
Drag shows nationwide have faced bomb threats, death threats, and anti-LGBTQ+ protests as right-wing activists and politicians claim that such events “sexualize” children and “indoctrinate” them with “gender ideology.”