EUGENE, Oregon (AP) — A story about drag queens at an Oregon pub where an 11-year-old performer was supposed to be drew protesters outside the venue, but the weekend event went inside as planned.
Counter-protesters also showed up at the pub in Eugene on Sunday and people on both sides were armed, some with semi-automatic rifles, police said.
The police did not intervene. They estimated the total crowd at about 200 people and said individuals on both sides threw rocks and smoke grenades at each other.
The protest made Old Nick’s Pub the latest target of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric increasingly focusing on drag story times in the US
The Drag Queen Story Hour, a national project designed as a way to educate and entertain children by appealing to their imaginations, has sparked reactions on social media from opponents who claim they want to protect children. But the protests scare and endanger them, organizers say, adding that they will improve security but not stop their programs.
The pub regularly hosts LGBTQ-friendly events and had promoted the show as a story time with drag performers singing songs and reading picture books, with plans to include the 11-year-old performer. An ad shows a rainbow, a unicorn and puffy clouds against a blue sky, along with superimposed photos of the child performer and three adult drag queens.
The pub said in a Facebook post Monday that the event went ahead safely despite the protests, but the company expects it “will be a target for violent extremists for a long time” and said it spent $2,000 on private security on Sunday.
“We love you all so much, and we will never shy away from hating,” the pub said in its Monday message. It added: “Thank you for standing with us against this growing trend of violence against gay youth and LGBTQ venues.”
In the pub, the child expected to perform became the guest of honor of the show, while several adult drag queens sang and read picture books to an audience of about 50 people, including families with small children. An advertisement for the event showed the young girl in a black dress with turquoise polka dots and her blond hair in a high ponytail.
Tension over the show had been brewing all week after right-wing personalities heard about it and posted about it online.
The nonprofit Drag Queen Story Hour was founded in 2015 in San Francisco by activist and author Michelle Tea. Since then, chapters have opened in the US and elsewhere. Other organizations with readers in drag have also formed.
As part of Drag Queen Story Hour programming, drag queens read to children and their parents in libraries, bookstores, fairs, parks and other public spaces to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of drag”.
Other drag events have also been in the headlines lately. Most recently, a half-hour “Drag Kids” program has been scheduled for the Boise Pride Festival generated national resistance and anonymous threats. The festival organizers envisioned a short performance in which children could don glittering dresses and lip-sync on stage to songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us”. But the organizers eventually withdrew the program from the festival due to safety concerns.
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